Royle: Keep it clean
IPSWICH Town boss Joe Royle today revealed his New Year wish – more clean sheets.The Portman Road chief has steered his men out of the Nationwide League First Division basement following a superb five-match unbeaten run.
By Dave Allard
IPSWICH Town boss Joe Royle today revealed his New Year wish – more clean sheets.
The Portman Road chief has steered his men out of the Nationwide League First Division basement following a superb five-match unbeaten run.
Now he wants to start 2003 by tightening up at the back.
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"If anyone asked me for a New Year wish I'd say 'A few more cleans sheets please'," said Royle.
"We've got to stop giving away as many goals, especially at home."
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However, the ex-Oldham, Everton and Manchester City boss is pleased with the base that has been set since he and assistant Willie Donachie came to power at the club.
Royle has launched the second phase of his Operation Ipswich Town ahead of tomorrow's clash with visiting Millwall.
The new Blues chief, who took over from the sacked George Burley two months ago, said: "The first phase of the operation was to put plenty of light between ourselves and the bottom clubs.
"We've achieved that by means of a good run.
"The second phase, to really start closing in on the top of the First Division, begins now."
Royle's team have climbed to fourteenth in the table – just eight points adrift of the play-off zone – during an excellent December.
Town's five-match unbeaten spell has included three wins and two draws.
However, Royle declared: "Our home form has to stand up more, we've sometimes let ourselves down at Portman Road.
"It's hard to put your finger on it. Now we've got to start a new trend for 2003. Often this season the team have not produced it at home, particularly against less-fancied clubs.
"This is a nice place for teams to come, lovely ground and stuff like that. We are a big scalp to visiting clubs and that can be an inspiration to them.
"But we've got to rise to the challenges. If we're good enough, now is the time to do it. I don't think we're going to catch the top two, Portsmouth and Leicester, and we want them to keep beating everyone to keep taking points off others.
"We've been scoring better and we've got to match that by defending better too. At times we've been a bit slack at the back. More clean sheets are what we're after."
Town have a tricky New Year's Day home fixture tomorrow with a Millwall club that won 3-1 at Rotherham on Saturday.
Midfield man Tommy Miller remains under treatment for the knee injury sustained in the 3-2 weekend home success over Walsall.
Defender Chris Makin summed up the dressing room feeling when he said: "The good run has given us all hope. Before then we were winning one and losing one, and not getting anywhere.
"This mini-run has made a difference to us and we've got to take it forward.
"At home we've certainly got to get it together more. Teams have come here to a lovely stadium, knowing that we're just out of the Premiership. They've been inspired perhaps but we've got to overcome that."
BOSTON are set to take free transfer listed Town striker Richard Logan for another month on loan.
The 20-year-old former England youth cap has hit five goals over four games in a first month at a Third Division club managed by ex-Town defender Neil Thompson.
Logan is on a free transfer, but still has over a year of a Town contract to run.
Manager Joe Royle said: "Boston want to keep him, and at the moment they're looking towards another month on loan."