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Keane Unlikely to Make Too Many Changes for Plymouth Clash
Tuesday, 23rd Mar 2010 08:52
Town boss Roy Keane seems unlikely to make too many changes to his side ahead of Plymouth’s visit to Portman Road tonight, although he says he will switch personnel if he feels players need freshening up. The Blues have no new injuries ahead of Paul Mariner’s first return to the club as a manager.
Speaking at Monday’s pre-match press conference, Keane said he would be assessing his players during training: “We’ll have a look at it. We’re going to do a very, very light training session this morning [Monday]. The lads who didn’t play or were on the bench trained on Sunday morning and all trained very, very well. They’ll all be pushing for a starting place.
“I’m not going to keep the same team for the sake of it. If I think there are one or two players that need freshening up, then I’ll certainly do that. I’m not here to please anybody, I’m here to try and pick the right XI and to try and get a winning team.”
Keane was pleased with the victory over Barnsley: “It was a good win for us, it was nice to get three points, now we need to win on Tuesday night. It was a good response from the players and I was pleased with them, I have to say.
“I think last Tuesday [at Watford] I was entitled to be disappointed, and the players were too. Don’t think for a moment that the players don’t care or aren’t as passionate about the club as I am and there was disappointment after the performance on Tuesday.
“But the beauty of football is you always have a chance to bounce back and the players have done that, which is something they’ve done all season, to be fair.”
The Blues boss wants his side to show the same endeavour against the Pilgrims: “What we have to do now is try and go on a run of games and have the 100% commitment like we had on Saturday.
“It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win football matches but you should have that honesty with yourself and your team-mates that you’re going to keep going and start the game properly.
“We did that Saturday, we scored after four minutes. We certainly could have kept the ball better in the second half, but that’s football.
“You can’t have it your own way, there are two teams out there battling. We had to put up with a bit of pressure in the last 10 minutes but the players hung in there. I don’t think our keeper had too many saves to make.
“When you’re 1-0 up the onus is for the opposition to come at you, and that’s what they did, just like we did at Blackpool a few weeks earlier.
“I think we did OK on Saturday, we had good chances, we could have been 2-0 or 3-0 up, but it wasn’t to be, which is why we made it difficult for ourselves particularly in the last 10 or 15 minutes.
“Overall, I was pleased with the reaction of the players and we have to kick on again on Tuesday night.”
The Town boss feels his team can potentially beat most sides in the Championship, but need to be more consistent: “On our day we know we can compete with a lot of the teams.
“I think we’ve only come up short in two or three of the games earlier in the season. Newcastle at home, possibly West Brom away and maybe against Middlesbrough away we let ourselves down, but other than that we’ve competed in every game.
“Our home form has been decent since September when we lost to Newcastle, I think we’ve been unbeaten, and just as well [given the away form].
“We need to keep that up. We’ve four home games left, I think we did OK on Saturday without playing particularly well, but we’ll take 1-0 every day.”
Keane admits that at the present results are more important to him than performances: “People go on about Ipswich and beautiful football, but we need to live in the real world. At the moment it’s about getting football results.”
The Town boss is frustrated that when the Blues seem to be getting into a run of form, they put in a bad display: “Just as we seem to be making progress, we take a step backwards like we did at Watford. But generally speaking over the last 20-odd games, there have been a lot of pluses and I think the players are making progress.
“But what we’ve done is made it hard for ourselves to have a good season this year because of the horrendously bad start and on top of that there are a lot of draws in there.
“However, over the last few games, we’ve had five clean sheets and that gives you a chance. We’ve been pleased with the back four and our goalkeeper.”
Keane says he is appreciative of the support he and his players have received from the Portman Road regulars: “Generally, I think the supporters have been brilliant with us. They have been very patient and I think they acknowledge what’s gone on on the pitch. We’ve come up short, we know that, but it certainly hasn’t been through a lack of effort or attitude.
“We’ve not scored enough goals, we’ve had too many draws, but I still believe there’s progress being made. It might sound crazy to people outside the club, but I work here every day. We know there’s a lot of hard work ahead as well, we’re not kidding ourselves.”
Keane says he expects to face a Plymouth side scrapping for every point: “They put in a battling performance again on Saturday and they were a bit unlucky to lose to Scunthorpe.
“They’re fighting for their lives, it’s going to be a tough game for us, but we need to focus on ourselves and making sure we’re at it, giving 100%. I think we have a good chance of getting a result, but there are no guarantees.”
Brian Murphy will be looking for his fifth successive home clean sheet in his fifth game at Portman Road, which is surely a record. Overall the former Bohemians man has recorded five in his first eight games for Town since making his move from League of Ireland football. Arran Lee-Barrett is again likely to get the nod ahead of Richard Wright for the role on the bench.
Shane O’Connor will continue at left-back despite picking up a knock on Saturday with Damien Delaney and Gareth McAuley in the centre. David Wright is likely to carry on at right-back.
In midfield, Jaime Peters could come in for Carlos Edwards on the right after a bright display from the bench on Saturday or alternatively skipper Jon Walters could be moved to the right and Jack Colback to the left to allow Grant Leadbitter to return in the centre alongside David Norris.
Up front, Daryl Murphy and Pablo Couñago did enough against Barnsley to keep their places against Argyle with David Healy and Connor Wickham, who joins the England U17 squad later in the week, playing a part from the bench.
Plymouth boss Paul Mariner says he is delighted to be returning to Town but says gaining three valuable points is his main focus: "I've always wanted to go back. But nothing detracts from the fact we need a win."
The ex-England striker has been impressed with Town's recent form: "They've really picked up. They were always going to do so, it was just a question of when, but let's hope we just catch them on an off-day.
"They're difficult to break down. They've kept clean sheets in their last four home games. They have a lot of energy, they're a very good Championship team, and they're in a rich vein of form."
Mariner has a number of injury problems with central defender Kari Arnason ruled out with a hip problem and left-back Richard Eckersley missing due to an ankle injury. On-loan West Ham youngster Bondz N'Gala will deputise for the former and will be making his debut for the Pilgrims, while Chris Barker will come in on the left of the defence.
Full-backs David McNamee and Gary Sawyer (both hamstring) are also sidelined at present, as is winger Craig Noone (knee). Midfielder Luke Summerfield is a doubt with an ankle injury.
The Pilgrims currently sit second bottom of the table on 34 points, eight places and 13 points behind the Blues, with an away record of won four, drawn two and lost 13.
Town have had the edge over Argyle over the years, winning 19 games (18 in the league), losing 10 (10) and drawing 15 (15).
In October, at the height of Town’s winless streak, the sides drew 1-1 at Home Park, the Pilgrims going in front through Carl Fletcher in the 20th minute, but the Blues hitting back through Jon Stead, while Plymouth’s loanee defender Darcy Blake was sent off for a two-footed tackle late on.
Last season, the sides played out a January 0-0 draw at Portman Road, while the Blues won 3-1 at Home Park, Owen Garvan scoring twice and Kevin Lisbie adding the third. Craig Cathcart scored the Argyle goal.
Midfielder David Norris joined the Blues from Plymouth in January 2008, while Lee Martin was on loan with the Pilgrims in 2007/08, scoring two goals in 10 starts and two sub appearances. Town chief scout Steve McCall was a player, coach and caretaker-manager at Plymouth.
Legendary Town striker Paul Mariner joined Plymouth, who he played for before his spell with the Blues, as a coach from MLS side the New England Revolution just before the game at Home Park, taking over as Argyle manager from Paul Sturrock in December.
No current Plymouth player has featured for Town, aside from ex-loanee Simon Walton, who is on loan at Crewe.
Tuesday’s referee is Dean Whitestone from Northampton, who has shown 65 yellow and three red cards in 26 games so far this season. Whitestone’s last Town match was the 1-1 draw at Reading earlier in the season in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Squad from: B Murphy, Lee-Barrett, R Wright, D Wright, Rosenior, O’Connor, Delaney, McAuley, Smith, Norris, Colback, Leadbitter, Garvan, Walters, Edwards, Peters, Martin, D Murphy, Healy, Couñago, Wickham.
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