Royle's keeper dilemma

KELVIN Davis last night kept a clean sheet on his first outing since recovering from a back injury and at the same time gave Blues boss Joe Royle a selection dilemma.

By Derek Davis

KELVIN Davis last night kept a clean sheet on his first outing since recovering from a back injury and at the same time gave Blues boss Joe Royle a selection dilemma.

Davis was impeccable in the 2-0 win over West Ham at Dagenham & Redbridge FC, as Pablo Counago and Dean Bowditch hit the two first-half goals to give Steve McCall's young Blues their first win in the Premier Reserve League this season.

The free signing from Wimbledon has been out of action since straining a back ligament against Reading at the end of September and Lewis Price has proved to be a more than capable stand-in.

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Royle must decide whether to bring Davis straight back and disappoint the young Price, or stick with the Welshman.

Former England Under-21 keeper Davis confirmed he is ready to play and keen to reclaim his place, but he knows it is not a foregone conclusion.

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Davis said: "The game went well and I did not feel the back at all. I started training last week and was in full training on Monday and now have a reserve game under my belt.

"I'm ready to play but we will have to see what happens. It is down to the manager but if he gives me the call on Saturday then I'm ready, willing and able to play."

The six-week lay-off is the longest injury spell of the 28-year-old's career and, while he has enjoyed seeing Town stay unbeaten, Davis admits it has been a difficult time.

He said: "I can't remember the last time I was injured, so it has been a different experience for me. It is one I have not enjoyed but as a professional footballer it is something you have to get on with, but now I'm just glad to be fit and back training and playing."

A clean-shaven Davis was not called into action until the 23rd minute, when he was well-positioned to take a strong Tommy Laws drive.

The Blues No. 1 had refused to shave until he was back in full training and so had grown a thick, full beard, which only came off earlier this week.

He was also down smartly to take a Greg Pearson shot and the Hammers' No. 9 sent a header from a corner against a post.

Davis saved the best until the second half when he blocked a Danny Bunce shot and reacted quickly to deny Pearson's follow-up.

Counago's fourth goal in as many games for the reserves came after clever, unselfish play by Antonio Murray, who picked out the Spaniard unmarked six yards out for a simple tap-in, two minutes before half time.

Counago turned provider with a terrific though-ball to set up Bowditch's first reserve-team goal of the season, which came two minutes into time added on before the break. He beat the offside trap to finish emphatically from 18 yards.

Hard-working Town deserved to keep the Hammers at bay with some neat football played by both sides.

The teams

West Ham: Reed, Laws, Blewitt, Melville (Ward, 46), Ferdinand (Henry, 70), Cohen, Wright, Noble (Ephraim, 7), Pearson, Asikodi and Bunce. Subs not used: Behcet and Stokes.

Ipswich Town: Davis, Atay, Craig, Mitchell, Collins, Hogg, Flack, Manning, Counago, Bowditch and Murray. Subs not used: Knights, Supple, Patten, Krause and Leabon.

Referee: S Rubery.

Attendance: 175

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