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Pullen Starts in Goal
Pullen Starts in Goal
Friday, 21st Feb 2003 13:45

Manager Joe Royle will hand keeper James Pullen his first league start for the Blues tomorrow as Town take on Grimsby Town. Pullen has made one start for Town, in the Worthington Cup against Middlesbrough and made 19 full appearances when on loan at Blackpool last season.

John McGreal is Town's main injury concern ahead of Saturday's game, he has a stiff back but his fitness will be assessed prior to the game. He is improving but still remains a doubt. Other than that Darren Ambrose is OK after picking up a knock against Wolves and Town have no other worries.

The Blues are without Hermann Hreidarsson and Pablo Couñago for Saturday's clash. Hreidarsson misses the second game of a four-match ban and the Spaniard the first of the same spell out.

Royle says Andy Marshall took the decision to drop him well: “I've spoken to Andy and we'll speak to him again. He's taken it well, as well as can be expected. In fact he stayed behind to do some extra training with James, which was nice.

“It's not a matter of making a scapegoat for the other night, far from it. I thought he was at fault for one of the goals but that was all, and we did take the lead again after that.

“I've felt for a while that the time is right, a) to look at James and b) to give Andy a rest, and I think it will benefit Andy.

“I feel that there are sections of the crowd which are waiting for a mistake from him and I think taking him out of the firing line at the moment will be to his advantage.

“James Pullen has been doing better in the reserves. He has ability, the best he's ever done was when we threw him in against Middlesbrough in the League Cup. He might be one of those keepers who responds to the occasion. He certainly has no temperament problems, he's looking forward to it and he's a confident character.”

Royle says that the derby at Carrow Road next week was also a consideration when making the decision: “It was on my mind, but it was done for tomorrow. I did speak at length to Malcolm Webster, the goalkeeping coach, and next week's game did come up. But I say again it is the best thing for Andy at the moment.

“There are goals going in which I wouldn't blame him for, but I would equally say we expect him to get a bit nearer to. But I think it's for his good and he'll come back strong.”

The Town manager says he and his staff have taken a look at Grimsby; “We've seen them. Before I came here I know that we lost 3-0 to them in one of the less impressive performances. Willie was at the game funnily enough, working for Sheffield Wednesday at the time.

“So, we do know about them. There's one of my ex-players there in Terry Cooke and I know they've got a couple in on loan today, John Ostler and Richard Hughes.

“They're fighting for their lives. It's a different thing from the other night when it was us and Wolves both looking to get into the play-offs. But, we've seen this division and we know there are no easy games.

“The other night was about us, I said to the players I don't think that Wolves so much improved dramatically as we went off the boil. That was the difference, you've got to play at 90 minutes at your best.”

Much of Royle's time at Portman Road has seen the Blues line-up with three at the back. Lately, however, Town have switched to four defenders, which is the formation he feels will ultimately be the most successful: “Which ever way we've played we've leaked goals. I'm quite sure a back four is the way forward but whether or not we're ready to do it we'll have to wait and see.

“Three at the back means Matt is out of the midfield and it doesn't necessarily suit the two Darrens. It's easier to fit them into a 4-3-3.”

Two more youngsters, Dean Bowditch and Antonio Murray, have joined in first team training lately, Royle says that this is to give them a taste of the future: “They've been there to give them experience and also because they have deserved it. It's a carrot for them and it's to tell them that this is where we want them to be, and we're delighted that they are both in excellent form and who knows about the start of next season?”

Grimsby are likely to start with both new loanees in the side. Player-manager Paul Groves has few injury problems and will pick a midfield from himself, Stuart Campbell, Terry Cooke, Stacy Coldicott, Darren Barnard and Alan Pouton while it is possible that Georges Santos may move into the centre of the park from the defence.

Up front Darren Mansaram has an ankle injury and Steve Livingstone is suspended. Groves will pick from Michael Boulding, Chris Thompson and David Soames.

Likely squad: Pullen, Wilnis, McGreal, Magilton, Holland, Naylor, Wright, Makin, M Bent, D Bent, Miller, Ambrose, Gaardsøe, Marshall, Armstrong and Reuser.

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