Royle needs to reinforce to steady Ipswich nerves

Ipswich Town 2 Leicester City 1
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The Independent Football

Joe Royle was about the only person who seemed really concerned with the poor quality of Ipswich Town's performance. With 14 games of the Championship season to go, most connected with the game, apart from the Ipswich manager, felt that maintaining a five-point lead at the top of the table was all that mattered.

Joe Royle was about the only person who seemed really concerned with the poor quality of Ipswich Town's performance. With 14 games of the Championship season to go, most connected with the game, apart from the Ipswich manager, felt that maintaining a five-point lead at the top of the table was all that mattered.

Maybe Royle sees problems ahead should his side remain nervous of converting their lead into glory. One of the results of this match was that he will be without joint-leading goalscorer Shefki Kuqi for about four weeks after the Finnish striker was carried off on a stretcher with a badly gashed thigh. That might prompt a loan signing to help during the run-in, though Royle insisted he would first give chances to squad players Dean Bowditch and Pablo Counago.

Royle also has his eye on a summer move for the Leicester City midfielder Jamie Scowcroft, who left Ipswich for the Midlands three-and-a-half years ago for £3m. This result ended Leicester's seven-game unbeaten run and effectively ruined their outside play-off hopes, too.

While Scowcroft received an excellent reception from the Portman Road crowd, he is not about to publicly start cheering Ipswich's promotion challenge: "It's nice to come back to Ipswich. It was home for a long time and the fans were really kind with that welcome.

We felt our performance deserved a draw," he added, "but it's all about results at this stage of the season. I've heard the speculation, but I don't know anything apart from the fact I'm a Leicester player and I've enjoyed my time at the club. What will happen in the summer will happen, but there is a lot of football to be played between now and the end of the season."

That's Scowcroft back to Ipswich, if the money's right, then. He will find a club who will struggle to cope in the Premiership on this form. Even though they led at half-time through Kuqi's second-minute header and a 24th-minute own goal from Mark de Vries on his full Leicester debut, they only maintained their advantage thanks to the excellent goalkeeping of Kelvin Davis. He made a series of great saves, most notably from David Connolly, and was only beaten by a Jordan Stewart free-kick with eight minutes to go.

The Ipswich captain, Jim Magilton, conceded that they might falter without Kuqi and admitted: "We didn't play well. Kelvin made some great saves to keep us in it and yet again our back four was really good too.

"We lacked a bit of composure," he continued, "and didn't really get the ball down and play which was disappointing. Winning the game is the positive we take with us, as the three points are really vital at this stage of the season."

Goals: Kuqi (2) 1-0; De Vries og (24) 2-0; Stewart (82) 2-1.

Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Davis; Wilnis, De Vos, Naylor, Unsworth; Miller, Magilton (Karbassiyoon, 89), Westlake, Currie; Kuqi (Horlock, h-t), Bent. Substitutes not used: Price (gk), Richards, Bowditch.

Leicester City (4-4-2): Walker; Makin (Stearman, 63), Dabizas, Dublin, Stewart; Gillespie, Gudjonsson (Nalis, 74), Hughes, Scowcroft (Tiatto, 71); Connolly, De Vries. Substitutes not used: Hirschfeld (gk), Wright.

Referee: K Wright (Cambridgeshire).

Booked: Ipswich Unsworth. Leicester Hughes, Dabizas, Dublin.

Man of the match: Davis.

Attendance: 27,392.

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