Striker is Joe's priority

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today admitted that signing a new striker was his number one priority.Royle's search may even be close to ending if the player he has targeted agrees to a loan move to Portman Road.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today admitted that signing a new striker was his number one priority.

Royle's search may even be close to ending if the player he has targeted agrees to a loan move to Portman Road.

The Town chief said: “I am waiting to hear from an experienced front player. If he is coming, fine, but if not we will wait for the right one.”

Following the news that Ian Westlake would be sidelined for a couple of months, Royle was also on the trail of a midfielder on loan.

But a move for West Ham's Carl Fletcher proved unsuccessful, with the player opting to join Watford on a temporary basis.

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Royle admitted: “We did ask about him and said we were interested. I'm not sure if he knew of our interest, but he's gone elsewhere so that's that.

“As things stand I am concentrating on trying to bring in a front player. That's our priority right now.”

Royle remains interested in Arsenal youngster Arturo Lupoli, as revealed in the Star last week, but the 18-year-old has been on international duty with Italy.

Nicky Forster, who has now missed seven games since undergoing a cartilage operation, is expected to make his comeback next month.

Royle said: “Nicky has had no setbacks and is working hard with our physio, David Williams, and fitness coach Simon Thadani. We are pleased with his progress, but it takes time.

“He's still at least a couple of weeks off a reserve game and we'll wait until he's ready before he plays again. There will be no point in rushing him.”

Royle remains upbeat despite Town's slide down the Championship table after a run of four games without a win that has reaped just one point.

He said: “We have still had a decent start even if we haven't had a good time in recent weeks. I have been very encouraged by our last two performances against teams relegated from the Premiership.

“There is still a long way to go this season and because of injuries I am still waiting to field what I would regard as my strongest side.”

Looking ahead to the weekend - Town are at Leeds on Saturday - Royle is keeping his fingers crossed that defender Sito will be available to play at Elland Road.

The Spaniard was dismissed just 18 minutes into the game against Norwich but the club have appealed and were waiting to hear the Football Association's decision today.

If the decision is upheld Sito will miss two games - at Leeds and at Burnley next Tuesday.

But Fabian Wilnis, who was absent against Norwich with a groin injury, is not being ruled out of Saturday's game.

Royle said: “We were encouraged by Fabian's x-rays and we will know a lot more over the next few days.”

Meanwhile, Ipswich are likely to escape punishment after a whistle-blowing spectator caused confusion at Sunday's derby clash against Norwich.

Referee Lee Mason, who requested a PA announcement to be made asking the offender to refrain, included the incident in his match report.

But with Town doing their best to flush out the culprit, the Football Association have said a fine would only be imposed if the problem became persistent.

Ipswich want to ensure there is no repeat and chief executive Derek Bowden said: “Stewards will be briefed before the next game to be vigilant for this but we would also appeal to our fans to act if they see the person responsible.”