Blues boss sounds Crewe warning

CREWE boss Dario Gradi will relish the thought of knocking Ipswich off the top of the table, opposite number Joe Royle warned today.Royle takes his team to Gresty Road tomorrow to face the in-form Railwaymen, who have won their last three league games and banked 12 points from a possible 15 in recent weeks.

CREWE boss Dario Gradi will relish the thought of knocking Ipswich off the top of the table, opposite number Joe Royle warned today.

Royle takes his team to Gresty Road tomorrow to face the in-form Railwaymen, who have won their last three league games and banked 12 points from a possible 15 in recent weeks.

Royle said: “I can see Dario rubbing his hands. Make no mistake, they will be waiting for us and we will have to be ready to cope. They are a dangerous team.

“But as league leaders we want to stay there and that means winning, rather than drawing, games. We know what we have to do up there.

“It should be a good game between two sides who like to pass the ball, although Crewe are like ourselves in not being afraid of going longer if they have to.

“We must rise to the challenge of being top. We were there once before and didn't quite take it on. This time I want us to stay out in front.”

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Royle would also like to dismiss all talk of the Manager of the Month curse, having lost his next game on each of the two previous occasions he has scooped the award.

He added: “Hopefully we can buck the trend. I love looking at the table but I'm not fooled by it as we have only played 21 games so far.

“I'll be a lot happier if we are still there at Christmas. But it's not about me - managers are over-praised when things are going well and over-criticised if their teams are doing badly.”

Royle is set to field an unchanged side after everyone reported fit. “The physio's redundant,” he smiled, “and he's gone fishing.”

The Town boss epitomised the feel-good atmosphere at the club and confirmed: “I don't have to say a lot in training. The lads are really buzzing, as you would expect.

“We have been tighter at the back and must take that forward for the remainder of the season and the fact that we have only lost three times in 21 league games confirms we are hard to beat.

“But you have to be on your guard in this division. Look at Leeds - from a home game with Watford and a trip to Rotherham they only took one point and I bet they were thinking in terms of a lot more.”

Royle makes one change to his 16-strong squad, young central defender Aidan Collins being recalled after a good display in the reserves' 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace and 16-year-old Irish midfielder Owen Garvan making way.

The Town boss paid Crewe striker Dean Ashton a massive compliment yesterday when he said he would have tried to sign him in August if the Ipswich board had accepted Charlton's £3 million bid for Darren Bent.

He added: “Dean is a tremendous all-round centre-forward that clubs in our division would not be sorry to see move to the Premiership in January.”

Ashton (15), the Championship's Player of the Month for November, and partner Steve Jones (9) have netted 24 goals between them in all competitions this season - more than half their team's tally of 44.

Crewe hope to welcome back left-sided duo Anthony Tonkin (swollen foot) and David Vaughan (calf) after they missed Tuesday's 2-1 home win over Millwall.

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