Wilnis a doubt for Derby

FABIAN Wilnis has a fighting chance of preserving his ever-present league record, despite hobbling off with a tight hamstring during Wednesday night's 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest, writes Carl Marston.

FABIAN Wilnis has a fighting chance of preserving his ever-present league record, despite hobbling off with a tight hamstring during Wednesday night's 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest, writes Carl Marston.

Ipswich Town defender Wilnis is still rated as very doubtful for tomorrow's home clash against Derby County, which heralds the return of former Town boss George Burley.

But Joe Royle has not ruled out the possibility of Wilnis making a quicker than expected recovery, even though the 33-year-old will not train today. He has started all 21 league games this season.

"Fabian has been Mr Consistent since I came to the club," explained Town boss Royle last night.

"He has been having a terrific season, and he will be a loss if he fails to make it for this weekend.

"Our first fears were that Fabian had strained his hamstring, but it's not a strain. It is just tight, so we are hoping that he will recover quickly. He's not without a chance of playing.

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"As it stands, Fabian is our biggest doubt ahead of the Derby game. It will just be a case of him turning up on Saturday morning, when we'll make a decision," added Royle.

The long-term absence of Chris Makin, due to a hip and groin problem, means that there is no obvious replacement at right-back if Wilnis misses out.

Teenager Scott Mitchell has been added to the squad, having made his first-team debut as a 90th-minute substitute last month, ironically at tomorrow's opponents Derby (2-2 draw).

But it is more likely that Jermaine Wright will vacate his right-midfield role to fill the right-back position, especially as Royle has plenty of other options in midfield – Tommy Miller, Martijin Reuser and Alan Mahon were all on the bench at Forest.

"The midfield is our strength. Jermaine (Wright) has played right-back before, and I'm sure he could do a good job again. He has been terrific in the last couple of games," continued Royle.

Centre-half Richard Naylor suffered a bang on the foot during Wednesday night's stalemate, but he should be fit to retain his place against Derby.

However, his partner at the back, Frenchman Georges Santos, is a definite non-starter due to a one-match suspension.

Royle has no hesitation in recalling John McGreal at the heart of defence, even though the ex-Tranmere stalwart has been out of action for nine months.

McGreal has endured a nightmarish spell on the sidelines, with both a back injury and knee ligament damage. But the 31-year-old is gunning for a return tomorrow.

"John (McGreal) will come in for Georges Santos, so it will be like replacing experience with experience," said Royle.

"John has had a terrible 12 months with injury, but he has finally enjoyed three weeks of continuous training, and he's also played a couple of reserve games.

"He's been out for a long time, but he's ready to stake a claim again," added Royle.

Town moved back up to fourth in the table following the 1-1 draw at the City Ground. Darren Bent's 61st-minute opener was cancelled out by Wes Morgan's equaliser just seven minutes later.

Their record over the last three months has suggested a team with automatic promotion credentials, not just a team with hopes of a play-off spot.

Since dropping to the Division One basement, following the 4-1 defeat at West Brom on September 13, Town have lost just two of their last 15 league fixtures.

That run included a 2-2 draw at Pride Park a month ago, when hosts Derby stole a two-goal lead in first-half injury-time through Peter Kennedy and Danny Dichio.

Miller and Bent salvaged a point with goals midway through the second half.

"It will be a very emotional return for George (Burley)," admitted Royle.

"There should be a big crowd and a terrific atmosphere. I was very disappointed to concede the two goals at Derby, just before half time, although we could have gone on to win that match."

Tomorrow will be Burley's first return to Portman Road as Derby manager, although he did watch the Rams Reserves play at Town in October.

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