Counago could face six-match ban

IPSWICH Town's promotion hopes were hit for six today after it emerged Pablo Counago could be banned until the final game of the season.

Derek Davis

By Derek Davis

IPSWICH Town's promotion hopes were hit for six today after it emerged Pablo Counago could be banned until the final game of the season.

The Spaniard faces an inquisition from Football Association disciplinary bosses following his the spitting allegation surrounding his sending off during Town's 2-1 win at Scunthorpe United on Saturday and if found guilty faces a six-match ban.

Counago was red-carded for violent conduct along with Iron's Jack Cork and will automatically receive a three match ban.

But he could also be handed a further three match ban for the aggravating circumstances after being accused of spitting into defender Andy Butler's face.

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An FA spokesman last night confirmed: “There is nothing from preventing us further charging Counago for that incident if we felt it was necessary.

“We will wait to see what is in the referee's report and any video evidence that is available.

“An offence of spitting carries a penalty of a three-match suspension.”

Blues boss Jim Magilton has already warned Counago that he will 'throw the kitchen sink' at him if it is proved he spat at the player and that would mean a maximum fine of two-week week's wages, around £10,000.

Counago is protesting his innocence after an elbow in his face loosened a tooth and he spat blood on to the floor, so hopes to be cleared by the club and the FA.

But losing the Spaniard, who scored his 12th goal of the season in the win at Glanford Park, would punish the Blues who are today in seventh place in the Championship table, level on points but with a game in hand on sixth-placed Plymouth.

Counago will not be free to play again until the final game of the regular season which is Hull City at home on Sunday, May 4.

Counago, whose wife Lara is due to give birth to their first child on Thursday, has been a model professional since his return to Portman Road in the summer with just three cautions all season.

He was twice been sent off before in Town colours, at Reading in October, 2002 and against Sheffield United in February 2003.

The Blues could be further hit on the disciplinary front this week with Magilton's charge of abusive language to an official expected to be heard by a disciplinary panel.

Magilton could also face six-match banishment to the stands after an incident at Stoke involving the officials in a row over the multi-ball system at the Britannia Stadium a month ago. But even with this being his third hearing in 18-months the maximum ban is not likely to be implemented and no more than four games is anticipated, along with a fine.

For pressing for the Ulsterman is the need to find a replacement for Counago, whether he is out for three or six matches.

With Shefki Kuqi still struggling with a hamstring problem and not a certainty for Saturday's home game with QPR and Jon Walters rued out until the end of the season, Town are looking for someone to partner Alan Lee up front.

It was revealed yesterday that Town were making a last ditch effort to land David Healy and Shola Ameobi is a possibility but if no one is in by Thursday's deadline Magilton will have to look in house.

Danny Haynes is the favourite to get the nod, although Gary Roberts has played up front with some success and is hungry to return.

Jordan Rhodes is desperate to add to his 40 goals for the Blues at all other levels, including a couple in the FA Cup with Oxford United, but is still very much a rookie at senior level.

Although Manchester United right back Danny Simpson made his Town debut at Scunthorpe, Magilton is still looking to bring in a centre half.