Royle targeting top spot

WATCH out Wigan - Ipswich are after you.Blues boss Joe Royle is refusing to look over the shoulder of second-placed Town and has set his sights on table-topping Latics, writes Derek Davis.

WATCH out Wigan - Ipswich are after you.

Blues boss Joe Royle is refusing to look over the shoulder of second-placed Town and has set his sights on table-topping Latics, writes Derek Davis.

“The top two sides are there on merit. We have only lost two while Wigan are unbeaten and we are going after them,” he said.

“There are one or two clubs gathering behind us but we want to get after Wigan.”

Royle recognises both clubs are operating with thin squads and are looking to strengthen.

While Royle has a budget to bring in players thanks to an above-budget crowd of 23,000, Paul Jewell relies on the cheque book of owner Dave Whelan as Wigan can attract crowds of around just 7,000.

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Royle said: “We have got the same problem with only 16 senior players in the squad. They have got the capacity do go and change things, they showed that when they were serious about going after Scott Parker at Chelsea.”

To keep the pressure on Jewell's men, who are six points clear at the top, Town must see off rapid climbers Sheffield United tonight.

The Blades are sitting in seventh place after a run of seven games without defeat.

Royle added: “Sheffield have a great away record and as we saw with their three early goals at Crewe they are a good side.

“They have dangerous players such as Paul Shaw and Danny Cadamarteri, who we know all about. They are scoring goals and they will not try and contain us as other clubs have come here and tried to do.

“They are typical of all the sides in this division inasmuch as they can beat anyone on their day.

“At the same time they have lost games they will be disappointed with.”

The Blades will have to get on with the job without manager Neil Warnock on the sidelines. He has been banished to the stands after being sent off in a row with officials against Nottingham Forest and will sit yards away from Royle in the directors' box.

Warnock will be treated to some rare hospitality from an opposing manager and Royle added: “On any other day other than match-day Neil is charming. He will be invited to my office for a glass of wine after the game. Hopefully it will be to console him.

“You can't argue with his record, which shows he knows what he is doing. His sides are always hard to beat and well organised.”

Town have not lost any of their eight home league games this season and Royle is determined to keep that run going. He said: “We have a good home record which we are proud of and we want it (Portman Road) to stay a fortress for us.”

Keeper Kelvin Davis returns on the bench after recovering from a back injury and could possibly play for Town reserves against West Ham tomorrow. Scott Mitchell and either blue chip young striker Darryl Knights or Antonio Murray are on stand-by to join the first team if Tommy Miller and Fabian Wilnis fail to recover from injuries picked up in the 3-0 win over Preston.

Royle is hopeful both players will be fit to play - Miller is suffering with a bruised calf and Wilnis a sore hamstring. Town claim the Dutchman has made a much better than expected recovery after initial fears over a strain proving unfounded and cramp now diagnosed.

Mitchell can play in midfield or as a full-back while Murray is a midfielder.

Sixteen-year-old Knights has impressed in the handful of reserve games he has played and if he is a surprise call-up into the squad, Town will go with three up front as Pablo Counago is added to the starting line-up.

They may do that anyway and not risk further injury to Miller with Matt Richards able to slot in Wilnis' left-back position.

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