Royle hails his 'Captain Fantastic'

IPSWICH Town manager Joe Royle nicknamed Matt Holland as "Captain Fantastic" after he headed home a 17th-minute winner to beat hosts Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 on Saturday.

IPSWICH Town manager Joe Royle nicknamed Matt Holland as "Captain Fantastic" after he headed home a 17th-minute winner to beat hosts Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 on Saturday, writes Carl Marston.

Holland nodded home from the edge of the six-yard box after Darren Bent had headed goalwards from Jim Magilton's corner. The win propelled Town to within five points of the play-off zone.

"Matt (Holland) is not a jack of all trades; rather, he's a master of all trades," enthused Royle.

"He's played for us as a left-sided centre-back, right-sided centre-back and a centre half in a back four, as well as in midfield. He's our Captain Fantastic!

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"Matt was lined up to play as a centre-half today, until Tommy Miller failed a fitness test. That was not expected. We thought that Tommy would come through, but it doesn't really matter where you play Matt.

"In fact, I'd play Matt in goal if needed! He was just behind Richard Naylor in the man-of-the-match stakes.

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"I thought, under the circumstances, that the team was terrific. We have seven senior players missing at the moment, including four regulars in John McGreal, Chris Makin, Darren Ambrose and Tommy Miller.

"It could have been a more comfortable win, because their keeper made a couple of great saves, whereas Andy Marshall didn't really have a serious save to make," added Royle.

Town's boss was delighted with the continued progress of his talented teenagers, particularly 18-year-old Matt Richards at left-back.

Academy star Richards, who made his first league start in the 2-0 win at Norwich City, was in the thick of the action at Hillsborough. He ventured forward impressively in the first half, linking up well with the likes of Jim Magilton and Martijn Reuser down the left flank, while he showed his defensive qualities when Town were pushed further back in the second period.

Teenagers Dean Bowditch and Ian Westlake were also introduced as second-half substitutes, enjoying the experience of playing in front of a crowd of more than 24,000. They are the future lifeblood of the club.

"The kids have come in and done great," continued Royle.

"The kid at left-back (Richards) was outstanding. And Dean Bowditch looks the part up front. He's only 16 and you are going to hear a lot more about him in the future, as with Ian Westlake down the left.

"I thought we defended very well, particularly in the second half. It became a little more physical, but I think it's fair to say that we just had a little too much for Sheffield Wednesday.

"Richard (Naylor) was my man-of-the-match. It was only his second full game as a centre-half; but he was superb in front of our keeper.

"It's nice to get back to winning ways, especially at a relegation-troubled team, because they are always hard to beat."

Ipswich have cemented their position in seventh spot, and they now have nine fixtures left in which to power their way into the top six, starting with two home contests against Reading (tomorrow) and Brighton (next Saturday).

They may still be five points adrift of the play-off zone, but Town are within striking distance of more than one team – Wolves, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United all look vulnerable.

"We are within sight of them," declared Royle. "I'd have certainly taken a 1-0 scoreline before kick-off.

"Even when we were eight points behind the play-off teams, before kick-off, I still said that we were not out of it. There are many twists and turns to come, of that I'm sure.

"If we win all our last nine games, then it doesn't matter what will happen – we will be in the play-offs," concluded Royle.

The Town boss revealed that striker Marcus Bent could struggle to play against promotion rivals Reading tomorrow, due to a slight hamstring strain, while absentees Miller, Ambrose, Makin and McGreal are all likely to remain on the sidelines.

Sheffield Wednesday manager Chris Turner admitted that Ipswich had more of a "cutting edge" in attack, in particular Marcus Bent and Darren Bent.

"The difference between the two teams was clear for all to see in attacking areas – cutting edge.

"Their two strikers were a handful. They are strong, powerful and quick, and they always looked a threat."

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