Important times for Lee-Barrett

THE most important few weeks in Arran Lee-Barrett's career begins today, when he starts his first game as the Ipswich Town No. 1.And manager Roy Keane has no problem in giving the ex-Hartlepool 25-year-old his chance.

Carl Marston

by Carl Marston

THE most important few weeks in Arran Lee-Barrett's career begins today, when he starts his first game as the Ipswich Town No. 1.

And manager Roy Keane has no problem in giving the ex-Hartlepool 25-year-old his chance.


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Instead of trying to recruit a keeper who had not been registered with a club since August 31 - Town's only possibility of signing another keeper - Keane is happy to start with Lee-Barrett at Bristol City.

Youth teamer Ian McLoughlin will be on the bench.

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Loanee Asmir Begovic's return to Portsmouth, and Richard Wright's four-month absence with a knee injury, has left Keane's hands tied, especially as the transfer window has long since closed.

"Arran deserves his chance," insisted Keane.

"He's done particularly well in training in the last two or three weeks, though I know it's only training.

"But I thought he came on at Cardiff and had a good presence about him. I have no problem with Arran playing this weekend, the problem is on the training pitch and if he were to get injured!

"Just over a week ago, we had three keepers, but now we're down to one in Arran (Lee-Barrett) plus another (McLoughlin) who is just a first year professional.

"The problem is that we need numbers for training. We need a keeper for the reserve group as well, so McLoughlin might end up playing for two teams!

"We just hope that Arran stays fit. We'll be sticking with the two lads we have, and I'm not looking down the route of trying to sign an unregistered keeper.

"Instead, we're looking ahead in case one of our remaining keepers get injured, in terms of a loan signing.

"That's why I've been saying over the last few months that I like to have three or four keepers on the books.

"Arran will obviously play this weekend, but then he'll have to have a day or two off training to recover. Yet we still have shooting drills and practise matches in training," added Keane.

If Lee-Barrett stays fit and catches the eye, then Keane will not have to resort to signing a free agent keeper. But it's far from ideal.

Keane has also resisted the temptation to make contact with ex-Town keeper Shane Supple, who retired from professional football last August and is now back in Ireland.

"I did not consider trying to talk to Shane (Supple)," revealed Keane.

"Ironically, he might have played the next few games if he was still here."

Fellow Irish keeper Brian Murphy, recruited from Bohemians, will be available to play from next month, when his Portman Road contract begins in January. Lee-Barrett's short-term contract expires at the same time.

Meanwhile, in addition to the change of keeper - Lee-Barrett in for Wright - Keane also looks set to make one more change for this afternoon's test at Ashton Gate.

Front-runner Tamas Priskin was very ineffective at Cardiff last weekend, and was withdrawn after just 51 minutes.

His replacement, Jon Stead, conjured up a late winner with his third goal in five appearances, so he should start alongside Crystal Palace loanee Stern John today.

Connor Wickham may have impressed in the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday night, including scoring the opening goal in the 2-0 win at Tranmere, but the 16-year-old will not be involved at Bristol.

Keane confirmed: "Connor is not in my plans for this weekend. I'm looking at the same sort of squad with just the change of keeper."

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