Matt's twin targets

IPSWICH star Matt Richards has a twin target in his sights - promotion and a brand new contract.No one will convince the utility player that 15th-placed Town cannot repeat their achievement of the past two seasons and secure a play-off place.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH star Matt Richards has a twin target in his sights - promotion and a brand new contract.

No one will convince the utility player that 15th-placed Town cannot repeat their achievement of the past two seasons and secure a play-off place.

And academy graduate Richards, who will be 21 on Boxing Day, would like nothing more than to extend his stay at Portman Road.


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His present deal expires at the end of the current campaign, but that will not be uppermost in his mind when Town take on QPR tomorrow.

Harlow-born Richards said: “The contract business isn't important at the moment. You could say I am playing for a new deal, but nothing has been said on the subject so far and I can't really say it bothers or concerns me.

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“I know I will have to prove I am capable of earning a new deal here. But there's nothing more I can do than go out and do my best in every single game, and then wait and see what happens.”

Richards accepts that some supporters, only too aware that Town have claimed only one victory in their last 10 outings, may not share his confidence about a top six finish.

But he added: “You can't just look at the negatives or it won't get better. It's still one win in 10, but no one has his head down and we are trying as hard as we can to turn things round.

“There is a lot more to come from us, but I am convinced we are going in the right direction. There is enough talent within the squad for us to improve and I see no reason why we can't start winning games and climbing the league.

“We are at the half-way point and now is the time to start picking up a few points. It's going to be pretty hectic over the next few weeks and it would be a great time to start a run.

“We are every bit as frustrated as the supporters that we don't have more points. But I can sense that we are starting to turn the corner. The signs are definitely there.

“We still have ambitions to get promoted. If we didn't, what would be the point? It's where we should be and we are capable of being there. We're certainly not a team just looking to survive.”

Richards netted from the spot in last week's 1-1 home draw with Wolves, when he slotted into the problem left-back slot, the role in which he earned his one and, so far, only England Under-21 cap.

But with Fabian Wilnis free to return after serving a one-game ban, Richards is hopeful of booking a midfield berth in Joe Royle's starting line-up tomorrow.

Changes are inevitable, since both Kevin Horlock and Adam Proudlock are ruled out with knee injuries. Meanwhile, midfield pair Owen Garvan and Ian Westlake lack match fitness and the best they can hope for is a place on the bench.

Royle's attacking options could be further restricted if Dean Bowditch, who limped out of training yesterday with an Achilles problem, fails to recover in time.

Richards looks forward to meeting up with former Town team-mate Georges Santos, who is back in QPR manager Ian Holloway's plans after a shoulder injury kept him out of last week's 2-1 win at Stoke.

He said: “I got on very well with Georges when he was here. I speak to him every now and again, and he always says how much he is enjoying it at Loftus Road.

“He and Danny Shittu are two of a kind in the middle of the Rangers' defence. They bully people and bash them about a bit.

“We know QPR will make it hard for us. They are workmanlike and not too flash, but they have had some good results this season and you know they are going to hassle you.”

Rangers have fit-again trio Marc Bircham, Matthew Rose and Santos available again, but Steve Lomas, Marc Nygaard and Kevin Gallen are not yet ready for a return to action.

SQUADS

IPSWICH: Price, Sito, Naylor, De Vos, Wilnis, Williams, Juan, Magilton, Richards, Currie, Garvan, Westlake, Bowditch, Forster, Barron, Peters, Clarke and Supple.

QPR: Royce, Bignot, Rose, Shittu, Santos, Milanese, Dyer, Bean, Bircham, Langley, Rowlands, Ainsworth, Moore, Furlong, Evatt, Baidoo, Cook, Donnelly and Cole.

Referee: Matt Messias (York).

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