Bent to miss next four games
TOP scorer Darren Bent could miss all but one of Ipswich's remaining five games this season.The news is yet another major blow to Town's lingering play-off hopes after Saturday's 4-3 home defeat by Nottingham Forest.
By Mel Henderson
TOP scorer Darren Bent could miss all but one of Ipswich's remaining five games this season.
The news is yet another major blow to Town's lingering play-off hopes after Saturday's 4-3 home defeat by Nottingham Forest.
Manager Joe Royle today confirmed: "Young Darren is still two or three weeks away – and we won't be rushing him.
"The scan showed a hamstring tear and if we had an emergency, and put him in, it could make it a lot worse."
Bent, with 16 goals to his credit this term, was withdrawn in the 3-1 win at Gillingham and was unable to face Forest.
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He now looks like missing Saturday's trip to Coventry and the Easter fixtures against Portsmouth and Rotherham, which take place in the space of three days.
And based on Royle's prognosis, there must also be a question mark against him appearing in the last home match of the season on April 26, when Wimbledon are the visitors.
Royle, his resources already severely stretched, said: "At least we have Alun Armstrong back and we've still got Dean Bowditch, who is still very much in consideration."
The Ipswich boss cleared up the mystery of why 16-year-old Bowditch did not figure in the senior squad at the weekend.
"Dean was back with his mates," said Royle. "He was substitute for the under-17s in their play-off game against Manchester United.
"Dean came on in the second half and changed the game. We were 1-0 down at half-time and ended up winning 2-1.
"We think the world of young Dean but there's no doubt he was showing signs of tiredness. It was always a deliberate policy to put him in and out."
Meanwhile, Royle is keeping his fingers crossed that Thomas Gaardsoe will have sufficiently recovered from a groin injury to return at Highfield Road.
The Danish defender, who had started every previous league game under Royle, was also crocked at Gillingham and unable to play at the weekend.
Royle added: "We must wait and see how Thomas does in training this week, but he's running again. John McGreal is also on the way back.
"But John has been out for so long that he will need reserve games before he is ready for the first team."
Royle refused to use the fact that he was forced to field a makeshift defence against Forest to explain away his team's dramatic collapse.
He said: "There's no doubt that we are stretched, but that's not an excuse. We still had three very capable players at the back.
"Bamm-Bamm (Richard Naylor) had his first sort of learning game as a defender. He will be stronger and wiser for it.
"Matty (Holland) didn't have a bad game, but he looked a bit tired after being away with the Republic of Ireland. He's played nearly 60 games this season."
Royle assessed the play-off scene and denied the Coventry game would be a make-or-break occasion.
He explained: "People have been telling me for the last few weeks 'If you don't win this one…' but the reality is that we are three points behind our closest rivals with five games still to play."
Sixth-placed Wolves have two away games before Town are next in action. They travel to Grimsby tomorrow and to Nottingham Forest on Friday.