We owe fans a win, says Royle

'WE need a performance for the fans'. That was the message from Ipswich boss Joe Royle ahead of tomorrow's third-round FA Cup match with Derby County.

'WE need a performance for the fans'. That was the message from Ipswich boss Joe Royle ahead of tomorrow's third-round FA Cup match with Derby County, writes Steve Mellen.

Despite the Boxing Day win at West Ham, the seasonal fixtures have left the home fans glum after successive defeats at Portman Road, at the hands of Norwich City and Crystal Palace.

Now Royle wants Derby - beaten 2-1 in the league fixture last month - to feel the backlash as the Blues look towards a place in the fourth-round draw, which takes place Monday lunchtime.

“To get through, and maybe get a big club, would be a massive boost for us, and after the last two defeats we really need a performance to lift the home fans,” the Ipswich boss said yesterday.

Young midfielder Ian Westlake is the major doubt ahead of the match. He was still in bed with flu yesterday. Westlake will need a major improvement today if he is to play any part in the match, which will see former boss George Burley make his second return to Portman Road in the space of a few weeks.

But the good news for Royle was that Tommy Miller, John McGreal and Jermaine Wright - who was struggling with an ankle injury - all trained and should be available.

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And after conceding six goals in the last three games, including a real defensive horror show against Palace, the sight of centre-back Drissa Diallo being part of the first-team training was a welcome boost yesterday. He has not played since a collision with team-mate Georges Santos when Ipswich beat Wimbledon back on September 20.

“Drissa was back with the lads for the first time, and we have missed him,” said Royle.

“I would say before he was injured he was man of the match in many of the games we played. Chris Makin is also resuming light training but it will be at least a month before we see him in the squad.

“At the moment it seems whatever defensive combination we try the goals keep going in, and I'd certainly like us to be more miserly in the second half of the season. Another 15 clean sheets would be nice!”

Town's fifth-place position is promising, given the team were bottom in September, but Royle's pre-season expectations had the club higher at this stage.

“I thought we'd be better off than we are, and if you take the first six games out it hasn't been that bad a season. We've had two home setbacks now but it's important not to get too despondent.”

A long cup run can often benefit the league campaign. Sheffield United reached the play-off final and two cup semi-finals last season, but Royle has seen both sides of fighting on two fronts.

“I was at Everton when we were struggling down the bottom of the league but won the cup, but at Oldham we had one season with over 60 games because of the cup competitions, which didn't help in the end.”

It's one step at a time for the Ipswich boss though. A win tomorrow would do nicely, perhaps with a clean sheet thrown in.

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