Bruce blow for fragile defence

IPSWICH Town skipper, Alex Bruce, will be out of action for at least a week after injuring his groin during Saturday's 4-0 shocker against Newcastle.

Carl Marston

IPSWICH Town skipper, Alex Bruce, will be out of action for at least a week after injuring his groin during Saturday's 4-0 shocker against Newcastle.

That means Bruce will miss both tonight's away test at Sheffield United, as well as this Saturday's return to Yorkshire to face Barnsley.

Manager Roy Keane has as yet failed to find the winning formula, in terms of a settled and successful back four, during the first two months of a difficult season.

Injuries, suspensions and a lack of form have all dogged Town's central defenders, and this week is no exception.

And although it's not ideal, Town boss Keane will probably have to rush back Gareth McAuley, after his own injury problems (sore calf), in Bruce's absence at Bramall Lane.

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“I've had to keep making changes, and Alex (Bruce) will miss the next two games,” confirmed Keane.

“I hope that I've got a better idea of my best starting XI, and I want to keep the nucleus of the side, but I've been forced into changes.

“Gareth (McAuley) will do a light training session. Ideally, I'd like him to have a few more games, but beggars can't be choosers.

“Troy (Brown) has done well in the Reserves. He's young and inexperienced, but he's a good athlete and he's had a good attitude since he's been at the football club,” added Keane.

Ex-Fulham trainee Brown, 19, is therefore in contention for a place in the squad. Pim Balkestein started alongside Bruce in the heart of defence against Newcastle, while Tommy Smith came on for the Town skipper following his injury late in the first half.

Full-back David Wright, who has not been in the squad for more than a month, might also be in line for a recall.

The Town boss also intimated that out-of-favour midfielder, Owen Garvan, might come back into the fold for this weekend's trip to Barnsley, depending on how he performs for the Reserves against Northampton Town on Wednesday afternoon.

Garvan, though, will not feature at Bramall Lane tonight - he has been frozen out since being substituted at half-time during the Carling Cup defeat at Peterborough on August 25.

“Owen is out of my plans at the moment, and he had a chance to go out on loan last week,” continued Keane.

“But he'll have games for the Reserves in which to impress me. He's training hard, and all my players get opportunities. I have not written Owen Garvan off!

“He will play for the Reserves on Wednesday, and if he does well in that, then he might have a chance for Saturday.”

Sheffield United were beaten 2-1 at Swansea City on Saturday, but they are still handily placed in the play-off zone.

Keane knows that the Blades will still be licking their wounds after that defeat in Wales, and intent on returning to the winning trail tonight.

“Sheffield United are a very strong team. They came very close last year to being promoted,” said Keane.

“My players are putting the effort in, but they are coming up just short in both boxes. We are conceding too many goals and teams are not working too hard to score against us.

“We will have to defend better than we did on Saturday, otherwise I guarantee that we will get beaten. That's a fact.

“It will be a big test for us all, but at least we have an early chance to readdress the bad result (against Newcastle).

“When we had that disappointing draw (1-1) against 10-man Preston, we had two weeks to stew because of the break for internationals,” added Keane.