Three is the magic number for Joe

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today underlined his faith in his players by naming a squad to cover the season's remaining THREE games!As things stand, Town are only certain to face a further TWO games - both legs of the play-off semi-final clash with West Ham, starting with Saturday's lunchtime assignment at Upton Park.

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today underlined his faith in his players by naming a squad to cover the season's remaining THREE games!

As things stand, Town are only certain to face a further TWO games - both legs of the play-off semi-final clash with West Ham, starting with Saturday's lunchtime assignment at Upton Park.

Only by beating the Hammers would they be sure of winding up the campaign with another fixture, the winner-take-all showdown with either Derby or Preston at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

But Royle knew exactly what he was doing as he rhymed off the names of the 18 players in his squad then insisted: “They will stay together for the final three games.”


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It was his way of sending out a strong message - “I still have total confidence in you!” - to the players who only narrowly missed out on automatic promotion to the Premiership.

Royle and his players, who tucked into a pasta meal at an Italian restaurant yesterday, plan to say arrivederci to the Championship on May 30.

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He has drafted in on-loan Monaco midfielder Jimmy Juan, teenage pair Dean Bowditch and Dean McDonald and England Under-21 cap Matt Richards.

They will join the players who were on duty for the 1-1 draw at Brighton on Sunday, minus David Unsworth and James Scowcroft whose loan deals have expired.

With Fabian Wilnis determined to play, despite having several stitches inserted in a forehead gash sustained at the Withdean Stadium, Town have no injury worries.

Reserve goalkeeper Lewis Price has been suffering from a virus, but he is expected to recover in time to take his place on the bench. If not, Shane Supple will replace him.

Royle was in defiant mood as he looked ahead to Saturday's first clash with the team who edged Town out at the same stage last season.

He said: “We are going to have the second leg at our place this year and that's the way I would want it.

“We have proved ourselves to be better than West Ham by finishing 12 points ahead of them in the league, but now we need to do it again over two cup-ties.

“I can sense the lads are determined to do the job and move on to the final. There has been a very positive mood in training since the weekend.

“We eat together every day at the training ground but I just decided on a change of venue yesterday.

“The players will be resting again today and then it will be all systems go on Friday as we continue to prepare for the game at West Ham.”

Royle is armed with a mountain of statistics to back up his view that Ipswich fully warrant the bookies' tag as play-off favourites.

He added: “You will only find four teams in the whole of England who lost fewer games than us last season - Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, the top three in the Premiership, and League One champions Luton.

“I keep hearing we can't defend but we must be doing something right.

“And only two teams - Luton and League Two champions Yeovil - have scored more goals than us.

“We also have an indomitable spirit and that's what will see us through.”

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