Pablo has chance to impress

PABLO Counago will be under close scrutiny as the only senior player in the Ipswich squad for tonight's reserve clash with Leicester.Manager Joe Royle may take in the game, which goes ahead at Kettering Town's Rockingham Road stadium, kick-off 7pm.

By Mel Henderson

PABLO Counago will be under close scrutiny as the only senior player in the Ipswich squad for tonight's reserve clash with Leicester.

Manager Joe Royle may take in the game, which goes ahead at Kettering Town's Rockingham Road stadium, kick-off 7pm.

But even if Royle heads elsewhere on a scouting mission, he will be anxious to hear of Counago's display from coach Steve McCall.

The Spanish striker is at the crossroads, in the final year of the four-year contract he signed in the summer of 2001 after being snapped up on a Bosman-style free transfer from Celta Vigo.

Town were anxious to remove the player and his £1million-a-year salary from their wage bill in the summer.

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But there were no takers, even after Ipswich confirmed they would release Counago on a free transfer.

Counago recently insisted his aim was to earn another deal to prolong his stay at Portman Road and Royle said: “Pablo needs to start putting his best foot forward.”

Counago, 25, was the odd man out at the weekend when Royle opted for an enterprising 4-3-3 formation at Coventry and secured a valuable 2-1 win.

Darren Bent, Shefki Kuqi and Dean Bowditch formed the Town attack, with Counago on the bench and not called into action.

Royle has questioned the player's fitness and attitude in recent weeks and it is clear the Town boss is

running out of patience with the former Spain Under-21 cap.

I understand one of Royle's two loan targets - he hopes to have one in place before Ipswich's next game at home to Burnley on Saturday week - is a striker.

And that is likely to push Counago further down the pecking order unless he is able to bring about a transformation in his form.

Royle will definitely be at a game tonight, either checking on Counago & Co or a possible loan target

elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Bowditch is hoping to win a place in the starting line-up for England in their under-19 clash with the Czech Republic at Carrow Road this evening.

Royle said: “Deano was just 16 when I put him on at Norwich the season before last and he had a hand in both goals as he helped to turn the game in our favour.

“I would love to see him get a chance tonight to enjoy a bit more success at the same venue. After the way he played for us at the weekend it would be quite fitting.

“He's a different lad in terms of size to the one who went on against Norwich and we are delighted with the progress he is making.”

Royle, who won England honours at under-18, under-23 and senior international levels in his own

playing days, added: “I wouldn't argue with Dean being our man of the match on Sunday.

“I thought both Jim Magilton and Kevin Horlock were excellent, but Dean was worth it for his goal and that might help him get a start tonight.”

Bowditch, who may partner Norwich's Ryan Jarvis in a game being screened live by Sky Sports 1, hopes the Canary choir go easy on him.

He said: “This is England so I hope the Norwich people will forget all about the Ipswich thing for 90 minutes.

“The rivalry is intense and I understand that, but I will be trying to ignore it and concentrate on

helping England win.

“It should be a fantastic atmosphere. It is a sell-out, which is a great effort, and I'm sure the crowd will back the team completely.”

Counago is the only non-teenager in the Town reserve squad for tonight's trip to face Leicester at Kettering.

Town Reserves: Supple, Synnott, Barron, Mitchell, Collins, Sobers, Flack, Murray, Counago, Clarke, Craig, Garvan, Hammond, Beveridge, Casement, Lordan, Guentchev.

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