Royle's 'wonderful feeling'

IT may be early days, but Blues boss Joe Royle is savouring the moment as Ipswich sit top of the pile.With half the season almost completed, Town lead Wigan by a point and Sunderland by two after the single goal win over Brighton.

By Derek Davis

IT may be early days, but Blues boss Joe Royle is savouring the moment as Ipswich sit top of the pile.

With half the season almost completed, Town lead Wigan by a point and Sunderland by two after the single goal win over Brighton.

Royle admitted: “It is a wonderful feeling. We weren't too many people's favourites in pre-season betting.

“We are not quite halfway but I would rather be here, with two points a game average, than bottom , playing catch up, which we have had to do in previous seasons.”

It was not a vintage Ipswich performance, as Brighton proved difficult to break down, but Royle was happy enough with his side's showing.

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He said: “We were terrific first half without getting the second goal, which would have brought them out. We had a nervous 10 minutes at the end but we do defend a lot better these days and I didn't feel as nervous about the ball going into the box as I used to.

“The front two ran them ragged first half and, if we had got the second goal, the second half would have been easier.

“Their keeper has made some terrific saves and we have had some terrific misses.

“Then our front two decided to stop passing to each other, which we will have a word about this week.

“Brighton were awkward and came with a five-man midfield and made it hard for us.

“We are going to have to get used to that but, credit to them, they are no mugs away from home.”

It was Town's fifth clean sheet at Portman Road this season and Royle praised his two centre-halves, Jason De Vos and Richard Naylor.

He said: “The back four has looked solid and have been a lot better than previously.

“It is a game we could have drawn or lost in other seasons. Three defeats all season tells you we are hard to beat.

“When we get our balance right, we will be dangerous.”

He also had a word to say about top-scorer and match-winner Shefki Kuqi.

He said: “You know what you get - Shefki runs miles for the cause. He took his goal well and then missed one from seven inches, but that's Shefki.

“He has gone round the back and tried to smash one from about nine degrees, instead of squaring it for Bent. But I can't complain, the big man has got nine goals for us this season.”

With Tommy Miller back, Town were able to use their preferred four-man midfield, although it was touch and go whether the influential No. 8 would start and stay on.

Royle said: “Tommy is still not totally right, but I wanted to get back to a four, especially knowing they would have a five in midfield.

“I did consider at one stage matching them up system-for-system and go 3-5-2.”

Cover on the bench was provided by 16-year-old Republic of Ireland international Owen Garvan, in his first call-up to the squad after three reserve team appearances, two of those as a substitute and the last one back in mid-October.

Royle said: “Owen has been doing better than the others. Antonio (Murray) has not been playing as well in the reserves and we are using that as a barometer.

“The kid has been doing well and, although he did not get on this time, he is a very promising player and will get his chance.”

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