Royle - the season starts here

THE season starts here for Ipswich Town, who go into tomorrow's game with Stoke City in seventh spot, exactly where they finished the last campaign, writes Derek Davis.

THE season starts here for Ipswich Town, who go into tomorrow's game with Stoke City in seventh spot, exactly where they finished the last campaign, writes Derek Davis.

While manager Joe Royle is delighted with Town's run of six wins in seven, and the six goals they hammered past Burnley on Tuesday, he believes they still have a way to go to get where they should be.

Royle said: "All we have done up to now is retrieve a wretched start to the season. If you had asked me at the beginning of the season whether we would be seventh at this point I would have said no, we will be higher. All we are doing is playing catch up now.

"We are improving but there is more to come."


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With Pablo Counago netting six goals so far this season, backed by the presence of Shefki Kuqi, a revitalised midfield and a fairly mean back line, Town are brimming with confidence – and goals.

He said: "I'm glad we are scoring goals again but don't expect another six goals. This won't be easy, Stoke are a difficult side and the way Tony Pulis sets his team out will make it difficult to break down.

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"It would be nice to score six but I will settle for one."

Only Kidderminster Harriers have managed a clean sheet over 90 minutes at Portman Road since the last time Stoke visited back in March.

Royle is hoping to put out an unchanged side for the fourth game running but Jim Magilton and Georges Santos are injury doubts for their televised clash with Stoke.

If Magilton recovers from bruising at the top of his calf, the Blues skipper will make his 200th appearance in a Town shirt, and 560th career match. Should the Irishman fail to make it, Ian Westlake will join the Blues midfield, alongside Jermaine Wright, who has a slight groin strain, and loanees Alan Mahon and Chris Bart-Williams.

A goal for the Blues tomorrow will be the 100th under Royle and will help maintain their record as Division One's top scorers.

John McGreal has been penciled in to play in the Town reserves' game against Derby County on Wednesday. Darren Bent has a minor ligament tear and will be out for at least two weeks.

Drissa Diallo, Chris Makin and Martijn Reuser, are all making good progress and should be back in training this week.

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