Premiership football may return

IPSWICH are bracing themselves for Premiership football at Portman Road next season.But it is tomorrow's opponents, Colchester, who could be facing the big guns on Town's home turf.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH are bracing themselves for Premiership football at Portman Road next season.

But it is tomorrow's opponents, Colchester, who could be facing the big guns on Town's home turf.

I understand Ipswich have already briefed stewards about the possibility of the U's ground-sharing next season.

It may still be a long shot but, with the U's currently sitting sixth in their very first season in the second tier of English football, nothing can be dismissed.

Colchester have already banked 44 points from their 28 league games and if they maintain that average they are on course to finish the season on the 73-point mark.

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That tally has often been good enough to secure a play-off place, as in 2004 when Joe Royle's Ipswich finished fifth. But Jim Magilton's team are in 15th place with 35 points, leaving them well short of the play-off pace.

If the Essex club were to go all the way to the Premiership they know their dilapidated Layer Road HQ, with its modest 6,200 capacity, would not be given the all-clear to stage top-flight football next season.

Both Ipswich and Colchester have previously refuted suggestions that they might ground-share but Portman Road stewards were advised at a recent meeting that it could well happen.

Meanwhile, Town will again be without skipper Jason De Vos, who has a cracked metatarsal and has been ruled out for six weeks, as they seek to avenge their 1-0 defeat at Layer Road in September.

The teams are meeting in Suffolk for the first time on league business in 50 seasons and you have to go back as far as October 1951 for Colchester's only previous win at Portman Road.

Ipswich will welcome back new signing David Wright, who was ineligible for Tuesday's FA Cup third round replay win over Chester, but midfielder Owen Garvan, who also missed that game after suffering a cut foot at Sunderland last weekend, remains doubtful.Magilton has no other injury problems but must decide whether to give youngster Danny Haynes another run in attack after he failed to make the desired impact and drew a blank against Chester.

Town fans will also be intrigued as to whether new signing George O'Callaghan might feature at any stage of the game.

Colchester are waiting on joint leading scorer Jamie Cureton, who was absent from training earlier in the week after being substituted in the 1-1 home draw with Leicester because of a hamstring problem.

If the 14-goal former Norwich player fails to make it, West Ham loanee Hogan Ephraim is likely to line up alongside Chris Iwelumo, who also has 14 goals to his credit this term.

Colchester, who have taken 34 points from an unbeaten 12-game run at home, are seeking only their third away win of the season.

Squads

IPSWICH: Price, Wright, Naylor, Bruce, Harding, Williams, Garvan, Legwinski, Roberts, Richards, Lee, Haynes, O'Callaghan, Wilnis, Currie, Clarke, Brittain and Supple.

COLCHESTER: Gerken, Halford, Baldwin, Brown, Barker, Duguid, Watson, Izzet, Garcia, Iwelumo, Cureton, White, Jackson, Ephraim, Guy, McLeod and Davison.

Referee: Graham Laws (Tyne and Wear).

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