Sunday best for Joe

"THE extra day could be a bonus," said Ipswich Town manager Joe Royle today referring to Sunday's local derby at Norwich City."It could mean a big difference to the strength of the side we can field.

By Elvin King

"THE extra day could be a bonus," said Ipswich Town manager Joe Royle today referring to Sunday's local derby at Norwich City.

"It could mean a big difference to the strength of the side we can field. If we were playing on Saturday I would not be so optimistic about the fitness of three key players."

Royle rates striker Marcus Bent and defender John McGreal as 50-50 to recover from injury in time for the 1pm kick-off at Carrow Road.

Bent pulled up with a hamstring tweak in training on Tuesday while McGreal hurt his back in the 2-2 draw with Grimsby last Saturday.

"Marcus is not too bad and is getting better," added Royle, who is suffering from a chest cold himself. "We will have to see how he goes over the next few days."

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With Richard Naylor confined to bed yesterday with a virus, Royle's front-running options are limited with Pablo Counago suspended and Alun Armstrong having fractured his left wrist in Tuesday's reserve match against Derby County.

"We are hoping Richard will be okay for selection, and the extra day will help him as well," said Royle, who indicated that 16-year-old Dean Bowditch is unlikely to come into the equation for the visit to Norfolk.

"The lad is doing well and scored an excellent goal in the reserves on Tuesday. But it is too early to say whether he will come into contention for his debut this weekend."

One forward who will not be considered is Nigerian international Finidi George. He has had a scan on a troublesome hip and the club is waiting for the report.

It looks as though it could be a long-term injury for the ex-Ajax star, who is available on a free transfer. Town fans may have seen the last of the 31-year-old.

"A fit and fired-up Finidi would be an asset to us right now," said Royle. "At the moment we need all the forward power we can get with injuries, illness and suspensions."

Royle will wait until later in the week before deciding on whether to switch back to the 3-5-2 formation that served the first team so well in December and January.

"It depends on the fitness situation, and who is available," explained Royle, who added that Matt Richards, who could replace the suspended Hermann Hreidarsson in a left wing-back role, would figure in his thoughts.

Experienced defender Mark Venus is making good progress from his knee operation, while Armstrong is likely to be out for a minimum of a month.

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