Royle turned the air blue at half time

THE decorators will need to be called into the visitors' changing room at Highfield Road after Joe Royle's blistering half-time team talk.

THE decorators will need to be called into the visitors' changing room at Highfield Road after Joe Royle's blistering half-time team talk, writes Derek Davis.

The normally placid and jovial Joe turned the air as blue as the Town home shirts after watching a woeful first half Ipswich performance - but his rip-roaring rallying call had the desired effect.

He admitted: “They are going to have to paint the dressing room walls because we stripped it. I don't often get angry at half time but it merited it then, and the players responded.

“I have lost count of the times we have been behind but come back to win or draw, so whatever else they don't have, their spirit is unquestionable.”


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After goals from Matt Jansen and Dean Gordon had given the Sky Blues the lead, which would have been extended but for an outstanding Andy Marshall save, Royle rang the changes at the break. He switched from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2, putting Martijn Reuser to left midfield, dropping Matt Richards to left back and replacing Richard Naylor, who twisted a knee.

But Royle dismissed the swap as the reason for the remarkable turnaround.

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He said: “It was more a substitution of attitude. We were playing charity football in the first half, strolling around with a touch here and a touch there.

“We went a bit more direct second half without going route one, and were a different team.

“Martijn made a great impact and every time the front two got the ball they looked as if they would score. From a side that hardly had a shot, although we did hit the bar, I thought we were going to score every time we went forward.”

Reuser played a part in two of the goals, the first when he linked well with the alert Jim Magilton to crack in a free kick which Marcus Bent cheekily deflected in for the opener.

But Town also had Marshall to thank for a couple of outstanding saves, first from Jay Bothroyd in a one-on-one just after the break and later to push away a stinging 30-yard shot from Gordon.

It was heartening to hear the vociferous 2,500 Town fans singing “There is only one Andy Marshall”.

Royle said: “Credit to Andy for those two excellent saves - one when we were two down and going three down would have made it even harder. From then on we took over.”

Three minutes after Bent's fortuitous shot, Pablo Counago got on the end of a Bent flick from a Marshall clearance and showed great skill to beat two defenders before stroking the ball into the far corner.

The Spaniard hooked in Town's third from a Tommy Miller shot after a cleverly-worked corner by Reuser.

Bent rounded things off with an excellent angled finish from a delightfully clever chip by Magilton and took his tally to five goals in four games.

Royle purred: “I was delighted for the front men getting their goals - Pablo was outstanding.

“When Marcus is in that mood he is a dangerous and powerful player, as he showed. He and Pablo gave Coventry a lot of problems second half.”

He also picked out teenager Richards for praise and admitted he nearly sacrificed the 18-year-old at half-time until Naylor complained he had twisted his knee after twice landing awkwardly.

Reuser's experience, inventiveness and attack-minded play were ideally suited as Town chased the game. Royle said: “Martijn has been great as a sub for us, he won't like me saying it because he wants to start, but he has been terrific again coming on and making a difference.”

Magilton was also substituted as a precaution following his recent groin problems, and Royle added: “Jim was going to come off when we were 3-2 up but he made that marvellous final telling pass and then came off, and the game was won.”

Tomorrow, all eyes will be on Reading's game with Preston and Sheffield United's trip to Nottingham Forest as Ipswich keep in touch with the leading pack.

Royle said: “We are still in there, we are still pressing and we believe we can still do it. We have had so many chances to go into the top six but it hasn't worked out when we've thought 'we'll do this or if they do that' it has not happened, so all we can do is win our last four games and see what happens.”

Saturday's victory was the second away game in a row that Town have been behind before coming back to win.

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