Keane's thinning Blue line

IPSWICH Town's case for the defence is not a strong one.It's not quite yet a defensive crisis, but manager Roy Keane is prepared to let his most experienced centre-half, Gareth McAuley, leave the club.

Carl Marston

IPSWICH Town's case for the defence is not a strong one.

It's not quite yet a defensive crisis, but manager Roy Keane is prepared to let his most experienced centre-half, Gareth McAuley, leave the club.

Town are not blessed with many options in the heart of defence, a fact highlighted by just one clean-sheet in the first nine games of the season.

McAuley has been in Town's squad for all bar the Carling Cup game at Shrewsbury, but his injury-time red card against Nottingham Forest in midweek could even be one of his last contributions in a Town shirt.

Ex-Lincoln and Leicester stalwart McAuley, a �1.5m purchase just over a year ago, has confirmed this week: “My agent got a call from the chairman who said if a club could be found for me, then to go ahead.”

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The 29-year-old will not be involved in tomorrow's away game at Doncaster Rovers, due to a one-match suspension as punishment for his professional foul on Forest's Dele Adebola in Tuesday night's 1-1 draw.

McAuley's absence has reduced Keane's options at the back, as well as further emphasising the need for a new defender. Keane has admitted that he needs to strengthen in “one or two areas,” and that includes central defence.

Skipper Alex Bruce partnered McAuley against Forest. Teenager Tommy Smith, a product of Town's Academy, was on the bench, but otherwise that leaves just Dutchman Pim Balkestein and an out-of-favour Ben Thatcher, who has not been involved at all this term. Keane has already insisted that Thatcher is “not in my plans.”

Meanwhile, Bolton Wanderers centre-half Danny Shittu, who was earmarked as a Town loan target earlier in the week, is still available after the Nigerian international turned down a chance to join Sheffield United yesterday.

Shittu is yet to make an appearance for Bolton this season, and manager Gary Megson is willing to loan him out to reduce the wage bill.

But Megson revealed: “I spoke to Sam Ellis (Blades assistant manager) a few times and it was put to Danny he could go there if he wanted for a month's football and could have played six games.

“I felt it would have been good for everybody, but Danny didn't want to, which is his prerogative, so he has not gone.”

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