Royle's forward thinking

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle will don his thinking cap ahead of the East Anglian derby at Norwich on Sunday.Last night's 2-0 defeat at Stoke has given the Town manager plenty to ponder before naming his team to face the in-form First Division leaders.

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle will don his thinking cap ahead of the East Anglian derby at Norwich on Sunday.

Last night's 2-0 defeat at Stoke has given the Town manager plenty to ponder before naming his team to face the in-form First Division leaders.

Royle looked on in dismay as his team dominated possession at the Britannia Stadium, only to concede two sloppy goals.

The Town boss said today: "Our keeper, Kelvin Davis, was totally redundant last night, apart from picking the ball out of the net twice and he had no chance with either of the goals."

Royle has had defensive worries for much of the season and now, while Ipswich remain the First Division's leading scorers, he admitted the situation up front was also a cause for concern.

Town fired a rare blank at Stoke as they slipped to sixth in the table and another defeat at Carrow Road on Sunday is likely to cost them further valuable ground in the promotion race.

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He said: "It's a little strange, considering we are the league's top scorers, and I've got to look at it very closely to see who's going to start up front at the weekend."

Twelve-goal leading marksman Pablo Counago, a 70th minute replacement for crocked skipper Jim Magilton, has now managed just one goal in his last nine appearances.

He dropped down to the bench last night to make way for Shefki Kuqi, who was taken off at half-time last night as Richard Naylor climbed off the bench.

Teenage striker Darren Bent completed the 90 minutes, but his record of one goal from his last ten games is also worrying.

To add to Royle's woes, defender John McGreal is already a doubtful starter at the weekend.

Royle said: "At this stage John must be very doubtful. He has tweaked his knee ligaments but we don't know how bad it is just yet.

"He did manage to carry on playing for a while, which is encouraging, but it is still too early to say for certain how he will be for Sunday's game.

"Jim has a dead leg. He had treatment at half-time but he wasn't moving properly so we took him off for a bit of protection and now we just have to wait and see."

The Town players were in today and will have a day off tomorrow, before the preparations for Norwich begin in earnest on Friday.

Royle had nothing new to report in his quest for loan reinforcements, although he confirmed that the search goes on.

He said: "Even last night I was making calls but I am still waiting to hear.

You can never tell what the situation is going to be – it's up to the other managers I have spoken to."

Chris Makin makes his long-awaited return to action in tonight's reserve game at Coventry, but even if he sails through his comeback appearance he is unlikely to be rushed back for the derby clash.

Royle said: "Chris has been out for a long time and while we'll wait and see how he goes, I would think it is very, very unlikely that he will be playing on Sunday."

Chief scout Colin Suggett, like Royle a former Norwich player, was at Carrow Road last night to witness the Canaries' 0-0 draw with second-placed West Bromwich Albion.

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