Jewell Looking for Strong End to Season
Friday, 8th Apr 2011 13:57
Town boss Paul Jewell is looking for his side to finish the season strongly, despite neither being amongst the play-off challengers or those threatened by relegation. The Blues have no new injuries but midfielder Lee Martin is unavailable as he is serving the final game of his two-match ban.
Jewell says that with Town expecting the highest league attendance of the season tomorrow, he wants his team to put in a display which will encourage fans to renew their season tickets and also help persuade potential signings that Portman Road is the place to be: “If we finish strongly and put in good performances it gives people optimism for next season.
"We want to finish strongly for football reasons - trying to attract good players here for next season.
“And for the players that are here, if they want to be here next season there’s no better way of showing that than with performances. Having said that, in the main, the lads have been top class since we got here.”
The Blues boss was more impressed with his side in the opening 45 minutes during the 2-1 win at Burnley than he was after the break: “I thought in the first half we did very well last week but the second half was typical of our season really in that we didn’t kill the game off.
“I thought we invited a little bit of pressure, but in the end our goalkeeper’s hardly had a save to make.”
Jewell says he’s unlikely to reshuffle his squad too much with Arran Lee-Barrett likely to keep his place in goal with Jewell continuing to assess the former Hartlepool man, who is out of contract at the end of the season.
Brian Murphy, who is weighing up the offer of a new deal, isn’t yet ready for a first team return, although may well be before the end of the season. Márton Fülöp will probably be on the bench.
At the back, Carlos Edwards and Mark Kennedy will continue as the full-backs with Gareth McAuley and Damien Delaney at the centre of the defence.
Delaney and David Norris were the subject of an £800,000 joint bid from Palace in January and the skipper will keep his place and make his 100th league appearance for the Blues in the more advanced role of the central midfield three with Jimmy Bullard and Grant Leadbitter behind him.
Josh Carson looks set to make his third senior appearance in one of the wide roles and Jewell will have to decide whether Kieron Dyer is ready for the second start of his loan spell. The West Ham midfielder, who is playing the final game of his initial month, could come in on the right with Carson switching back to the left and Connor Wickham moving up front. That would see Jason Scotland drop to the bench.
The Eagles currently sit 21st in the Championship, six places and 10 points behind the Blues, and have won only once on their travels this season, something manager Dougie Freedman, who took over from Town legend George Burley in January, is aiming to change: "When I first came in we had to stop getting beat every week, get much tighter at the back and get ourselves out of the bottom three.
"We've done that and now we have to improve the away record and put together back-to-back wins. I'm very confident that we can do it. Going to Ipswich and Leicester [on Tuesday] won't be easy but we're getting closer away from home and the results have to come soon.
"The players we have here now are better than the league position suggests. If you look at the form since Christmas then we would be far higher up the table.
"But we are where we are and we have to deal with that. I still feel that one of the clubs above will get sucked into the relegation scrap and to be absolutely sure we're safe we want to get past some of them.
"I'm not setting any targets as it's impossible to predict other results but when I look at my team I feel they should be a lot higher up the table and that's what we're working on."
Former Blue David Wright, who has been playing in central midfield of late, is ruled out with a calf injury, while midfielder Alex Marrow is missing with an ankle problem and left-back Lee Hills is sidelined with a knee injury.
On-loan Town striker Pablo Couñago, who Blues boss Jewell has announced will definitely be leaving at the end of the season, is unavailable under the terms of his loan, while midfield signing Gavin Mahon is not yet fit enough for first team involvement.
Selhurst Park became a home for Town old boys during former Blues boss George Burley’s brief tenure earlier in the season. David Wright, Darren Ambrose, Lewis Price and Owen Garvan are all amongst the playing staff.
Couñago has spent the season on loan at Selhurst Park, while former Town academy schoolboy Stuart O’Keefe joined the Eagles from Southend last summer and Burley appointed Malcolm Webster as the Eagles’ keeper-coach.
Midfielder Andy Dorman, even spent time training with the Blues back in 2005 when a New England Revolution player. By contrast, only Mark Kennedy from Paul Jewell’s current squad or staff has played for Crystal Palace.
Town have the edge over the years, winning 30 games between the sides (28 in the league), drawing 23 (23) and losing 24 (24).
In August, Town picked up their second away win of the season as Roy Keane’s side beat Burley’s Eagles 2-1 in an ill-tempered clash at Selhurst Park, both teams ending the match with 10 men.
Grant Leadbitter netted a penalty just after the break, Claude Davis having been sent off for a foul on Jon Stead, then Carlos Edwards added the second, prior to loanee Andros Townsend making an early exit for a wild challenge on Palace keeper Julian Speroni and Neil Danns pulling a late goal back for the home side.
Last season at Portman Road, Palace won 3-1. Former Blue Darren Ambrose scored twice within a minute in the second half, Alex Bruce pulled one back for the Blues prior to Neil Danns settling any Eagles nerves.
The club are running a ticket promotion for Saturday's game with adult tickets at £10 each, see here for details.
Town are encouraging fans to cycle to Saturday’s game as part of their Ride to the Match initiative.
The Supporters' Club are holding events throughout the day with branches from around the globe attending the game.
The match also sees the club launch Cover It Live, a blogging feature on the official website where fans can talk to a member of the media team watching the game, find out pre-match team news and gossip, leave comments, receive feedback, take part in live polls and trivia quizzes, as well voting for the Man of the Match.
Saturday’s referee is Graham Salisbury from Lancashire, who has shown 99 yellow and five red cards in 30 games so far this season. Salisbury’s most recent Town match was the 2-1 win at Sheffield United in November in which he booked Damien Delaney, Carlos Edwards and two Blades.
Salisbury’s most memorable visit to Portman Road was in September 2004 when he red-carded Fabian Wilnis in only the 26th minute but couldn’t prevent the Blues – who had gone two goals down before the quarter-hour mark – from coming from behind to win 3-2.
Probable squad: Lee-Barrett, Fülöp, Edwards, Kennedy, Delaney, McAuley, O’Dea, Leadbitter, Bullard, Norris, Healy, Drury, Carson, Dyer, Civelli, Peters, Wickham, Scotland.
Photo: Action Images
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