Same again please, says Royle

KEEP it going - that's the plea from Ipswich boss Joe Royle to his players ahead of tomorrow's vital trip to Gillingham.However, Royle is expecting anything but an easy 90 minutes as he sends his team into battle against relegation candidates for the third game in a row.

KEEP it going - that's the plea from Ipswich boss Joe Royle to his players ahead of tomorrow's vital trip to Gillingham.

However, Royle is expecting anything but an easy 90 minutes as he sends his team into battle against relegation candidates for the third game in a row.

Nottingham Forest were crushed 6-0 at Portman Road last week and Tommy Miller's accuracy from the penalty spot banked all three points from the midweek trek to Cardiff.

Town have yet to manage a hat-trick of successive clean sheets since Royle took charge two and a half years ago, but all that matters to him is that they secure another victory.


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Royle said: “I am expecting the top two - Wigan at Forest and Sunderland at home to Coventry - to win, so it's important that we do the same.

“I have been telling the players to keep it going and I now firmly believe that two from the top three will be promoted automatically.

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“It is still not too late for someone to emerge from the pack behind us, but I'm not expecting it. I think it is going to be any two from Wigan, Sunderland and ourselves.

“Last week we were saying we had ten cup finals to play. Now it's down to eight and the position at the top remains exactly the same.”

Tomorrow's game sees Royle pit his managerial skills against old pal Stan Ternent, who has breathed new life into the third-bottom Gills' survival struggle.

Sacked by Burnley last summer, after six years in charge at Turf Moor, the gritty Ternent replaced Andy Hessenthaler at the Priestfield Stadium in December.

“Whatever he is doing down there, it's working,” said Royle. “They looked dead and buried earlier in the season, but now they're right back in with a chance.

“Stan's sides are never easy to play against. They are always well organised and motivated. And although we have won our last two games at Gillingham, it is never easy there.”

Royle's men have recovered well from a four-game blip that saw them collect a meagre one point and surrender top slot in the Championship.

He added: “No team, unless it's Arsenal, can go through 46 games without some sort of hiccup. The players feel it is behind them now.”

Town may be unchanged, although skipper Jim Magilton has improved considerably after sitting out the Cardiff game due to a slight tear in a calf muscle.

Royle added: “Jim will be back in training today and I would say his chances are much better than 50-50.

“Will I stick with the 3-5-2 formation from our last two games? I'm not saying, although I don't imagine using it for every one of our remaining games.

“I have a few options. I've looked at our bench the last couple of games and in a way that tells you the team is stronger. It's not a luxury I have had all season.”

Gillingham have been boosted by the fact that a red card collected by top scorer Darius Henderson in last week's 1-1 draw at Leeds was subsequently rescinded, meaning he has avoided a three-game ban.

Former Reading striker Henderson has scored eight goals this season, half of them coming in his last six games, and he also claimed five from six outings while on loan at Swindon at the start of the current campaign.

Goalkeeper Steve Banks is doubtful after he limped off 11 minutes from the end of the win over Stoke with a dead leg.

Bertrand Bossu, who replaced him in midweek, stands by and another keeper, Jason Brown, who has been absent for seven games with a thigh injury, hopes to provide cover on the bench.

The Gills have lost just five of their 16 league games since Ternent's appointment in early December.

Currently unbeaten in their last four Championship outings, they have claimed a number of impressive scalps, including those of Wigan and Stoke, while a 1-1 draw at Sunderland reaped an unexpected bonus point.

They have taken 17 points from their eight home games under Ternent, their only defeat being by the only goal against promotion-chasing West Ham.

SQUADS

GILLINGHAM: Banks, Bossu, Brown, Nosworthy, Hope, Cox, McEveley, Southall, Smith, Douglas, Flynn, Sidibe, Henderson, Byfield, Spiller, Crofts, Hills, Jarvis and Bossu.

IPSWICH: Davis, Naylor, De Vos, Unsworth, Wilnis, Currie, Miller, Westlake, Richards, Kuqi, Bent, Magilton, Horlock, Juan, Counago, Scowcroft and Price.

Referee: Brian Curson (Leicester).

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