Ipswich Town manager's alarming squad admission amid promotion race vs Leeds United and Leicester City

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Ipswich Town could fall out of the automatic promotion places if Leeds United beat Sunderland this evening.

Kieran McKenna admits his Ipswich Town side are growing ‘stretched’ as injury and illness impacts the playing squad ahead of a crucial week of fixtures against Watford and Middlesbrough.

Ipswich have had a number of injury issues to deal with over the past few weeks as their relatively small squad is tested against the rigours of a 46-game Championship campaign. Regular starters Wes Burns and George Hirst have both been out for some time with hamstring issues while on-loan striker Kieffer Moore was a surprise inclusion for Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Norwich City.

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The Tractor Boys have had little time to dwell on their derby-day defeat, with Wednesday evening’s visit of Watford to Portman Road another tough test. And McKenna admits that his squad is being pushed to its limits with some playing through pain.

“There’s still quite a few, we’re pretty stretched, I’d say,” McKenna told reporters on Tuesday of his side’s injury situation. “There are quite a few players making themselves available. The availability’s still pretty high, I think there’s only George [Hirst] and Janoi [Donacien] and Wes [Burns] on the long-term injury front, everyone else was training today.

“But there’s still some physical issues, medical and injuries around the camp, but the players are putting in a really good physical effort and making themselves available and I’m sure we’ll see a really energetic performance tomorrow night.”

Moore’s involvement in the East Anglian derby on Saturday was somewhat surprising and the on-loan striker looked off the pace, but McKenna believes his first-choice frontman is feeling fresher after coming off early. And the Ipswich boss also looks set to be boosted by the returns of Burns and Hirst before the end of the season.

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“[Moore] came through okay, I think he feels a bit better for it, from the injury he picked up on Monday,” McKenna added. “But he felt ready to play on Saturday and he didn’t report any issues after. He’s done a few less minutes in the last three games, Blackburn, Southampton coming off early and coming off a bit earlier against Norwich, so he feels a bit better, a bit fresher going into this one.

“[Hirst and Burns] won’t be available for the next two games, after that, nothing is guaranteed, but nothing is impossible. They’re both working on the grass now and we’ll continue to monitor them. We have a two-week break after the Middlesbrough game and I’m sure we’ll have a much better guide then on how they’re doing and which games they might be available for.”