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Davis Yet Another Worry
Davis Yet Another Worry
Monday, 15th Mar 2004 14:36

Goalkeeper Kelvin Davis is an additional worry for Joe Royle ahead of Tuesday's visit to Walsall, the keeper having picked up a stomach bug. Better news is that Tommy Miller and Ian Westlake are OK, while Richard Naylor may play despite sustaining a broken toe against Millwall on Saturday.

Royle has an extensive injury list with John McGreal (knee, medial ligament), Georges Santos (broken nose), Drissa Diallo (cut to head), Pablo Couñago (hamstring), Chris Makin (hip), Chris Bart-Williams (back), Alun Armstrong (thigh) and Martijn Reuser (knee, medial ligament) all definitely ruled out.

Richard Naylor will be assessed on Tuesday after an x-ray showed a fracture to a toe, but he may play with the aid of an injection. Miller and Westlake were both suffering with slight knocks after the Millwall game but trained on Monday.

Keeper Davis missed out on Monday's session but Town are hopeful he will be on the mend by the time of the game. If not, Lewis Price will make his senior debut with Shane Supple coming on to the bench.

Drissa Diallo is the most likely from the injured list to be back by the weekend, the Guinean international currently unable to head the ball due to the five stitches he received on Saturday. These are likely to be removed later this week.

Midfielder Bart-Williams is back in training after his back problem and he and Alun Armstrong will probably play in a behind-closed-doors reserves friendly against Cambridge University on Tuesday.

Royle adds new loanee Matt Elliott to his squad, while Aidan Collins is also included in the party along with fellow youngsters Scott Barron and Scott Mitchell.

The Town manager is hedging his bets and is keeping a large number of players in mind: “What I'm doing is taking anybody with a smidgen of experience and we'll see who is available tomorrow. We're also trying to get one more player in on loan.”

Royle says that he is confident that Lewis Price would do a fine job if called upon to deputise for Davis: “Lewis has done very well. The masterplan for Lewis has been to get him out on loan to get some experience but at the moment we can't do that, although there have been clubs interested.

“He's been training well with the team, he's shown steady improvement and he would have made his debut by now but for him doing his wrist last year.

“Young Supple would come on to the bench, although he's also been injured. It's always goalkeepers and centre-halves here. Young Nash has had a knee rebuild and Collins has had glandular fever and a succession of other injuries. I think someone has put the black spot on our centre-half position.”

Some reports have suggested that Dean Bowditch might start against Walsall, although Joe Royle seems less inclined to use him from the outset, despite his bright display as a sub against Millwall: “Please be a little bit patient. We train with the kid each day and we know of his ability and he has no bigger fan than me.

“Equally, you have to say that there is a decision to be made whether he is better coming on in the second half, when the sting has gone out of the game, or plays from the beginning and hopefully gives us a great start.

“As to whether he's ready to do 90 minutes yet, I would question that. He's only 17 and he's certainly not the same shape as I was when I was 17 and in the team, lucky lad. I was physically stronger than he is at the moment.”

Despite their lowly position, Royle has respect for Walsall: “They are a footballing team and they do very well on limited resources. Colin Lee has gone down the road of top quality experience in Merson and Samways.

“There are no easy games in this division. But it's equally true to say that at our best we fear nobody. You've seen the last three games, games we've dominated but we've somehow contrived to lose.

“What we have to do is get the winning habit back again. We've just under a quarter of the season left and still have a great chance from where we are, but we have to get going again quickly.”

The Saddlers have added to Craig Burley to their staff ahead of Tuesday, Paul Merson having rejoined them in the middle of last week after a stint in rehab. The ex-England international came on as a sub on Saturday but may be in with a chance of a start against Town. Wolves defender Keith Andrews is another recent addition to the squad.

Midfielder Steve Corica is injured, while Vinny Samways was missing at the weekend, apparently due to flu. Midfielder Darren Wrack and midfielder Jamie Lawrence have also been sidelined in recent weeks.

Tuesday's referee is Yorkshireman Carl Boyeson. So far this season he has shown 95 yellow and seven red cards in 25 matches. He is in his second season as a Football League official and previously officiated Town in their 3-0 victory over Preston North End in March 2003.

Town squad: Davis, Price, Supple, Wilnis, Richards, Mitchell, Barron, Elliott, Naylor, Collins, Magilton, Wright, Miller, Westlake, Kuqi, Bent, Bowditch.

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