Royle to stick with strikers

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle will play his loyalty card when managerless Coventry visit Portman Road at the weekend.The Town boss will keep faith with his 23-goal strike partnership of Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi for Saturday's showdown against the struggling Sky Blues.

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle will play his loyalty card when managerless Coventry visit Portman Road at the weekend.

The Town boss will keep faith with his 23-goal strike partnership of Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi for Saturday's showdown against the struggling Sky Blues.

England Under-21 ace Bent has failed to net in his last five games, while his 12-goal Finnish international partner has drawn a blank in each of his last three outings.

Royle was all set to rest one of his regular strikers for last week's FA Cup third round tie against Bolton Wanderers.

But that plan was scuppered when 18-year-old Dean Bowditch, who was set to start against the Premiership outfit, was suddenly laid low with a virus.

Royle said today: “Deano is fine now. I hear he was our best player in the reserve game at Watford last night. He hit the bar and the post and was unfortunate not to score.

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“I am well aware that he is champing at the bit to get back in. He was going to start against Bolton - he was the logical choice - until illness struck.

“Also, Pablo (Counago) gave us his best half-hour in a long time when he came off the bench against Bolton.

“But I have a sense of loyalty about Darren and Shefki. There is no problem - we are top of the league, the top scorers and our front players have done well together.”

Royle will make at least one change to his side for the clash with a Coventry side just two places above the drop zone and playing their first league game under caretaker boss Adrian Heath.

Central defender Richard Naylor was ever-present this season until a groin problem saw him sit out the 3-1 defeat by Bolton.

But Royle said: “Richard trained yesterday and came through without any trouble. He did all that was asked of him and will be fine for Saturday.”

Naylor's availability should see him restored to the defence alongside Jason De Vos, with Fabian Wilnis switching to right-back at the expense of youngster Scott Mitchell.

Royle will also be without midfielder Ian Westlake, who will be serving a one-match ban after collecting five yellow cards.

Seven-goal Tommy Miller, rested for the Bolton game and on target after being introduced in the second half, is in line to make his 100th league appearance for Town.

Royle was full of praise for the Under-18 side that secured a 2-1 extra-time victory in last night's FA Youth Cup fourth round tie at Stoke, who had previously put out Manchester United.

Ipswich will now face Aston Villa or Port Vale, who meet at Villa Park in a week's time, at Portman Road in the last 16.

Royle, who was at the Britannia Stadium for last night's tie, said: “I was very proud of them. They were terrific against a far more physically endowed Stoke side.

“Our side includes first, second and third year academy boys and they play the right way - the way you would expect an Ipswich team to play.

“It's great that we have a home tie in the next round and all the players are looking forward to it.”

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