Town show strength in adversity

STRENGTH often comes from adversity and after another testing week off the pitch the Ipswich Town players showed the sort of steely determination, in a classy velvet fist, that could yet forge a play-off place, writes Derek Davis.

STRENGTH often comes from adversity and after another testing week off the pitch the Ipswich Town players showed the sort of steely determination, in a classy velvet fist, that could yet forge a play-off place, writes Derek Davis.

The sales of Hermann Hreidarsson and Darren Ambrose and the unavailability of skipper Matt Holland failed to break Joe Royle's side's indomitable spirit.

They even shrugged off an injury to Thomas Gaardsoe after less than 20 minutes and, yet again going a goal down, surged on to score three and pile the pressure on Wolves and Nottingham Forest.

Blues boss Royle revealed on Friday how he had told the players to forget the politics, put the uncertainty behind them and focus on winning the mini-season of seven remaining games.


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They responded in fine style with goals from Tommy Miller, Pablo Counago and Marcus Bent after skipper Paul Smith had given the Gills the lead. Royle said: "We should have been out of sight by half-time. We hit the woodwork, missed a couple of chances and should have had a blatant penalty. If we had been four up by the break no one could have complained. This was a good win because this is never an easy place to come."

Royle fired an ominous warning to the four teams currently sitting in the play-off places said: "I'm not saying they won't go up but they have to keep winning because we are going to stay on their tail. We just have to keep going. With six games to go, people will slip up.

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"The situation will change week by week. We have got a big game next week with Forest at home and we will worry about Portsmouth when that happens – hopefully they will be full of champagne by then."

Republic of Ireland duty meant Matt Holland missed his first league game for Ipswich since his arrival almost five years ago but Miller proved more than able in midfield, while Jim Magilton skippered the side by example.

Miller equalised with a low angled shot, which went straight through after Counago distracted the keeper by feinting a flick on.

Royle said: "Tommy was another who looked back to his best. He was attacking the box and getting in to score a goal. They did not know where he was coming from in the first half when we were at our best.

"As usual Jim was a big influence, he is quite a player for us."

And Royle could have gone through the whole team, with goalkeeper Andy Marshall making some excellent and crucial saves.

A groin injury to Gaardsoe adds to Town's defensive worries although two relatively new faces at the back give Town heart with 18-year-old Matt Richards looking strong and assured and Richard Naylor looking as if he has always been a centre half. Royle added: "It was a mature performance from the young kid at left back and, as for Bam Bam, well, what a great centre half he is going to be for us, you can see that after just three or four games at the back."

Spaniard Counago missed a good heading opportunity in the first half but made up for it with his all-round performance, assist for Miller's goal and scoring a beauty himself after a swift turn and finish. Royle added: "Pablo was excellent. He is getting back to his best. He was disappointing last week when we took him off but we decided to go with him again.

"It was touch-and-go whether to start with him or Marcus but it is great when you can bring one in and he scores. If he finds the Englishness of the game, Pablo will be top class. He has a low base and can turn. But he needs to do what we mortals do and chase back and hold the ball up better. He deserved his goal and he took it really well."

n Royle will be boosted by the return of Blues striker Alun Armstrong tonight when he plays in an otherwise very young Ipswich Town Reserves against Tottenham Hotspur second string in a match taking place at Stevenage.

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