Town facing a vital eight-day period

JOE Royle looked ahead to a vital eight days for Ipswich Town and said: “We need a good return from our games against Millwall, Preston and Crystal Palace.

By Elvin King

JOE Royle looked ahead to a vital eight days for Ipswich Town and said: “We need a good return from our games against Millwall, Preston and Crystal Palace.”

By the end of next week, the Blues could be in with a much-improved chance of reaching the Championship play-offs - or left with only pride to play for.

Town have re-arranged their game at Preston for next Tuesday night after it was postponed at the weekend because of a frozen Deepdale pitch.

And four days later they visit the other side currently in a play-off position who they have an outside chance of catching - Iain Dowie's Palace.

Two wins and Portman Road will be rocking. Two defeats and another season in the Championship will be a certainty for Town

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Royle knows the importance of those two games - and Saturday's home fixture with Millwall.

He said last night: “We will have a much better idea of what we can achieve after the final whistle at Selhurst Park.

“There have been some crunch times over the last few months, but next week tops the lot.

“We need a good return, and must try and obtain as many points as we can from the nine on offer.

“We currently have a remote chance of the play-offs, and matches are running out.

“I am not setting any target. But a large haul of points will improve our position and a poor return will give our dreams a big knock.”

Although matches at Preston and Palace will be looked upon as particularly difficult, Royle emphasised that Saturday's home contest against Millwall will not be a formality.

“They are near the bottom of the table and will be fighting for their lives,” added Royle.

“My assistant Willie Donachie watched them beat Luton on Saturday with a last-minute goal and he returned with good reports.

“They will not roll over, and we know that we have a big task on our hands to wrestle three points off Millwall and put us in good shape to tackle Preston and Palace.”

Ipswich have lost just once in their last 10 league games, and Royle says that this does not tell the whole story.

“We have been playing very well, and are worth more than the points we have collected,” he said.

“We have had an enforced break because of the Preston postponement, but that should not do us any harm.”

Royle has set his sights on managing a club in the Premiership again, and if results go against him next week it will open up the debate as to whether the former Oldham, Everton and Manchester City boss will stay at Portman Road after his current contract runs out in the summer of 2007.

The 56-year-old has assembled the basis of a successful side with an excellent mix of youth and experience, and the indications are that promotion can be obtained next season - if not this.

Royle says that it is too early for him to be drawn on this, but after the dramatic improvements shown in his team over the last two months - and the success on limited resources of the previous two years - a vast majority of Town fans would like to think he will be around for a few more seasons yet.

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