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Jim Waiting on Clarke
Jim Waiting on Clarke
Friday, 23rd Feb 2007 12:27

Striker Billy Clarke has emerged as a doubt ahead of Saturday's trip to Southampton. The Irish youngster felt sore after Wednesday's reserve game at Norwich and will be assessed later today prior to the squad departing for the south coast.

Boss Jim Magilton has named a squad of 18 with Richard Naylor (toe), Fabian Wilnis (hamstring) and Gavin Williams (pelvic strain) all still unavailable.

Magilton is likely to continue with Lewis Price in goal, while the back four of Dan Harding, Jason De Vos, Alex Bruce and David Wright will be unchanged.

Despite Williams's continued absence, Magilton has options in midfield, where George O'Callaghan might be given his first league start for the Blues alongside Sylvain Legwinski in the centre. Matt Richards could move to the left with Gary Roberts having looked below par in recent weeks. Jaime Peters will continue on the right, switching to the other flank at regular intervals.

Even if fit, Billy Clarke will probably not be in Magilton's starting line-up with the Town manager keen to give the Alan Lee-Jon Walters partnership time to gel. Lee enjoyed one his best afternoons for Town at St Mary's last season when he scored twice as the Blues won 2-0.

Magilton admits he is now taking anxious glances towards the relegation battle, but says the Blues just need a win – and some goals – to get them moving in the right direction: “The future looks bright. I also know that we are in the results business and of course I have an eye on the relegation zone.

“But I also have an eye on the top places and I'm sure if we can get a win we can get going again.

“Not for the first time we lacked a cutting edge in front of goal [against Wolves]. We went a goal down and we had some chances as we chased the game. Overall I thought we handled Wolves well defensively.

“Winning is a habit, and losing can be as well. We must keep our heads up. With a little more conviction hopefully the goals will come.”

Former Town boss George Burley, the man who brought Magilton to Suffolk in 1999, will be looking for only his second victory over his old club since leaving the Blues in 2002. Burley is after revenge with Town having defeated the Saints 2-1 earlier in the season: “It was a strange game at Portman Road.

"It was a match where we dominated, dictated play so much, had loads of opportunities yet didn't pick the points up. Hopefully, we can get the points tomorrow because it's a big game for us.

"They're a good footballing side. They were very unfortunate in the cup against Watford and lost to Wolves, which was a very close game at Portman Road on Tuesday, so they're dangerous.

“They will try and play football - they will get it down and it won't be a game like Tuesday [at Coventry], where they've got two great big strikers and knock balls forward early.

"That will suit us better, but we also know we'll have to be at our best. Hopefully, we'll do that because it's a time of the season when you've got to keep winning games".

The ex-Scotland international wants his side to bounce back from the midweek 2-1 defeat at the Ricoh Arena: "Tuesday was a big blow where we were very disappointed with our first 45 minutes.

"Our performances have been very consistent this season but that didn't happen first 45 minutes".

Burley has a number of injury concerns with Swedish international full-back Alexander Ostlund out with an ankle injury. Former Town man Chris Makin will come into the side if he's over a hamstring problem. Darren Powell and Adam Lallana are on their way back from injuries but Saturday will come too soon for them.

In addition to Makin, ex-Blues Jermaine Wright and Kelvin Davis are also now with the Saints and likely to be in the starting line-up.

Saturday's referee is Ray Olivier from the West Midlands, who has shown 27 yellow and three red cards in 15 games this season. Olivier's last Town game was the 1-1 draw with Hull City at Portman Road last March. Town have never lost a game with Mr Olivier in charge.

Squad: Bruce, Casement, Clarke, De Vos, Garvan, Harding, Haynes, Lee, Legwinski, O'Callaghan, Peters, Price, Richards, Roberts, Sito, Supple, Walters, Wright.

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