Town forced to reject loan offer

JOE Royle has had to turn down a generous Premiership club who offered to loan Ipswich Town a player and carry on paying his wages, writes Derek Davis.

JOE Royle has had to turn down a generous Premiership club who offered to loan Ipswich Town a player and carry on paying his wages, writes Derek Davis.

With injuries ravaging his side Royle would have loved to take a couple of players until the end of the season but is not allowed to as the club is in administration.

He said: “We are a bit stretched both injury wise and form wise and not being able to loan players has been a problem. It is no good moaning about it. We can't, so we just have to get on with it.

“A club even offered to give us a player on loan for free and carry on paying his wages just so he could get some regular first-team experience but we are not able to take him.”

While the transfer window for Premiership clubs taking on new players closed at the end of January, Nationwide League clubs can still sign new personnel, permanently or on loan, until Thursday March 27, except those in administration who can only release players.

With Hermann Hreidarsson ruled out for at least five weeks after suffering a deep gash above a knee and Tommy Miller definitely missing for tonight's game at Crystal Palace, Royle's squad is looking thin.

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John McGreal will resume full training this week, Mark Venus is coming along steadily after a knee operation, Finidi George is working his way back to fitness after a hip injury and time off to see his new-born daughter, while other squad members are playing through pain and niggly knocks.

Town do have Pablo Counago back after a four-match ban and Richard Naylor has recovered from his illness, while Marcus Bent is available, although he is still feeling his hamstring a little.

But it is like juggling jelly for Royle, because no sooner does he have players back in one department, it all goes wobbly elsewhere.

He said: “Tommy has a swelling in his hamstring and we won't know more about him for a week or so.

“We are getting stretched a bit in midfield now, where at one time I felt we were over-full, but I hope Darren Ambrose will make it.”

Royle added: “It is more mitigation than moan and you will still know everyone we put out against Palace but we have struggled with players going out.”

Skipper Matt Holland makes his 250th consecutive starting league appearance for Ipswich and has proved adept in midfield or defence.

Ambrose, who is still feeling the effects of a brutal, high tackle by Craig Fleming at Norwich, will have a fitness test this morning and Royle's team selection and pattern will depend on how the England Under-21 international comes through.

He may stick with the defensively stronger 3-5-2, especially away at Palace, with Matt Richards coming in as a wing-back, or an attacking 4-3-3, utilising Counago and the two Bents, Marcus and Darren.

The Spaniard is raring to go after a four-match ban stretching over three weeks and while he has been working hard on his fitness with coach Simon Thadani, he may need a game or two, as will Marcus Bent, to get match sharpness.

Royle said: “Pablo is desperate to play. He never lacks enthusiasm, he just needs games - he is a fair player to come back for us.”

Ipswich have moved from fourth bottom to seventh top under Royle and the Ipswich manager feels the team has improved all round since his arrival and a 2-1 home defeat to Trevor Francis' side.

He said: “Palace are the only team since I have been here who have genuinely beaten us. Others may have got the result but Palace played better than us and deserved to win that day. It was my first league game here and I found out a lot about us in that game.”

On-loan striker Noel Whelan, who netted the opener in their 2-1 defeat at Bradford, will make his home debut for Palace tonight, while Ade Akinbiyi is considering a loan move to Stoke City.

Andy Johnson is set to return to the squad after a foot injury, while Darren Powell is expected back after missing the trip to Bradford.

Tonight's squads

Crystal Palace: Berthelin, Symons, Mullins, Popovic, Butterfield, Derry, Thomson, Borrowdale, Gray, Freedman, Whelan, Granville, Kolinko, Akinbiyi, Johnson, Black, Routledge and Powell.

Ipswich Town: Marshall, Wilnis, Richards, Holland, Gaardsoe, Makin, Wright, Magilton, Ambrose, M Bent, D Bent, Counago, Pullen, Reuser, Bowditch and Naylor.

Referee: Eddie Wolstenholme (Blackburn).

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