Joe has sights on third

DESPITE seeing his side suffer their seventh home First Division defeat of the season, manager Joe Royle still feels Ipswich have a chance of finishing third in the table.

By Elvin King

DESPITE seeing his side suffer their seventh home First Division defeat of the season, manager Joe Royle still feels Ipswich have a chance of finishing third in the table.

But after the crushing blow of losing to a controversial late goal by Geoff Horsfield in the crunch game against second-placed West Brom, Royle did not hold back on criticising the way his players defended.

With six First Division games left, however, he feels Town can still finish strongly enough to be involved in the play-offs.

“Third place is not beyond us,” said Royle. “When we pass the ball about as we did against West Brom, particularly in the first half, we are probably the best side in the division.

“But when we do not have the ball some players do not appear bothered. Our players are delighted to receive the ball, but for some of them you would not think that defending was included in their contracts.

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“There is no getting away from the fact that we played well against a side that is going up, and there is very little difference between us and the top two.

“But we have conceded seven goals against West Brom having played as well as them for much of the two games.

“Two of the West Brom goals today were down to decisions made by the referee, with Geoff Horsfield fouling Matt Elliott, not the other way round, for the free-kick that led to their first goal.

“And Horsfield was yards offside in the build-up to the winning goal, but I am going to give the referee a good mark as overall he did well.

“I am furious that we lost a game that we should not have done. Kelvin Davis has served us well all season, but the free-kick goal went his side of the goal.”

Royle confirmed that Ian Westlake went off after receiving a knock on the ankle and knee and that the midfielder is doubtful for next weekend's games at Rotherham and at home to Sunderland.

West Brom manager Gary Megson sung from the same hymn sheet as most other opposing managers this season when he forecast a play-off spot for Ipswich Town.

“They are a good side and they ought to make it. They controlled the first half and we could so easily have been further behind with Georges Santos missing a great chance,” he said.

“We were an accident waiting to happen and didn't look like a team that was hoping to gain promotion. In the second period we looked like a team that was trying to win promotion.

“Ipswich don't play with a lot of width and we switched our shape a bit after the break when Jason Koumas came on to play well.

“He settled on the ball and went at people forcing players to come out of their positions and loosening Ipswich's solid shape. Koumas is a Premiership class player, but needs to show it all the time and not when it suits him.”

Megson confirmed that goalkeeper Russell Hoult suffered a knock to his hip, but that he should be fit after a couple of days rest. He was replaced at the interval by 22-year-old Joe Murphy, who was playing his sixth game following a move from Tranmere.

“I would have preferred a 2-0 victory, but the main thing was to win and it was worth the

anxiety, and to take six points off Ipswich is a fantastic achievement,” added Megson.

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