Derby clubs face injury crisis

IPSWICH and Norwich are both battling against a host of injury problems ahead of Sunday's crucial derby clash.Rival bosses Joe Royle and Nigel Worthington have several key players on the doubtful list for the 1pm showdown at Carrow Road.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH and Norwich are both battling against a host of injury problems ahead of Sunday's crucial derby clash.

Rival bosses Joe Royle and Nigel Worthington have several key players on the doubtful list for the 1pm showdown at Carrow Road.

While Royle has concerns over several strikers, his Canary counterpart has been forced to put a question mark against a number of first choice stars.

And both teams have been hit by suspensions, with Hermann Hreidarsson and Pablo Counago absent for Town and City minus Steen Nedergaard and Malky Mackay.

Top scorer Darren Bent, whose double against Grimsby took his tally for the season to 15, is Ipswich's only 100 per cent fit striker.

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Partner Marcus Bent pulled up in training with hamstring trouble and Royle said: "We'll know in the next day or two whether it's just a bit tight or there's a tear."

Another experienced striker, Alun Armstrong, had his appearance in last night's 3-1 home reserve defeat by Derby cut short by injury.

Royle added: "Alun fell badly on his wrist and went to hospital for an X-ray. We'll know more about that later today."

The Town boss went on: "Richard Naylor pulled out last night with some sort of bug and he's not been well for a few days.

"Nabil Abidallah has had the same problem, so there's obviously something

flying around at the moment."

Town's other doubt for the trip across the county border is defender John McGreal, who failed to appear for the second half of Saturday's home draw with Grimsby because of a back problem.

Royle said: "John won't train again until Friday. At best he's 50-50 but I haven't given up on him yet."

The possibility of several strikers being ruled out on Sunday has led to inevitable speculation that 16-year-old Dean Bowditch could be drafted into the squad.

Royle added: "The kid's doing very well and he scored a good goal last night, but it's a case of people putting two and two together. It's still early days."

The Town boss will not wait until the last moment before deciding who plays in goal at Carrow Road.

James Pullen's league debut against Grimsby was marred by his mistake that gifted the visitors their second goal.

The 20-year-old was beaten three times by Derby's second string last night, but Royle said: "I wouldn't necessarily blame him for any of the goals, but James looked a little bit nervy.

"He is still slightly unnerved by the weekend's events."

Meanwhile, Worthington was forced to draft in 18-year-old rookie midfielder Dean Sinclair for his senior debut in last night's 1-0 defeat at Gillingham.

Phil Mulryne missed his second game with a back injury and midfield sidekick Gary Holt ended an uninterrupted run of 88 games when he was absent with a groin problem.

Darel Russell is virtually ruled out of Sunday's game, as is club captain Neil Emblen who damaged an ankle in his last loan appearance for Walsall.

Clint Easton, who prefers to operate on the left, partnered Sinclair in a makeshift midfield at Gillingham and they could well be forced to continue at the weekend.

Norwich will be praying the hamstring problem that caused on-loan striker David Healy to come off early last night does not prove serious.

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