Royle to keep faith with young duo

BLUES boss Joe Royle is ready to keep faith with exciting strike duo Darren Bent and Dean Bowditch after Ipswich Town's thrilling 3-1 victory at Walsall, writes Derek Davis.

BLUES boss Joe Royle is ready to keep faith with exciting strike duo Darren Bent and Dean Bowditch after Ipswich Town's thrilling 3-1 victory at Walsall, writes Derek Davis.

Bent scored his first senior hat-trick, ably supported by fellow teenager Bowditch, and they looked an exciting pairing.

With Pablo Counago injured, and Shefki Kuqi not at his best in the previous three games, the duo were given their chance.

Although Royle had secured one of his loan targets in Matt Elliott he had considered bringing in another before next Thursday's deadline, but an injury has put paid to one target.

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Now Royle is more relaxed and hopes the cutting edge showed in the second half at the Bescot Stadium will continue so he will not need reinforcements.

He said: "The lads did extremely well against Walsall and deserve to be given another chance.

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"As I have said, we have not been playing badly, but of course I have not been happy with the goals we have conceded. But when you consider we have not had a settled back four all season it is understandable.

"Now with Matt in there I'm sure we will be stronger."

Royle hailed Richard 'the Lionheart' Naylor in his post-match comments when the centre-half needed two injections to play after breaking a toe on Saturday.

But he suffered for the sacrifice and was in agony yesterday so Royle is hoping he won't have to call on him again against Watford.

John McGreal and Drissa Diallo are due to train today and either could partner Elliott on Saturday.

Royle said: "Richard was fantastic again. He is a loyal lad who loves this club. We know we can always call on him either as a centre-half or centre- forward."

If the central defence is covered, Royle hopes Alun Armstrong can provide added cover for the forwards.

Royle has rejected an approach by Bradford to take Armstrong back after his thigh strain by activating a clause in the loan agreement, which means he is recalled by Town.

Royle said: "We are going to keep him. We had a very youthful bench at Walsall and we just don't want to get caught short. I have great regard for Alun and although he is available on a free transfer and went out on loan, the door never closed on him as far as I'm concerned."

Armstrong was still technically a City player on loan until April 12 and Bryan Robson wanted him back after Andy Gray moved to Sheffield United and Danny Cadamarteri was injured.

But Armstrong, who played 45 minutes in the reserves' 2-0 win over Cambridge University yesterday, will now definitely stay at Town and will go into the squad to face Watford, unless the groin niggle he picked up in the win gets worse.

Striker Billy Elliott and shaven-headed centre-half Aidan Collins were the scorers in a drab game.

Watford have taken full-back Chris Baird, who played in last season's FA Cup final, on loan from Southampton, and the 21-year-old is expected to make his debut at Portman Road on Saturday in the noon kick-off.

Meanwhile, Royle has snapped back at Andy Marshall, who suggested the team spirit at Ipswich was not good and Millwall were better equipped mentally to win promotion.

Marshall made the comments to the EADT following Millwall's win at Portman Road last Saturday.

But the Town manager said: "I was disappointed with Andy. He should know better than to think that after working with these players. I appreciate things are rocking at Millwall and I'm genuinely pleased for him that he is doing well there but I felt his comments were wrong."

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