Royle rues slack defence as play-offs loom again

Leeds United 1 - Ipswich Town 1
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The Independent Online

Joe Royle, struggling to get around on a worn-out hip and dodgy knees, might feel that he suffers discomfort enough without the mental agony of a play-off campaign. For the second year running, however, after he lost over two legs to West Ham last year, the odds are that this will be his fate.

Joe Royle, struggling to get around on a worn-out hip and dodgy knees, might feel that he suffers discomfort enough without the mental agony of a play-off campaign. For the second year running, however, after he lost over two legs to West Ham last year, the odds are that this will be his fate.

Ipswich's last two matches - against survival scrappers Crewe at home and Brighton away - may look easier to win than those in wait for Wigan, their rivals to go up as runners-up to Sunderland, who face play-off contenders Preston away and Reading at home. But Royle would reason that the threat of relegation is just as galvanising as the chance of promotion and therefore neither has an advantage.

Except that Wigan, with a considerably superior goal difference, are two points better off. "It means we need six points to have a chance and they need four to be certain, and I know which position I'd rather be in," Royle said.

Leeds defended magnificently at times, the centre-backs Clarke Carlisle and Matthew Kilgallon particularly strong, but created little apart from Matthew Spring's goal. And that irked Royle as much as his side scoring only once.

The goals against column has been their Achilles' heel. They are the Championship's top scorers but Spring's equaliser, coming only a minute after Shefki Kuqi had given Ipswich the lead, was the 54th goal they have conceded, compared with 40 by Sunderland and only 33 by Wigan.

"Our strengths become our negatives at times," Royle said. "The reason we score so many goals is that we have so many forward-thinking players but when the opposition get the ball we have a number who don't think it is in their contracts to get the bloody thing back.

"Darren Currie missed a great chance at the end, but the real disappointment was to give a goal away so soon after we had scored. It has happened too often."

Currie's miss came in stoppage time. The 30-year-old, the only player for whom Ipswich have paid a fee post-administration, could have made a name for himself on the ground where his uncle, Tony Currie, paraded his sublime skills for Leeds in the late 1970s.

Darren's touch may not be quite in Tony's class but is usually good enough from eight yards. On this occasion, however, the execution was poor and the ball trickled wide. "Not even to hit the target from there has left me gutted," he said. "It's two points gone."

Goals: Kuqi (11) 0-1; Spring (12) 1-1.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Sullivan; Kelly, Carlisle, Kilgallon, Gray; Richardson (King, 89), Spring, Gregan, Einarsson (Walton, 67; Wright, 69); Hulse, Moore. Substitutes not used: Pugh, Lennon.

Ipswich Town (4-3-3): Price; Wilnis, Naylor, De Vos, Unsworth (Diallo, 63); Miller, Magilton, Horlock (Westlake, 55); Bent, Counago (Currie, 71), Kuqi. Substitutes not used: Supple (gk), Scowcroft.

Referee: C Webster (Northumberland).

Booked: Ipswich Town Bent.

Man of the match: Kilgallon.

Attendance: 29,607.

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