Skipper's hope

SKIPPER Jason De Vos wants Ipswich to launch into the second half of the Championship programme the way they ended the first.The big Canadian defender would gladly settle for a repeat of the 1-0 scoreline that saw off lowly Leeds last week when Town take on seventh-placed Stoke at Portman Road tomorrow.

By Mel Henderson

SKIPPER Jason De Vos wants Ipswich to launch into the second half of the Champion-ship programme the way they ended the first.

The big Canadian defender would gladly settle for a repeat of the 1-0 scoreline that saw off lowly Leeds last week when Town take on seventh-placed Stoke at Portman Road tomorrow.

De Vos, 32, said: “In this league, and football in general, you sometimes have to settle for grinding out a result and nicking all three points, even if you haven't played particularly well. That was the case against Leeds. We certainly didn't play our best football. In fact, I actually thought we played far better down at Cardiff the previous week when we drew 2-2.”

Last week's clean sheet, only his side's third in 23 league games this season, was a welcome bonus to De Vos and Co.

Just three other Championship sides, the bottom two of Southend and Leeds plus struggling QPR, have conceded more home goals than Ipswich.

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De Vos added: “As a team, or rather a squad, we have been working very hard towards defending better and, hopefully, recording a few more clean sheets.

“We know that if we are going to make a real impression during the second half of the season we are going to have to do better than we did in the first half.”

De Vos is disregarding Stoke's 3-0 defeat at Colchester last week, which saw them surrender a seven-game unbeaten record and end a remarkable run of 658 minutes without conceding a goal.

He added: “The reports we have had say they played quite well on the day and were a bit unfortunate to lose.

“It happens. We have been on the receiving end ourselves, when you play well but lose and you wonder afterwards 'How did that happen?'

“They have always been a big, strong, physical side but they have done well in the loan market to sign players of experience and class from the Premiership, people like Lee Hendrie and Patrik Berger.

“They were on an excellent run before going to Colchester and will want to get back to that form, but we will be going all out to make sure it doesn't happen that way.”

Stoke boss Tony Pulis will be forced into at least one change, with ex-Chelsea and Leeds defender Michael Duberry absent while he serves a one-game ban.

On-loan Liverpool midfielder Salif Diao, who missed the defeat at Layer Road with a groin injury, is still struggling but will be given every opportunity to prove his fitness.

SQUADS

IPSWICH: Price, Bruce, Naylor, De Vos, Harding, Williams, Garvan, Legwinski, Roberts, Lee, Macken, Clarke, Peters, Walton, Richards, Haynes, Casement, Moore and Supple.

STOKE: Simonsen, Hoefkens, Hill, Higginbotham, Dickinson, Lawrence, Diao, Russell, Brammer, Hendrie, Fuller, Sidibe, Eustace, Berger, Pericard, Sweeney and Buxton.

Referee: Uriah Rennie (Sheffield).

Tomorrow's game is not at risk. Head groundsman Alan Ferguson is monitoring the weather after several nights of sub-zero temperatures and, if necessary, will inflate the hot-air 'bubble' to ensure the playing surface is protected.

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