Lovely bubbly for McGreal

Ipswich comeback star John McGreal celebrated only his third senior appearance in a year by winning the sponsors' champagne.The 31-year-old defender said: "It's been a long time coming, but what made it easier is that I've been fit and with the team for the last few weeks.

Ipswich comeback star John McGreal celebrated only his third senior appearance in a year by winning the sponsors' champagne.

The 31-year-old defender said: "It's been a long time coming, but what made it easier is that I've been fit and with the team for the last few weeks.

"Fortunately for me one of the lads got suspended and that was a chance for me to get back in. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the fact that we won made it all the better."

McGreal's problems began almost exactly a year ago, on December 10 2002, when he suffered a knee injury just a few minutes into the game at Brighton.


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He returned in February this year, but after completing the 4-2 home defeat by Wolves he had to retire at half-time in the 2-2 draw with Grimsby at Portman Road just three days later.

Nothing had been seen of the ex-Tranmere player until the weekend, when he helped to bolster a makeshift Town defence rocked by the 22nd minute departure of Richard Naylor with a hamstring problem.

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McGreal added: "It's been a catalogue of injuries in the past year. I came back and only lasted a game and a half, then I trained right through the summer. But every time I tried to step it up I'd have another setback.

"It's only been in the last couple of months, when I've played about six reserve games, that I've felt right again. Getting involved with the first team again has been tremendous.

"Now I just hope my injury problems are in the past and I can carry on playing. I couldn't believe it when they handed me the champagne – it's a long time since I won one of them."

McGreal hailed Town's gutsy display in holding out for three vital points, adding: "That performance showed the character of the lads.

"We had to dig deep for the win. We had a lot of players out of position, but although Derby had a lot of possession we managed to restrict them to just one or two efforts.

"They didn't really threaten us that much and it was a fantastic game for us to come through and win."

Tommy Miller, who set off for a friendly midweek game in Scotland with an ankle problem, praised the added spirit in the Town camp.

He said: "It is a match we would have lost last season. We had to dig in in the second half and it is the three points that really matter.

"We have competition for places, particularly in midfield – and this can only be good for the club. It keeps players on their toes."

Matt Richards was unhappy Town did not keep a clean sheet. He said: "The Derby goal looked offside to me, although I am not sure and it will be interesting to see it on the video.

"The lads say that I may have been playing the scorer onside. I was happy with my display in a makeshift back four, and with the way I defended.

"George Burley helped me no end and I was pleased he received such a great reception."

Fabian Wilnis explained that he was close to playing. The Dutchman, who missed his first game of the season, said: "They told me if I felt any pain not to play. There was a

little feeling during my fitness test, and I sat out the game to make sure I will be OK for next Saturday."

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