Christian - Onwards

Christian Dailly hopes to miss the next two Scotland games - knowing that if he does West Ham will be in the final of the play-offs at the end of the month.

Scotland have two friendlies around the same time, against Estonia and Trinidad and Tobago, and Scotland captain Christian, for once, will be proud NOT to lead out his national side.

He has discussed the situation with Berti Vogts and says:

"I have already spoken about that; if we do well enough to get there then obviously you don't miss that game!"

First, though, is the matter of overcoming Ipswich over two legs, with both sides having beaten the other away in the campaign proper.

"Ipswich play good football and score a lot of goals - we are going to have to be on our guard," warns Christian.

"If we let them play they will pass us off the park because they are good enough to do that - but we are quite confident, we will play our game, and see how it goes."

Christian has no complaints about the system and adds:

"To a certain extent it can be a bit of a lottery, the play-offs, but it is two games so usually the better team comes out over that spell - and hopefully we can be good enough to prove we are.

"We have been in and around it all season and you have to feel a bit for Wigan because they have too - and missed out right at the death."

Christian admits it has been a difficult season and adds:

"We have taken a bit of flak but with sheer resilience and mental strength we have kept plugging away and given ourselves a chance.

"It was a tough start and we didn't win for a little while - and that shows you how well we have done to come back and get ourselves in there."

Christian has played under three managers this season and adds:

"It takes time, under any new regime, for things to plug in, but I think in recent weeks people have seen the ideas come into the team and I think the long term future of the club is in good hands.

"It has been a tough season; there has been so much to-ing and fro-ing, not even this season but since I have been here.

"The most important thing for the club is to have that solidity and that is why the manager has signed a lot of young players.

"He hopes they will be here for a number of years - there are also the experienced ones as well - and he is a manager that is going to be here for a while.

"That means you can build because if things to and fro all the time it can make life pretty difficult, and I think you have to credit the players for maintaining focus throughout that happening."

While Christian is optimistic - and that feeling is shared by Ladbrokes, who have made West Ham 2-1 favourites, Sunderland 9-4, Crystal Palace 13-5, and Ipswich 4-1 - he insists there can be no celebrations about making the cut.

"We have not done anything yet, to be honest; we are in the playoffs, we have given ourselves a chance, and that is all we have done," he warns.

"If we switch off we will get beaten and be out of the playoffs, so we have to be bang at it - and to be honest we are just looking forward."

Of the draw at the JJB, he says:

"It was a difficult game for us to approach because of that four goal cushion, but it was never going to be a 4-0.

"You have to give a bit of credit to Wigan because they kept us in there in the first half and it was very difficult for us to get out.

"I admit we could have kept the ball a lot better - but I think a lot of it was down to Wigan's sheer determination to win the game, because they knew they had to.

"Once the match settled down in the second half we created a number of chances - and probably could have scored another one at the end."

That was when Marlon Harewood elected to shoot from a tight angle rather than lay it back to David Connolly, an incident about which Christian says:

"I think Marlon knows that but he says next week he will definitely square it to him."

Christian is happy that the run of unbeaten games was extended and adds:

"The one thing you don't want to do get a defeat, and it was a difficult game against a side that have been in the play-off positions nearly all season.

"We were saying during the game we really wanted to get a goal because we did not want to be in a situation where we lost the game."

With no injuries, and a bench on Sunday that comprised Messrs. Srnicek, Deane, Connolly, Repka, and Reo-Coker, there are going to be a lot of frustrated players at Portman Road on Saturday.

"There is good competition for places here now and we are going to need the whole squad over the next two games," says Christian.

"Everyone is going to play their part at some stage and that has been important throughout the season.

"We stayed pretty solid for most of the season and especially of late - we have only conceded a couple of goals in the last six games so it is important we try and take that on to next week.

"Andy Melville has done really well with Tomas out suspended and it is important you have got that - everyone in the dressing room just wants us to go up and that is what we are trying to do."

* Mark Noble and Kyle Reid helped make it three wins out of three in the qualifying stages of the UEFA U17 tournament in France as England sealed a place against Spain in the semi-final following a 1-0 win over Austria.

At half time Kyle Reid went from the 'hole' behind the front two to out wide and his cross provided the goal for Levi Porter