Last-chance saloon for John?

SCUNTHORPE, away on Saturday, could be the last-chance saloon for Ipswich Town's on-loan striker, Stern John.

Carl Marston

By Carl Marston

SCUNTHORPE, away on Saturday, could be the last-chance saloon for Ipswich Town's on-loan striker, Stern John.

The games are running out for the experienced 33-year-old hit-man, who has plundered his share of goals (97 club goals) during his career.

John is on loan from Crystal Palace until the end of the year, but that only equates to a possible two more appearances - he is not allowed to play against his parent club in the Selhurst Park showdown on Boxing Day.

After two outings for Town, in the goalless draws at Bristol City and against Peterborough, John was dropped to the bench for Saturday's 3-1 win over Blackpool.

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Keane had been reluctant to pick John for three games in eight days, due to the player's lack of match-fitnesss, but there is every chance that he will be back in the starting line-up for this Saturday's trip to Scunthorpe.

Keane would surely have been reluctant to tamper with his team, following the encouraging victory over the in-form Seasiders, but he has no choice following the double whammy of yellow cards for both Grant Leadbitter and Jon Walters.

In both cases, it was their fifth bookings of the season, so both will serve their one-match suspensions at Glanford Park.

At least one striker's berth is therefore up for grabs - Walters operated as a front-man against Blackpool - and John could well get the nod to partner Jon Stead.

The Trinidad & Tobago international has already revealed that he would like to extend his stay at Portman Road, beyond the end of this year, which means he must up his game.

He impressed at Ashton Gate, and was desperately unlucky to have his headed goal disallowed out for a foul against Peterborough. That's why Keane might see fit to recall him for another start against the Iron.

Pablo Counago, Tamas Priskin and Connor Wickham are also vying for a start, although neither Priskin nor Counago even featured in the 18-man squad last Saturday, and Wickham was only an unused substitute.

Counago will be particularly frustrated to be frozen out of the squad for the last couple of fixtures. The Spaniard was guilty of a glaring miss late on at Bristol City.

Keane has choices to make elsewhere as well. The influential Leadbitter will be missed in the centre of the park, not least because he has been ever-present since his arrival from Sunderland at the end of August. Alan Quinn and Liam Trotter are the obvious contenders to replace him, although Owen Garvan could also move back into central midfield from his recent role on the left.

And the loss of Walters - it will be the first game he has missed this season - means that Keane needs to name a new skipper. Gareth McAuley, who is bang on form, must be the favourite for this job.

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