Joe makes team watch Hammers horror

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle subjected his players to a Hammer horror video in a bid to propel them closer to the Premiership.Royle sat his squad down to watch a re-run of West Ham's 2-0 win at Portman Road on New Year's Day, which marked Town's first home league defeat of the season.

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle subjected his players to a Hammer horror video in a bid to propel them closer to the Premiership.

Royle sat his squad down to watch a re-run of West Ham's 2-0 win at Portman Road on New Year's Day, which marked Town's first home league defeat of the season.

The Hammers return tomorrow night for a sell-out play-off semi-final, second leg, with the teams deadlocked following Saturday's 2-2 stalemate in East London.

Town have yet to beat West Ham in three games this season - the league meeting at Upton Park in September last year also ended all square - and Royle admitted: “The tie is finely balanced.

“We showed the players the video replay of the game here in January but it certainly wasn't all bad.

“We had more shots on target but we didn't finish, which isn't like us. We also made a terrible start in that game to gift them a first minute lead and that meant we were always chasing the game.

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“But although the scoreline tells you we lost 2-0, we were clearly better at everything and just didn't take our chances.

“We need a better start tomorrow, but it certainly isn't going to be an easy game. When you're playing in the semi-final of any competition, with so much at stake, they never are.”

Royle believes the atmosphere of a packed Portman Road, under the floodlights, can help tip the scales Town's way and earn them a trip to Cardiff on May 30 to take on either Preston or Derby in the winner-take-all final.

He added: “It promises to be a great night. There is going to be a tremendous turnout and we need hardly remind our supporters what is at stake. They want it as badly as we do and know they can play their part.

“The big negative when West Ham came here in the league was the result, but performance-wise we were better then them in virtually every area.”

Royle urged his players not to repeat their mistakes in the first leg, when the Hammers cashed in to take a two-goal lead inside the first 13 minutes.

For the 13th time this season, Ipswich roared back to avoid defeat to set up a titanic second leg this evening that is unlikely to end goalless.

Royle said: “We can't go on giving our opponents a start, although our character can't be doubted when we consistently hit back and don't lose.

“The thing is, we only have four recognised defenders in our team and other sides have six or seven.

“But that's what we are, that's what we've got and that's what we do - and we've been doing it all season.”

Royle is giving nothing away with regard to tomorrow's starting line-up, but he is likely to give the team that finished Saturday's game the nod.

That will mean Drissa Diallo and Kevin Horlock dropping to the bench, with Matt Richards and Darren Currie, half-time substitutes at Upton Park, in from the start.

Coincidentally, if that is the case, Town will kick off with the same side that lost 2-0 to the Hammers four and a half months ago in front of a 30,000-plus crowd.

West Ham are adamant they can record another win at Portman Road and teenage midfielder Mark Noble pointed out that they had also won away to the top two, Sunderland and Wigan.

He added: “Our away form has been really good during the run-in and that definitely gives us confidence going into the second leg.

“We never thought that we had to win at Upton Park, because we've got enough belief that we can go to Portman Road and get a result.

“It was a convincing performance there earlier in the season and the same again would do nicely. We're a strong squad and I don't think losing the lead in the first leg will affect us negatively.

“We can handle that. If might have felt like a defeat after the game, but we drew and we're still very much in the tie going into a game we firmly believe that we can win.

“If we don't the season is over, simple as that. That's all the motivation we need.”

Meanwhile, there are very minor doubts surrounding the fitness of two Town defenders, Fabian Wilnis and Jason De Vos, both of whom sat out training yesterday.

Royle explained: “Fabian jarred his knee at Upton Park and in Jason's case he felt a bit wiped out by the virus he suffered last week, so we just decided he could do with a rest.

“But neither player is rated doubtful. I fully expect them to be fit for tomorrow's game.”

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