Unchanged Town Looking for Four on the Trot Friday, 17th Feb 2012 14:19
Town boss Paul Jewell looks set to name an unchanged line-up when Cardiff City visit Portman Road on Saturday afternoon. The Blues will be out to win four league games in a row for the first time since the autumn of 2004.
Back then, Joe Royle’s side beat Preston, Sheffield United and Leeds at home and Burnley away during a season which would ultimately see them beaten to the Championship's final automatic promotion position by a Wigan side led by Jewell and Chris Hutchings.
Now assistant to Jewell at Portman Road, Hutchings says the Blues go into Saturday’s game full of self-belief after their three back-to-back victories over West Ham, Coventry and Portsmouth: “In any sport it’s about confidence. You have good players but sometimes they doubt their ability. Individually, it only takes three or four to drop their standards and it can affect the whole team.
“It’s a nice place to come to work at the moment, but we know there’s a long, long way to go until the end of the season.
“The challenge now is whether we can win four on the spin, against a side which is going to play in a cup final pretty soon.”
He says Town have to take the game to the visitors, who face Liverpool in the Carling Cup final at Wembley next week: “It’s up to us to impose our game and the way we’ve been playing in recent weeks on them. Hopefully, we’ll create chances and we’ll take them.
“Michael Chopra’s been scoring goals again recently, which is a big plus for us. We always knew he could do that, now the test for him is whether he can maintain it against one of his former clubs, which would be nice.”
Hutchings says he knows manager Malky Mackay and has been impressed with the job he’s done since joining the Bluebirds from Watford in the summer: “I’ve come across him a couple of times. When he was at Watford he pinched a striker off me when I was at Walsall, Troy Deeney.
“We’ve come across one another on a couple of occasions and I take my hat off to him, he’s done a fantastic job down there since he’s gone in.
“Cardiff are going to be very, very well organised. They’ve got Kenny Miller, who scored goals when we had him at Derby, so we know what he’s about.
“I had Anthony Gerrard when I was at Walsall, so I know one or two of their players. Peter Whittingham’s a good player, but they’ve got good players all over the park, that’s why they’re at the top of the league and they haven’t conceded too many goals. We’re hoping to put one over on them.”
Asked whether he was aware of Mackay’s record of never being beaten by Town either as a player or a manager, Hutchings added: “There’s a first time for everything!”
Arran Lee-Barrett, one of four ex-Bluebirds in the Town squad, will be in goal for Town with Carlos Edwards - who we understand will be celebrating captaining the side at home for the first time by wearing new blue boots - and Aaron Cresswell the full-backs and Tommy Smith and Damien Delaney at the centre of the defence, with Ibrahima Sonko out with a dislocated rib.
In midfield, Andy Drury and Luke Hyam will continue in the centre with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on the right and Daryl Murphy on the left. Lee Martin will play behind lone out-and-out striker Michael Chopra.
Veteran midfielder Lee Bowyer is back in training after his groin injury but seems unlikely to be included in the 16.
Cardiff, who sit in third in the table, 16 points and 14 places above Town, are expected to name the same side which beat Peterborough 3-1 on Tuesday with captain Mark Hudson out with a calf problem, second-choice keeper Tom Heaton with an ankle injury and midfielder Stephen McPhail due to illness.
Manager Mackay admits that thoughts of the Carling Cup final are difficult to completely put to one side, but he says he’s trying to ensure his players concentrate on their bread and butter: "It is in the back of your head but we have to make sure their focus is on the job in hand.
"It is good to be in and around that top area and in touch with the teams above us with 15 games to go. It shows you the strength of the league. It will go to the wire, I have no doubt about that."
Town have the upper hand historically, winning 19 (17 in the league), drawing 11 (11) and losing 10 (nine). The Blues are unbeaten in their last six games against the men from the Welsh capital dating back to December 2008, winning five and drawing one.
In Wales in October, a controversial Peter Whittingham penalty – awarded by referee Dean Whitestone who was also the official who abandoned last week’s match against Middlesbrough - prevented the Blues from claiming what would have been their sixth successive victory over Cardiff and their fourth in a row on Bluebirds soil.
French frontman Rudi Gestede put the home side in front but ex-Swansea striker Jason Scotland equalised before half-time.
After the break, former Cardiff frontman Michael Chopra put the Blues ahead before the home side were given the contentious penalty for handball by Carlos Edwards with 18 minutes remaining.
Last time at Portman Road, in September 2010, Scotland’s second strike for Town and an Adam Matthews own goal saw the Blues to a 2-0 victory over the Bluebirds and into second place in the Championship.
After a slow start, Town, who had been denied what looked like a certain penalty when Connor Wickham was felled inside the area in the first half, went ahead after the break when Matthews headed past his own keeper, Scotland sealing the victory with 16 minutes remaining.
Chopra joined Town from Cardiff for £1 million in the summer, while Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was on loan with the Bluebirds last season, making nine starts and seven sub appearances, scoring two goals. The former Arsenal man hit out at critical Bluebirds fans after his spell was up at the end of the season.
Mark Kennedy joined the Blues from Cardiff in the summer of 2010 for £75,000, while Arran Lee-Barrett was with the Bluebirds between 2003 and 2005 but without making the first team. Blues keeper Richard Wright spent time training with the Welsh side in the summer before eventually signing on at Portman Road for a third spell.
Welsh Town coach Sean McCarthy had a trial with Cardiff as a youngster, while James Hollman is now the Bluebirds’ goalkeeper-coach having been in a similar role with Town until the end of last season. Cardiff’s assistant boss David Kerslake made three starts and six sub appearances for George Burley’s Town side in the 1997/98 season.
Saturday’s referee is Simon Hooper from Wiltshire, who has shown 58 yellow cards and six red in 20 games so far this season. Hooper’s most recent Town game was the 3-2 home defeat to Doncaster in November when he booked five players, including Blues Grant Leadbitter, Keith Andrews and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.
His only other Town match was the 1-1 draw at Plymouth in October 2009 in which he red-carded then-on-loan Cardiff defender Darcy Blake for a two-footed lunge on Alan Quinn.
Squad from: Lee-Barrett, McCarthy, Edwards, Cresswell, Smith, Delaney, Ainsley, Drury, Hyam, Bullard, Leadbitter, Stevenson, Bowyer, Emmanuel-Thomas, Murphy, Carson, Martin, Chopra, Scotland, Ellington.
We need to win this one because:- We need to beat a team that Malcky Mackay is involved with, Ther're Welsh (say no more) We need to maintain our good record against them, To continue our march up the table AND some sheep-shagging cave-dwellers from Cardiff have been saying some nasty things about JET on twitter! UNFORGIVABLE! NO MERCY!