Matt: We can still gain promotion

DESPITE Ipswich Town's play-off hopes today hanging in the balance, Matt Richards insists the future is bright for the club.The Blues face a make-or-break five days with tricky away games at promotion rivals Preston North End and Crystal Palace.

DESPITE Ipswich Town's play-off hopes today hanging in the balance, Matt Richards insists the future is bright for the club.

The Blues face a make-or-break five days with tricky away games at promotion rivals Preston North End and Crystal Palace.

But midfielder Richards, 21, believes there is plenty to be optimistic about and tipped Town to be pushing for the Premiership next season - if they do not secure a top-six spot in April.

“We have got a great squad, up with any team in the division,” said Richards.


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“It's a relatively new and young side but one that could go up, if not this season, then the next one.”

Town are away at Preston tonight and Richards, who recently signed a contract extension that keeps him at Portman Road until 2009, is adamant that Ipswich can afford no-more slip-ups after only drawing 1-1 against lowly Millwall on Saturday.

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“We have to beat the teams around us,” said Richards.

“It will be really difficult against Preston and we have to prepare right and focus on playing at our best.

“We need to get a victory otherwise we are going to fall a bit too far behind.

“But if we win against Preston then everyone will be on a high and we can really push for that play-off place.

“That's definitely a possibility and everyone believes we can do it but we just have to get the right result.

“Both games will be really difficult. We have to win and are confident. Everyone knows we can do it and have the ability and players to do so.”

Preston beat Ipswich 4-0 when the two teams met in August, but Richards believes memories of that defeat will spur Town on.

He said: “It was a bad day for us. Nobody really performed and losing 4-0 is quite hard to take - we were pretty gutted.

“Preston deserved to win but they are not 4-0 better than us.

“I imagine it will be the worst result we have this season. But it was a long while ago and we are on quite a good run and only lost once in 11 games.”

MATT Richards admits he could not be happier with his new role or extended contract.

The 21-year-old recently signed a deal that keeps him at Portman Road for three more seasons but his Ipswich future looked in jeopardy after Town's 4-0 home defeat against Preston in August.

Blues' manager Joe Royle signed Jay McEveley on a season-long loan two days later and Richards was left out of the starting line-up for the next seven games.

However, Richards, who has now become a crucial part of the Town midfield, insists he was always confident he could regain his place and earn a new contract, which had been due to run out in the summer.

Richards, who is in the squad for tonight's clash at Deepdale, said: “I was always confident in myself and knew if I worked hard I could get back in the team and earn a new deal.

“It never crossed my mind that I would be leaving.

“I'm really happy they offered me a new deal and I had no intention of going anywhere else.

“There were a few clubs that were linked with me but I took no notice. I'm happy here and did not want to leave at all.

“I'm just really enjoying the position I've been playing in and getting forward is a big part of my game.

“The gaffer changed me to that role and that has helped me and brought out my better aspects.”

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