Croft aiming to end Town's play-off hope

FRESH from celebrating a major career milestone, Gary Croft returns to Portman Road this weekend looking to wreck Ipswich's play-off party.Defender Croft, 30, today spoke of his frustration at not being able to command a regular first team spot in his time with Town.

FRESH from celebrating a major career milestone, Gary Croft returns to Portman Road this weekend looking to wreck Ipswich's play-off party.

Defender Croft, 30, today spoke of his frustration at not being able to command a regular first team spot in his time with Town.

And the former England Under-21 cap admitted he would like nothing better than to put one over his former employers on Sunday.

Croft made the 300th Football League appearance of his career in Cardiff's 1-1 draw with Wimbledon at Ninian Park four days ago.

Now the full-back, who moved to Wales two years ago and will soon be out of contract, is aiming to end the season on a high and earn himself a new deal with the Bluebirds.

He said: “I left on amicable terms and I didn't fall out with anybody, but I'd love to beat Ipswich.

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“I worked hard, I was doing well in training, playing well for the reserves and just couldn't get into the squad.

“I felt my form justified more games than I played there. Ipswich went down, they were having a bad time and I was champing at the bit to be involved. But I just wasn't selected.”

Croft, who launched his career at Grimsby, cost £540,000 from Blackburn in September 1999 - and current Town boss Joe Royle will remember his debut.

It came against Manchester City, of whom Royle was manager at the time, when he scored a 67th minute clincher in Ipswich's 2-1 win.

But things quickly turned sour for Croft when he was arrested and, in December that year, jailed for four months for driving while disqualified and perverting the course of justice.

He was released from Hollesley Bay Prison, near Woodbridge, five weeks into his sentence and became the first player to be electronically tagged during a game.

But he only made 37 senior appearances during almost three years at Portman Road and seized the chance of a free transfer move to Cardiff after loan spells there and at Wigan.

Croft recalled his time at Ipswich and added: “The coaching staff said I was man of the match in reserve games and I kept believing my chance would come, but each time I seemed to be left out.

“I got so frustrated and coming to Cardiff was a great move for me. I love it here and I'd love to think I will still be here next season.”

Meanwhile, Royle recalled his side's superb 3-2 win at Ninian Park in November and warned: “That won't make things any easier for us on Sunday.

“It's hard to pinpoint our best display of the season, but that one is right up there - probably with the home win over Sunderland when we kept a clean sheet.

“The scoreline flattered them and made it look a lot closer than it actually was, while one of their goals was from a very dodgy penalty.

“But I know that Lennie (Lawrence) will be reminding his players about that game and stressing they don't want to be doubled.

“I keep hearing Cardiff have nothing to play for and that their season's already over. But none of that matters a jot and we know better than to expect an easy game.”

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