Town Changes Unlikely
Thursday, 15th Apr 2004 14:13
Town boss Joe Royle has virtually a full squad to pick from for the trip to Gillingham on Saturday. Only Pablo Couñago and Chris Makin remain on the injury list, while Chris Bart-Williams will be rested after coming through Wednesday's reserve game.
Makin will not be available until next season after his hip operation, but Couñago is close to fitness, having picked up a slight groin strain after getting over his hamstring problem.
Royle says that Bart-Williams managed the reserves' win against Fulham with only a minimal reaction: “Chris came through 90 minutes and his back was a little sore, but he is a lot better for the injection.
“He will not be involved this weekend, he'll be having a weekend's intensive training. He'll train Friday, Saturday and possibly even Sunday, so that if and when we do need him – and that will be sooner rather than later – he'll be better for it. I was delighted to see him get through the game last night.”
Royle is likely to field an unchanged side from the one which beat Sunderland: “I would be daft to say that there will be too many changes from Monday. But there are players pressing; Bam Bam's ready, Drissa did well in the reserves and Georges never lets us down, whether he plays in midfield or at the back.
“Dean Bowditch has had a rest, which I wanted to give him, but I haven't forgotten how well he did with his movement and with his partnership with Darren Bent, and he's also waiting for his chance.
“Martijn Reuser probably thought he was unlucky not to start on Monday having done so well when he came on at Rotherham. There are nice problems at the moment, but there won't be too many changes.
“We're a decent run, five wins in six and we want to continue that until the end of the season.”
Royle holds unpleasant memories for Gills' fans, his Manchester City side famously coming from two goals behind late on to beat the Gills in a play-off at Wembley in 1999. The Town boss is expecting a reaction from the home fans: “I think you'll hear me get quite a unique welcome!
“The play-offs are a lottery, I've never liked them, but I don't make the rules and if we benefit by the rules I'll be happy.”
The Town boss had Andy Hessenthaler's side watched in their victory over Walsall: “They played very well last week, Steve McCall saw them and has come back with a very positive report from their point of view. They got a 3-0 victory when they needed to win.
“It's never an easy place to go, and they've beaten us here already once this year, although I'm still scratching my head as to how. But they did beat us 4-3 when we were in a good run at the time, so they can't be taken lightly, not that we'd take anyone lightly.”
The Gills have a number of players on the sidelines at present. Mark Saunders and Rod Wallace have ankle problems, David Perpetuini and Tommy Johnson knee injuries, and Darius Henderson and Nyron Nosworthy troublesome groins. Town summer target John Hills recently returned from an Achilles knock.
Andy Hessenthaler has added keeper Steve Banks to his squad from Wimbledon, the former Bolton man previously playing for Gillingham between 1993 and 1995.
Saturday's referee is Premiership official Paul Durkin, never a popular man with Blues' fans since harshly red-carding John Wark in a derby at Carrow Road in 1995.
However, he improved his credibility in Suffolk when he awarded Town a last minute penalty in last season's 1-1 home draw with Norwich City.
So far in 2003/04 the carrot-topped whistler, who hails from Portland in Dorset, has shown 81 yellow cards and two red in 32 games.
Squad: Bent, Bowditch, Davis, Diallo, Elliott, Kuqi, Magilton, McGreal, Miller, Naylor, Price, Reuser, Richards, Santos, Westlake, Wilnis and Wright.
Photo: Action Images
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