Royle wants ton up

IPSWICH will be looking to celebrate a century of goals under boss Joe Royle at the weekend.When on-loan star Shefki Kuqi rounded off Tuesday's 6-1 thrashing of Burnley, it was Town's 99th goal since Royle took charge almost a year ago.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH will be looking to celebrate a century of goals under boss Joe Royle at the weekend.

When on-loan star Shefki Kuqi rounded off Tuesday's 6-1 thrashing of Burnley, it was Town's 99th goal since Royle took charge almost a year ago.

But there's a possible fly in the ointment – Saturday's visitors, Stoke City, are the only team to keep a clean sheet at Portman Road in Royle's reign.

That was back in March this year when they frustrated Ipswich with a solid defensive display to earn a 0-0 scoreline en route to First Division survival.

Saturday's live-on-Sky fixture will also mark new skipper Jim Magilton's 200th first team appearance for the club.

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Royle, who has only lost 16 of his 53 games as Town boss, said: "One thing the statistics show is that despite all our trials and tribulations over the last 12 months we have always tried to win games.

"We have gone forward, attacked sides and passed the ball. The facts and figures are commendable – indeed I'm proud of them.

"But the point I'm keen to emphasise is that there is still a lot of improvement to come from this team. There were signs the other night of what we have been working towards.

"Just as I didn't see us as a relegation team last month, when we were at the bottom of the league, I'm not going to say anything daft now that we've won six of our last seven to move close to the top.

"But we're close to averaging two goals per game since I came here and that's impressive by any standards."

Royle expects Stoke to provide stubborn opposition and added: "I hear they put up a very good performance in going down 2-1 at Wigan on Tuesday.

"They were resolute when they came here last season and my spies tell me they were very strong, and unfortunate to lose, at the JJB Stadium."

Royle was also delighted to hear of Magilton's looming milestone, since his Portman Road future was far from certain this time last year.

"The first thing I did when I met Jim was tell him he was no longer on a free transfer," Royle explained, "and he has been absolutely terrific from day one.

"He has proved a tremendous captain. He has taken on the role with great gusto and thrives on the responsibility that comes with the job.

"In our mini revival – if that's what it proves to be – the midfield has been very prominent and he has been right up there as a key figure. I can think of no one in football who has a greater passion for the game."

Royle also revealed how he considered taking Magilton to his former club, Manchester City, when the player's Ipswich days seemed numbered.

He added: "Obviously I didn't follow it up and at the time I wished I had, although the way things turned out I'm glad I didn't!"

Ipswich will hope to be unchanged for Saturday's 5.35pm kick-off, with French defender Georges Santos their only doubt with an on-going groin strain.

Royle said: "He's still sore and he won't train today. The best he'll do is some light work tomorrow, although it might just be a case of him turning up on Saturday and saying he's going to play, which will be fine by me."

If Santos regards himself as fit enough, Royle will name an unchanged side for the fourth game in a row.

Teenage striker Darren Bent has been ruled out for the next fortnight after his lingering knee injury was shown to be a slight tear in the medial ligaments.

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