The other side of the Coyne

DANNY Coyne has let in more goals than any other First Division goalkeeper. And no bidders came in when Grimsby Town tried to sell him last year.Yet how Ipswich Town could do with his services right now.

By Elvin King

DANNY Coyne has let in more goals than any other First Division goalkeeper. And no bidders came in when Grimsby Town tried to sell him last year.

Yet how Ipswich Town could do with his services right now.

Andy Marshall's apparently never-ending frailties – and the thought of Canaries fans giving their former player a torrid time at Carrow Road next Sunday – led to 20-year-old James Pullen being handed his Town league debut.

But expect to see Marshall back in goal against Norwich after Pullen made a schoolboy error to gift Grimsby a second goal after 24 minutes.

The former Heybridge Swifts player, who was on loan at Blackpool last season, was not blameless for the visitors' first goal either – being nowhere to be seen when player-manager Paul Groves converted from close in.

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With their own on-going financial problems, a desperate Grimsby tried to cash in on Welsh international Coyne last summer.

Placed on the transfer list after back-to-back player of the year awards, there were no bidders for the 29-year-old.

Coyne is a run-of-the-mill performer, but he has proved his consistency by being picked for all but three Grimsby games over the last four years.

His mistakes have been few and far between, despite having an often porous defence in front of him.

He might not be the best, but he is better than manager Joe Royle has at his disposal as he tries to win an essential play-off place for Ipswich.

Administration means that Royle's hands are tied. He has Marshall and Pullen to keep the

succession of clean sheets that are now needed to reach the coveted 75 points mark – and a certain top six finish.

Ipswich played badly on Saturday in a

dreadful afternoon that was only raised above the abysmal by Darren Bent's goals.

Yet however badly they played Ipswich still scored twice – enough for competent teams to win games.

The side also scored two against Wolves last Wednesday and three against Sheffield United in the FA Cup. They lost both matches.

And it needed three goals to beat the Blades at home in the league.

Regular readers of this space will be aware of the main defining point of the Ipswich decline – the forced sale of Richard Wright in the summer of 2001.

He would have kept Ipswich in the Premiership last season. Attempts have so far failed to find a suitable replacement, although Keith Branagan would have been a good bet right now if a shoulder injury had not ended his career last year.

Marshall has the confidence to come through – but it is a long time showing and lapses at least every three games is not good enough. Pullen has youth on his side, but results have never been as important as they are right now.

Unconvincing defending over the last few games has not helped the keepers and there is a strong case for having delayed John McGreal's return from injury and continued with Matt Holland at the back.

McGreal's embarrassment was saved at the interval when he was substituted and Holland moved from a starring midfield role to shore up the defence.

And could Town really afford to have Hermann Hreidarsson chewing gum and passing pleasantries in the Soccer AM television studios on Saturday?

The formidable and engaging Icelandic international would have been much better employed at Portman Road.

If so, Holland would no doubt have started at the back and Royle would have been able to keep his favoured 3-5-2 formation that suits the likes of Thomas Gaardsoe so well.

Ipswich are paying a heavy price for Hreidarsson's sending off at Bradford City as his athleticism can boost both left side and central defence.

He might not be the most natural footballer at Portman Road, but his worth to the first team has been made so evident over the last two games.

Ipswich were roundly booed and jeered at times by their frustrated fans.

And understandably so. Apart from the glaring errors that led to the goals – with a journeyman like Coyne in goal Town would probably have kept a clean sheet – there was little cohesion and shape to Ipswich's play.

This has come as a surprise in the last half an hour against Wolves and the 90 minutes against Grimsby.

Up until then Royle had Ipswich playing competitively as a unit even if they were not winning.

Pullen never had the semblance of a save to make after his howler as Grimsby decided to hold on to what they had been given.

Consequently, the Blues had bags of possession but manufactured just one chance – when Richard Naylor headed wide when unmarked following a Darren Bent cross.

Now for the positives. Despite just one point from two home games inside four days, the

play-offs are still a possibility.

A win next Sunday would completely change the mood and Royle and his men would return to being heroes.

Holland will continue to lead the team from the front and if anybody can lift them from the trenches in good fighting mood then the Republic of Ireland international can.

And then there is Darren Bent. He is now Town's leading scorer and he was always a

danger when given the ball.

He took his goals like a veteran and virtually won a point off his own bat.

Darren Ambrose faded after the interval and there is now a case for giving Martijn Reuser his head on the left side against Norwich.

Whatever happens on the field at Carrow Road – and in the remaining 2002/03 fixtures – it must be backed up a competent display by the goalkeeper.

Grimsby's 3-0 home win last October signalled the end of George Burley's managerial reign at Portman Road.

Will their point in the reverse fixture on Saturday signal the end of Town's Premiership hopes – and the demise of the board?