Royle has respect for Crewe

TABLE-topping Ipswich Town go to Crewe tomorrow with respect for a club Joe Royle believes can't compete at the same level as the Blues, writes Derek Davis.

TABLE-topping Ipswich Town go to Crewe tomorrow with respect for a club Joe Royle believes can't compete at the same level as the Blues, writes Derek Davis.

The Town boss accepts his counterpart Dario Gradi has done an exceptional job with the Cheshire outfit just keeping Crewe in the Championship.

He said: "Crewe might have ambitions to be in the Premiership but they don't realistically think they can get there but along the way they will tweak a few noses.

"They will be waiting for us. Dario will be rubbing his hands. He is a football man so there will be no histrionics on the sideline with him trying to influence the officials.

"It will be a good game between two sides who believe in passing the ball. They won't be looking for a draw. They will be respectful of our goal-scoring record but they will try and beat us at home. It certainly won't be a 6-4."

The Alex's leading scorer Dean Ashton, who has banged in 15 in all competitions, is another player Royle would like to bring to Portman Road and if Darren Bent had been sold in August, a bid would have winged its way to the Alexandra Stadium.

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Royle said: "They play their own way and the two front players look good. Dean Ashton looks tidy while Steve Jones is a quick player.

"Fair play to them, they run a tight ship and are doing very well."

It is more likely that six-goal Mark Rivers will start up front alongside Ashton and Jones will only be included if Gradi stays with the three-man attack that beat Millwall in midweek.

But with Stephen Vaughan fit again after an ankle injury, they are more likely to play a 4-4-2.

Crewe will be without Steve Tonkin, who is still hobbling with a swollen foot, which gives Adie Moses another run out at left-back.

On-loan Liverpool defender Jon Otsemebor has recovered from a leg injury to keep his place at right back.

Crewe's recent run of good results – four wins and a draw in six matches during November – stem from the return of Trinidadian keeper Clayton Ince, who will be forever grateful to Gradi for pointing out his eyesight problem in the wake of their 6-4 defeat at Ipswich.

Town too fared well in November with four wins from five, with the Sunderland defeat the only blot, and Royle puts their good form down to consistency and proper defending.

He said: "We are consistent as three defeats in 21 show, We are hard to beat, we have been tighter at the back and we have to take that forward for the rest of the season."

The Blues have no fresh injury worries and Royle joked: "The physios have gone fishing."

The only change from last Saturday's win over Brighton is that Aidan Collins will be on the bench instead of Owen Garvan.

As expected, Royle was officially named the Championship's Manager of Month yesterday morning, beating off competition from Dario Gradi, Mick McCarthy and Steve Cotterill.

On the previous two occasions Royle has won it since he has been at Ipswich his side have gone on to lose, so he is hoping that run will end.

He added: "It would be nice to reverse the curse.

"It is great recognition for the team. If we win four or five more of these we will be nearly there. So I don't mind taking it at all."

Ipswich Town squad: Davis, Diallo, Wilnis, Horlock, De Vos, Naylor, Magilton, Miller, Kuqi, Bent, Westlake, Bowditch, Counago, Richards, Collins and Supple.

n Young Blues defender Scott Barron has successfully come through an operation to sort out a niggling groin problem and is expected to return to action early next year.

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