Town need to lose habit

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle wants his team to shed their tag as slow starters.He said today: “I am fed up with us losing the first goal in games and on some occasions, like on Saturday at home to QPR, we have been behind twice before taking a point.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle wants his team to shed their tag as slow starters.

He said today: “I am fed up with us losing the first goal in games and on some occasions, like on Saturday at home to QPR, we have been behind twice before taking a point.

“We conceded the first goal the previous week against Wolves, although it was a wild deflection, and I can remember several other occasions this season when it has happened.

“That first goal is so important. Too often this season we have had to chase the game in order to get anything out of it.”

Town have reached the half-way point in the season and Royle is looking for a huge effort between now and May to achieve a play-off place for the third year in a row.

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He is adamant that it can be done, pointing to the fact that Ipswich and others, most notably Crystal Palace in the 2003-2004 campaign, have had to play catch-up in previous years in order to secure a top six slot.

Royle added: “When everyone is fit I have no fears about us, but this habit of conceding the first goal in games has got to stop.

“It is also clear that we have to tighten up at the back during the second half of the season. As things stand, only Crewe have leaked more goals than us.

“There are mitigating circumstances, mainly the injuries to Jason De Vos and Jay McEveley, which have meant too many changes to the back four.

“I don't want to be trotting out the same old excuses, but with the problems we have had I don't think we have done too badly.

“But we certainly don't want to get any worse or we will be looking over our shoulders.

“Despite only drawing at home, we actually moved a point further away from the bottom three at the weekend. The gap is now seven points, whereas it was six beforehand.”

But there is no denying that Ipswich are way off the impressive pace they set last season to only narrowly miss out on automatic promotion.

The departure of 54-goal trio Shefki Kuqi, Darren Bent and Tommy Miller has taken its toll, as have the injuries suffered by new strike pair Nicky Forster and Sam Parkin.

The new boys have only teamed up together on six occasions and it will be March before broken ankle victim Parkin is expected to return.

While Town currently have 26 points from 23 games and are 17th in the table, at this stage a year ago they led the Championship with 46 points.

In terms of goals scored, they are way behind - just 26 in the current campaign compared to 46 at the half-way point last season.

But Royle is fully aware of the facts and figures that underline the huge task confronting his players if they are retrieve the situation.

He said: “There is no doubt that we must start being more ruthless at both business ends - we must concede less at the back and be more prolific up front.

“We will need to achieve a good level of consistency over the second half of the season.”

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