Couñago Set for Return at Peterborough
Tuesday, 25th Aug 2009 08:08
Striker Pablo Couñago could make his first appearance of the season when the Blues take on Peterborough at London Road in the Carling Cup second round this evening (KO 7.45pm). The Spanish frontman has been out of action since the first day of pre-season training when he injured his groin.
Earlier in the summer, Couñago turned down a move to Swansea after the Blues and the Swans agreed a fee, but manager Roy Keane appears to be warming to the 30-year-old fans' favourite: "Pablo will be involved. I didn't want to take a risk with him the other day when we were chasing the game. He's got a good chance of getting involved on Tuesday night. He'll certainly be in the squad, whether I give him a run out we'll see.
"We look at it on a day-to-day basis with the lads who are coming back from injury. He's looked half-decent in training in the last few days and that sharpness is coming back. We know Pablo is a goal threat and we aren't scoring many goals at the moment and it's pretty obvious he's going to come back into my plans."
Couñago will probably be amongst the subs with Keane not planning on making 10 changes as he did at Shrewsbury in the first round: "There certainly won't be as many changes as that as then we had two games in three days, which was one of the reasons I decided to give a lot of the young players a run-out.
"It will certainly be a much tougher game and I think one or two of our senior players need another 90 minutes under their belts. We'll see what kind of shape they're in after Monday training."
Keane says that in addition to Couñago, Gareth McAuley, Colin Healy and Damien Delaney will come back into the reckoning, while there are still likely to be a smattering of youngsters in the side.
The Blues boss says midfielder Ed Upson has impressed him in recent weeks and is likely to play some role: "Ed's a good player. I brought him back into the squad the other day and he has a good chance of being involved at Peterborough.
"He's a goal threat, there's loads of areas he needs to improve his game - his tackling, his positioning - but he's a young player, he's learning his trade, however, the boy has a goal in his locker, which isn't a bad thing to have."
The Town manager has a side in mind for Tuesday's game, although he is as yet undecided whether to give Arran Lee-Barrett his debut in place of Richard Wright. Keane is still without Jaime Peters (ankle), David Norris, Ben Thatcher and Luciano Civelli (all knee).
Alex Bruce is likely to continue as captain and at centre-half with David Wright at right-back. Keane says Gareth McAuley could play some part, but Tommy Smith and Damien Delaney will also be looking for some involvement.
Jack Colback may start in midfield, while Alan Quinn is also pressing for a start. Lee Martin and Jon Walters are yet to hit top form and could also be included.
Up front, Connor Wickham has been withdrawn from the England U17s and will look to add to his two goals at Shrewsbury with Tamás Priskin appearing likely to start alongside him.
Who Keane includes in this evening's 18 is likely to be a guide to which players the Town manager was referring to yesterday when he said he had told one or two that they were unlikely to play for the club again.
The Town boss, who is looking to add to his squad before the transfer window closes on Tuesday, wants to see the start of an improvement in the next few days, making defeats like last weekend's at West Brom a thing of the past: "Saturday, I think, can be a watershed in terms of the club. You draw the line somewhere and say 'We need reinforcements'.
"But they've got to be good reinforcements. As much I've said I've been wheeling and dealing, we need two or three to come in and say 'This is how you do it'.
"I wouldn't say the current players have let me down or that they aren't good enough, but it a takes certain amount of time when you have new players coming into your club for the team to gel.
"I wouldn't say that people have let me down. I'm the manager, I'll take responsibility. It's just not quite clicked into gear.
"It's not a criticism of any individual players, but as a group we're just a bit short at this moment in time and we'll try and address that over the next few days."
Keane says he shouldn't have too much of a problem persuading his targeted players to join the club, as long as he gets to talk to them: "It's easier said than done, but I feel that Ipswich will sell itself. It's a fantastic club. If I get the chance to speak to the players over the next few days and show them around, I'll be happy.
"If they come, they come, if they don't, they don't. We're hoping to get permission to speak to these lads and it's up to me to sell them the dream. It may look like a nightmare at the moment, but that's the challenge we face and we look forward to it."
But before making his signings, Keane is looking for that elusive first victory of the season without requiring a penalty shoot-out: "I think a win would be a boost, not necessarily a cup run. I think it's set up for a good game. It's amazing what a win can do and we'll be travelling up there again going all out to win the game.
"You might say it's a distraction but winning games is not a distraction, winning games is brilliant, that's why we're in football."
Like Town, Peterborough are yet to win in the league this season, although they won their Carling Cup first round tie 4-0 at Wycombe Wanderers.
Manager Darren Ferguson, who briefly played alongside Keane at Manchester United in the mid-nineties, says he is concerned that his side is conceding goals: "Everyone talks about the forward power we have and the goals we have scored over the last two years, but the catalyst for our success has been the number of clean sheets we have kept. "And that's something we need to start accomplishing again. I have no worries about the chances we will create ourselves, but defensively we have had problems.
"In the dressing room before [Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Preston] we spoke about the need to concentrate in the early stages and keep things tight, but we let in a silly goal from our point of view pretty much straight away and you can't afford to do that against this standard of opposition. It's something I must sort out quickly or we will continue to struggle."
Winger Chris Whelpdale is out with a hernia injury, striker Ben Wright with an ankle problem, midfielder Tom Williams due to a groin injury and striker Jamie Day with an ankle knock.
Town and the Posh have only met four times before, all in cup competitions. Peterborough won an FA Cup clash at London Road 3-1 in 1955/56, then defeated the Blues 3-2 at Portman Road, also in the FA Cup, in 1959/60.
Sir Bobby Robson's Town beat the Cambridgeshire side 2-0 at London Road in 1971/72, again in the FA Cup.
In the only previous Carling Cup tie between the sides came in August 2006, at the first round stage, the game ending 2-2 with Jason De Vos and Billy Clarke scoring for Town and Trevor Benjamin and Guy Branston for the Posh, who won the penalty shoot-out 4-2.
No current Town player has spent time with Peterborough and no Posh player has played a first team game for the Blues, although Chris Whelpdale was an academy schoolboy with Town and keeper-coach James Hollman worked with Posh glovesman Joe Lewis during their time at Norwich.
Tuesday's referee is Rob Shoebridge form Derbyshire, who is best known for being the official who failed to spot Crystal Palace's goal crossing the line in their game against Bristol City recently.
Shoebridge has noticed the ball cross the line on 11 other occasions this season, including all eight goals in Colchester's 7-1 win at Carrow Road, but hasn't taken charge of a game since his gaffe at Ashton Gate.
Card-wise, Shoebridge has shown seven yellows and no reds this season. His last Town game was the 1-1 draw at home to Burnley in March. Prior to that he took charge of the 2-1 defeat at Birmingham.
Squad from: R Wright, Lee-Barrett, D Wright, Delaney, Smith, O'Connor, Bruce, Balkestein, McAuley, Trotter, Healy, Quinn, Garvan, Colback, Upson, Walters, Lambe, Martin, Wickham, Priskin, Counago, Stead.
Photo: Action Images
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