Town chiefs praise Canaries

DAVID Sheepshanks and Joe Royle were among the first to send their congratulations to Norwich City who last night won promotion to the Premiership – and immediately vowed to join them, writes Derek Davis.

DAVID Sheepshanks and Joe Royle were among the first to send their congratulations to Norwich City who last night won promotion to the Premiership – and immediately vowed to join them, writes Derek Davis.

Sunderland's 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace means City can only be caught by West Bromwich Albion in the race for the title, while West Brom need just one point to be sure of accompanying the Canaries in the automatic promotion places.

Ipswich Town chairman Sheepshanks said: "My congratulations go to Norwich on a wonderful season. I will be among the first to offer my personal well done to everyone at Norwich City.

"In my view nobody can deny the table and they have finished in the top two and so they deserve promotion.

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"I hope very much that we now embark on a successful set of six games and join them to maintain the continuity of local derbies."

As he penned his words of congratulations to the Canaries, Sheepshanks turned his attention to Saturday when Town could theoretically secure their place in the play-offs.

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Sheepshanks said: "We find ourselves in a very exciting situation and I hope we have a huge crowd at Portman Road on Saturday and produce the sort of volume we have heard in recent games, which has been quite fantastic.

"I have total belief in Joe and the players and while we know Nottingham Forest will be difficult opposition we are well capable of beating them and going on to do what is necessary to win promotion."

If Ipswich beat Forest and other results go their way they could be assured a place in the top six. They need West Ham to lose at Stoke and Palace to lose at Crewe, while Millwall and Sheffield United drop points against Reading and Walsall, respectively.

Royle said: "Now it is up to us to go and join them. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see a couple of East Anglian derbies next season in the Premiership."

Royle was delighted for Nigel Worthington, his assistant Doug Livermore and first-team coach Steve Foley. He said: "Congratulations to Nigel, Dougie and Steve. It is a great achievement and they have hit the heights of consistency all season.

"I will leave the rivalry to the supporters. Having been at Norwich as a player I know they are a good club with nice people and they deserve this.

"I still maintain that at our best we are as good as they are. That is not to undermine their achievements, they are going up because they deserve to."

Town entertain Nottingham Forest on Saturday in front of what is hoped will be an almost-capacity crowd at Portman Road. Forest have moved to secure new manager Joe Kinnear, who has overseen a run of just two defeats in 14 games to pull away from the relegation zone.

He has signed a new 12-month rolling contract at the City Ground.

Royle added: "Forest is now the biggest game of the season so far. If we can win, and we are by no means taking anything for granted, then we could secure our place in the play-offs, or at the very least go a long way to doing so.

"But it won't be easy. I still have sympathy for Paul Hart, who struggled for most of the season without David Johnson.

"Since Joe came in he has masterminded their move away from the bottom but they are still fighting for points. I believe they will stay up and will be a real force in this division next season."

Former England defender Des Walker came through a reserve game on Tuesday night with no ill-effects and is hoping to be included in the squad travelling to Portman Road this weekend.

Tommy Miller remains Town's biggest doubt with a tight hamstring. Pablo Counago has returned from a mini-break in Spain to help his recuperation, after a groin strain set back his hopes for a first team return, following his recovering from a hamstring tear.

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