Town hope to soar like Eagles

IPSWICH will bid to keep their season alive by emulating Crystal Palace's incredible feat of two seasons ago.And boss Joe Royle wants Town to set the ball rolling on Boxing Day - when the Eagles are the visitors to Portman Road.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH will bid to keep their season alive by emulating Crystal Palace's incredible feat of two seasons ago.

And boss Joe Royle wants Town to set the ball rolling on Boxing Day - when the Eagles are the visitors to Portman Road.

Royle remembers only too well how Iain Dowie celebrated his first win as Palace boss at Ipswich in December 2003.


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It launched the Londoners on an amazing run - just four defeats in their last 21 league games - that saw them not only qualify for the play-offs but also carry on to capture a place in the Premiership.

Royle said: “That achievement is like a promotion template to the rest of us - proof of what a decent run in this division can do for a team.

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“Palace were even further behind at the time than we are now and what they managed to do is an example to everyone else. There are clubs below us at the moment who still believe they can finish in the top six and Palace have demonstrated that it really can be done.

“For example, Coventry won their first away game of the season at QPR the other night. Straight away there was talk of them making the play-offs and they are one place and point behind us.”

Royle may not be a fan of the play-offs - he does not believe in the principle of a knockout competition coming into play at the end of a long league programme - but he added: “There is no question that it keeps the season alive for most clubs.

“We have been there in each of the last two seasons and we want to be there again. This league is so tight that any team stringing together three wins can soon start to climb it.”

Town's win at Sheffield Wednesday took them to within six points of sixth-placed Wolves and Royle hopes his team will be able to narrow the gap over the busy festive schedule.

If they could defeat Palace they would join them on the 32-point mark and, depending on their level of success against Hull, Luton and Stoke, their other holiday period opponents, they could make significant progress in a short space of time.

Royle is only too aware of the need to lift his team during the second half of the Championship campaign.

He said: “We want to do it for our fans. You only have to look at the attendance figures to see what tremendous support we are receiving this season.

“They are desperate to see us do well and return to the Premiership, and we have never lost our ambition to do exactly that.

“I know there are some people out there who are all doom and gloom, but I heard a Wigan supporter on the radio the other day and he was having a moan.

“That's football, I suppose, but when you hear a Wigan fan sounding off it makes you think there is little chance for the rest of us.”

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