Royle sets end-of-season target

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today set his players a tantalising end-of-season target - to finish above arch-rivals Norwich.Royle sends Town into battle against Stoke at Portman Road on Saturday insisting they can still achieve plenty in the five games they have left to play.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today set his players a tantalising end-of-season target - to finish above arch-rivals Norwich.

Royle sends Town into battle against Stoke at Portman Road on Saturday insisting they can still achieve plenty in the five games they have left to play.

Only too aware that the play-offs are now out of range, he said: “If we're not going to finish sixth we must strive to finish seventh.


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“It would mean a lot for us and our fans to finish in front of our neighbours and there is also the question of encouraging supporters to buy season tickets.

“They are more likely to do that if we can end the campaign high on hope and show there are better times ahead next season. I would love to see us finish with a bang.”

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At the moment Ipswich are two positions and three points adrift of Norwich, who must travel to sixth-placed Preston at the weekend.

Town are among a group of eight clubs, including Stoke, who are separated by just eight points, and Royle is anxious that his team recovers from last week's lacklustre display at Luton.

He added: “That was our worst performance of the year and it is important that we put our recent barren spell behind us.”

Ipswich are without a win in their last five outings and, as has been the case so often this season, Royle remains uncertain as to his starting line-up on Saturday.

Skipper Jim Magilton, edging ever closer to his Portman Road farewell, is still doubtful and defender Jay McEveley has also sat out training after making his long-awaited senior comeback at Kenilworth Road.

Jason De Vos has had an injection in an arthritic toe, but will definitely play, and while Alan Lee's groin problem remains a concern it will not prevent him turning out.

What isn't certain is whether Richard Naylor will revert back to his position in defence after partnering Lee up front in the defeat at Luton.

Royle admitted: “It would be fair to say that it wasn't a success, but so much else was wrong. All our best players were at the back.”

The Town boss is keen to give teenager Chris Casement his first senior start, but is refusing to commit himself at this stage.

He added: “All things being equal there is a strong chance that he will start. I just have one or two things to look at before I decide for certain.”

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