Royle rues defensive frailties

RUEFUL Joe Royle was left shaking his head as he watched his Ipswich side give away a lead and lose for the seventh time this season, writes Derek Davis.

RUEFUL Joe Royle was left shaking his head as he watched his Ipswich side give away a lead and lose for the seventh time this season, writes Derek Davis.

As delighted as he is with an attacking force that has banged in 76 league goals this season, he despairs at the way the majority of the 67 have been conceded.

He said: "Our strength is our weakness. Our strength is when we have the ball we can play to a level probably better than anyone in this league. But those same players find it hard to defend. And I don't mean the back four.

"There are some who don't think defending is in their contract.

"It is what happens in front of the back four that is costing. That is how the second and third goals came about, because we don't defend as a team. I'm furious that we have lost that game because we didn't deserve to lose."

He also pointed to the narrowness of ability in the sides who are chasing the Division One title and his classy Town team.

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He said: "We have played very well against a side who are going to go up. We have now lost to them twice, conceding seven goals, and in neither game have we been inferior.

"They might go up as champions but we are not far away from them."

Once again decisions went against Town and while Royle thought Whitley Bay referee Graham Laws did well overall he put two goals down to errors by the officials.

He said: "The referee has not had a bad game but he has made decisions which have cost us.

"Decisions make a difference. Their first goal was not a free kick to them, if anything it was a free kick to us because Geoff Horsfield was holding Matt Elliott.

"Then Horsfield was offside for the third goal. He had a two yards head start when the ball has come across.

"So if you take those out of it things would have been different."

But Royle admitted mistakes had still been made by his side with questions being asked about defenders' positioning, especially the first goal.

He added: "Kelvin Davis will not be pleased with the first goal but overall he has had a great season and is probably up there for our player of the season."

The double substitution also had an effect, with Martijn Reuser crossing for Shefki Kuqi to get between Darren Moore and keeper Joe Murphy to set up Darren Bent.

"That is precisely the reason I put Shefki on. Shekfi has jumped across the keeper, got it down and Darren has finished well."

And as disappointed as everyone was, Royle insists hope springs eternal. He said: "We are still very close and I still feel we can make it. We are just three points off that third place and with six games left we still have a chance of winning as many as we can to get into the play-offs and third place is still a realistic target.

"The top two are gone. I'm not having a dig at either because both are very hard to beat. West Brom dug deep and Norwich keep a good shape.

"But neither can play at a level that we can although both can defend at a level higher than we can."

The game was watched by a live television audience and Royle believes Ipswich offer value for money. He added: "Come to Portman Road, see five goals and entertainment – perhaps Sky should be here every week."

The next Sky game involving Ipswich comes against Sheffield United which has been moved forward a day to Friday, April 30.

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