Top two can be caught, says Royle

IPSWICH Town boss Joe Royle has not given up the ghost on finishing in the top two, although much will depend on some rock-solid home form, starting against Preston tomorrow, writes Carl Marston.

IPSWICH Town boss Joe Royle has not given up the ghost on finishing in the top two, although much will depend on some rock-solid home form, starting against Preston tomorrow, writes Carl Marston.

Town's 4-2 defeat at Burnley has left them 10 points adrift of second-placed West Brom, with 14 games remaining.

It looks a very tall order for Town to overhaul pace-setters Norwich or West Brom during the final two months of the season, but Royle is not conceding defeat just yet.

And the Town boss also predicts another open game against tomorrow's visitors Preston, with a flurry of goals.


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"I haven't given up hope of the top two yet!" insisted Royle.

"We're not just looking at the teams behind us. We need to bounce back from the defeat at Burnley, and at least stay in the top six after this weekend.

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"We need to beat Preston, and in fact we need to win our home games.

"There have been more goals at Portman Road than anywhere else this season, and I think that it's unlikely to be 0-0 against Preston. It's going to be another open game.

"It was a hard-fought 1-1 draw at their place, and either side could have won that day. Preston are a very dangerous side, especially going forward," added Royle.

Midfielder Chris Bart-Williams missed last Saturday's trip to Burnley, due to a back problem, but he returns to the squad.

Bart-Williams enjoyed a short break with the rest of the squad in Tenerife during the first half of this week.

"We didn't want to take Chris (Bart-Williams) to Burnley, because being stuck on a coach wouldn't have helped his niggling back injury," continued Royle.

"But he's had some rest, and done a little training in Tenerife and again at home, so he should be fit for Saturday.

"I believe that the break has done us some good, and hopefully we will see the benefits against Preston.

"It seems that a couple of days of holiday in the sun has caused a bit of a stir, which I'm surprised at, because it was all arranged a couple of weeks ago, before we knew that we were going to lose at Burnley.

"The players are fit, but I just felt that they needed a bit of a boost, which they've had. We had mini-breaks in the season when I was a player, but usually only to Blackpool or Southport!" added Royle.

Even though Ipswich have conceded 52 goals in 32 league fixtures this season, a poor record that is only eclipsed by basement side Wimbledon (61 goals), Royle does not intend to curb his emphasis on attack.

"We just need to do a little fine tuning," said Royle.

"We've been a little lax at times, because we have been trying to get players forward to score. Perhaps we should not be quite so adventurous, although we're going to keep going for goals.

"That's the way we play, and that's the way we will continue to play. It can be a bit hairy to watch at times, especially just before half time when we have tended to give away too many goals this season.

"But we like scoring goals, sometimes to gay abandon. We need to concentrate more as a team at defending. It's the whole team, not just the defence.

"Since the first six games of the season, I reckon that we have been one of the most consistent teams in the division," added Royle.

Town will be without target man Shefki Kuqi tomorrow. The Finnish striker serves a one-match suspension.

Royle said: "Shefki (Kuqi) is suspended, and we will miss him. Shefki has his critics, but he's scored at a rate of one goal every three games, which is a top-class performance for this division.

"He's unlucky to be suspended, because he got his last booking for someone running into him!"

Meanwhile, keeper Andy Marshall's loan spell at Millwall expires after this weekend. The Lions are reported to be interested in keeping him for another month.

Long-term absentee Chris Makin, who has not played since the end of August, is on the comeback trail.

Full-back Makin has had problems with his hip and groin, but the injury has eased following a recent injection. He is hoping to test his fitness in the reserves.

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