|Ipswich Town 2 v 2 Lincoln City|
Saturday, 7th January 2017 Kick-off 15:00
McCarthy: Win in Cup Could Spark League Form
Friday, 6th Jan 2017 06:00
Town boss Mick McCarthy goes into Saturday’s third round FA Cup tie hoping a victory over Vanarama National League leaders Lincoln City and a run in the competition might help give the Blues’ up and down Championship season some impetus.
McCarthy is yet to win an FA Cup tie since taking over at Town in November 2012 with the Blues’ last win in the tournament the 2-1 third round victory at Blackpool back in January 2010 during Roy Keane’s time in charge.
In previous seasons McCarthy has rested senior players in the FA Cup with the Blues in or around the play-off or automatic promotion places at the midway point, but this year they go into the third round firmly in mid-table in 15th place.
“We’re not in the play-off positions, we’re not in and around them, which in previous years we have been,” he reflected.
“It’s a game we need to win, it’s an important game for us. Who knows, if we can win this and then get another cup tie and win it, it might just give us a bit of impetus in the league.”
He believes a cup run can help spark league form: “It can do. I guess it can work the other way too. If you’re flying in the league and you start going in the cup and the league can go bad, but it’s quite the opposite for us, we’re hardly flying in the league, let’s try and get a cup win.
“It’s a big, important game for us, they’re bringing 5,000 fans, they’ll make it a real cup tie, so it might just be the game that we need, a proper cup tie with all their fans there and a good atmosphere.”
McCarthy believes his side should win if they repeat their performances in their last two matches: “We want to play like we did in the last two games, which I think was far better than we produced over recent weeks.
“It won us the game against Bristol City but unfortunately it didn’t against QPR because we got done by a bit of a sucker punch there. I’d settle for the performance.
“I think we should have won the game because I thought we played well enough, I thought we were the best team.”
McCarthy was happy with the way his side performed in the 3-5-2 system employed in the first half at QPR and says he’d use it again in the right circumstances.
“Yes, I would if it suits the personnel,” he said. “I thought we played well, I thought the two wing-backs, Myles Kenlock and Josh Emmanuel, were good, it certainly gives us two up front, which makes us a more attacking threat.
“I didn’t change it at half-time because it wasn’t working, I just changed it because I wanted to get Wardy on and be 4-4-2 and have two wingers on.
“I thought it worked well, I thought we played well enough in the first half and had probably the best of it until they scored.”
Town's FA Cup form under McCarthy makes sorry reading. Having lost 2-1 at then-Premier League Aston Villa in his first season, they were beaten 3-2 in a replay at Preston, who were a League One side, after a 1-1 home draw in 2013/14.
A 1-0 home replay defeat by Premier League Southampton followed a year later after a 1-1 at St Mary's, and the Blues then lost 2-1 away to a Portsmouth side featuring Adam Webster after another replay last season having drawn 2-2 at Portman Road.
“I’m always sad when we lose,” the Town boss added. “I’m always disappointed when we lose and I’ve never put out a team that I thought would lose, despite the fact I’ve had a bigger squad in recent years with fewer injuries and been able to change a few. That’s not the case this weekend.”
He says he’s not really got the size of squad where he can bring in senior squad players as has been the case in the more recent past, with the likes of Tommy Oar, Piotr Malarczyk or Larsen Touré all involved last year.
“They were the first-team squad, players that weren’t kids by any stretch of the imagination. We haven’t got that now, not at all.
“We’ve had 14 or 15 players training for the last couple of weeks actually, due to injuries."
Similarly, he believes it’s unlikely to be the sort of game where he’s able to rest players and blood youngsters from the bench in the second half.
While he hasn’t ruled out including the likes of Ben Morris among his subs, he says they’re more likely to get games later on in the season if Town end up in a situation where they have nothing to play for.
“I’d like to make sure at the end of the season we’re OK and if there are some games in which I could play them then that would be lovely, when they’ve had a bit of experience elsewhere, like Kundai Benyu, who has been out and played [on loan at Aldershot],” he said.
“I don’t see me being that relaxed and unworried and carefree on Saturday that I’ll be sticking two or three kids on. It’s never happened yet and I can’t see it happening on Saturday. These are far too good a side.”
He added: “It’s not [the game for them], I’d like to be walking off the pitch and we’ve won the game on Saturday. If we haven’t it’ll be an awful bad result for us, so we need to perform.”
Regarding Lincoln, he says he’s been impressed with what he’s seen of them: “They’re a good side, they’ve a good way of playing, they are playing with confidence, they’re playing with a bit of swagger, they’re top of the league. They’ll probably see it as a game they can win.”
While he is pleased to have drawn a side from a lower league at home, he admits he’d have preferred one which wasn’t having as good a season as Lincoln, who have lost just once in their last 19 games in all competitions - a 2-1 Boxing Day loss at Guiseley - and are currently top of the National League, two points ahead of Tranmere with a game in hand.
“I’d have picked one that was struggling at the bottom of the league rather than one that is flying at the top of it,” he continued.
“We all know that if a team’s got momentum, which they have, they’ll come here and they’ll be a real threat.
“[U23s coach] Gerard Nash came back with a really good report about them, how well they were playing and what a threat they are, so it’s going to be a tough game. One that we’ve got to take care of. If we don’t then we’ll be in trouble.”
McCarthy has confirmed that Dean Gerken will make only his second start of the season in goal, the former Colchester man’s first having come in the EFL Cup defeat to Stevenage in August.
Skipper Luke Chambers has a knee problem and may not be risked, which would see Josh Emmanuel start at right-back.
Myles Kenlock is also doubt with the calf injury which forced him off at QPR last week and may also miss out which would see Jonas Knudsen come back into what’s likely to be a back four with Adam Webster and Christophe Berra the centre-halves.
In midfield, Cole Skuse is a doubt with a knee injury and again may not be risked, which could see Jonathan Douglas starting in the Bristolian’s regular holding role with Kevin Bru alongside him.
Tom Lawrence and Grant Ward are likely to be in the wide roles with David McGoldrick and Brett Pitman set to continue up front.
McCarthy has said he could include one or two youngsters on the bench with striker Ben Morris perhaps joining fellow 17-year-old Andre Dozzell among the subs. Another scholar, full-back Pat Webber, has been added to the squad as cover for injury concerns Kenlock and Chambers.
Lincoln have signed defender Sean Long on loan from Reading and the Republic of Ireland U21 international has been given permission to play in the FA Cup.
Elliott Whitehouse is back from a one-match ban, while former Town academy defender Lee Beevers is currently sidelined with a serious knee injury.
Beevers came through the Town academy and was a young pro at Portman Road before being released in the summer of 2003 without making a senior appearance.
The 33-year-old was previously with the Imps between 2005 and 2009 before rejoining them after leaving Mansfield in the summer of 2015.
The Imps have sold out a huge allocation of 4,833 seats with all their fans, for whom the game is all-ticket, housed in the Cobbold Stand.
“Having 5,000 all being together on one side of the ground will be brilliant,” manager Danny Cowley told Lincolnshire Live.
“We've been energised by the supporters. They have helped to fuel us to play at our best and it's important that we make them proud.
“Success for us will be knowing that we've played at our best, knowing that we've made those 5,000 from Lincoln proud.
“It's a great day for the football club. Maybe English football had forgotten about us as a club since we've been relegated. This is a good opportunity to remind everyone what a fantastic football club this is."
It’s not the first time Essex-based former Braintree boss Cowley and his assistant, his brother Nicky, have managed a team in Suffolk.
“Me and Nicky were recalling the other day that we used to go and play at Lowestoft, another Suffolk team," added Cowley, who has Ipswich fans in his family with his cousin Bradley and son Joe Blues season ticket holders.
“That used to be a tough place to go because they were a big club when we were at Concord Rangers.
“Now we're going to Suffolk to play Ipswich Town. I suppose that shows how far we've all come.
“It'll be a proud moment, but mainly because we've got 5,000 supporters who are willing to give up their money and time to support the team. All those factors will be in our minds, but we have to channel that positively."
The Blues and Lincoln have never previously met in the FA Cup. They last played one another in the league in Town's 1960/61 Division Two championship season when Sir Alf Ramsey's side ran out 3-1 winners at home and 4-1 away.
Overall, Town have won five of the games between the sides, all of which have been in the second tier, and Lincoln three with two ending in draws.
Lincoln have already vanquished three sides in this season's FA Cup. The Imps defeated fellow National League team Guiseley 2-1 away in a replay in the fourth qualifying round following a 0-0 home draw, then beat National League North side Altrincham 2-1 at Sincil Bank in the first round, before setting up their visit to Portman Road with a 3-2 home victory over League One strugglers Oldham Athletic in round two.
Town's only defeat by a non-league club since they entered the Football League came back in January 1960 when they lost 3-2 at home to Peterborough United.
Tickets for the game are priced at £10 for adults, £5 for concessions and £2 for under-16s. Only the lower tiers of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand and the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand will be open.
Saturday’s referee is Lee Probert, who has shown 33 yellow cards and one red in 19 games so far this season.
Probert is a Select Group official but having missed the whole of 2015/16 due to injury is yet to take control of a Premier League game this season.
His last Town match was the 4-2 home victory over Birmingham in February 2015 in which he booked only one visiting player.
Probert, who refereed the 2014 FA Cup final in which Arsenal beat Hull City 3-2 after extra-time, also took control of the Blues in the 2-0 East Anglian derby defeat at Carrow Road back in December 2008.
Squad from: Gerken, Bialkowski, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Emmanuel, Kenlock, Webber, Webster, Berra, Skuse, Douglas, Bru, Dozzell, McDonnell, Ward, Lawrence, McGoldrick, Sears, Best, Pitman, Morris.
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