|Brighton and Hove Albion 1 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Tuesday, 14th February 2017 Kick-off 19:45
McCarthy Out to Build on Villa Win at Brighton
Monday, 13th Feb 2017 17:48
Town boss Mick McCarthy admits he would have taken two draws from the away games at Aston Villa and Brighton but having won 1-0 at Villa Park on Saturday the Blues visit the Amex on Tuesday evening with a chance of recording back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
“I’d have taken two draws, of course I would and we’ve got three points already but I don’t want to settle for that, I want to go down to Brighton and get something, and so do the players,” said McCarthy, whose side climbed to 13th after the win at Villa.
“They’ve been encouraged by their performances and certainly by the result on Saturday.”
He says he’s happier after the recent upturn but says he never felt any pressure from owner Marcus Evans during the Blues’ poorer run of form.
“I’m not under any pressure from Marcus, I never feel that,” he added. “I get a little bit sick of talking to [the media] about my job.
“I feel better in myself because my team has played well and the players have played well and had good results.
“It’s not about what you think or anybody else thinks, I don’t really concern myself with that.
“I’ve been annoyed, I’ve put myself under pressure to have a good team, so, yes, I do feel better about myself but that’s because my team’s played well and we won on Saturday, not because anybody else might be thinking nicer things about me, I’m not bothered.”
McCarthy has unsurprisingly been impressed with what he’s seen of Brighton, who are currently second in the Championship having spent much of the season swapping top spot with Newcastle United.
“They’ve got a really good team, Chris doesn’t change it much, it’s been 4-4-2,” he continued.
“They’re a really solid outfit, they’ve got a goal threat, there’s no doubt about that. I saw them against Huddersfield and Huddersfield were brilliant against them, they absolutely bashed them, but I’ve seen them play this year and they’ve been outstanding.
“They’re just really solid, really consistent. They’re always going to have a bad result at some stage, and we all know that Huddersfield are a good team. They’ll be gunning for us, that’s for sure.”
Having missed out on automatic promotion last season on goal difference and then lost out again in the play-offs, McCarthy says the way they have bounced back this season has shown their strength of character.
“I think that’s remarkable and a test of their mental strength definitely, from Chris, he’s been about, he’s had promotions before and he’s been a success wherever he’s been,” the Blues boss said.
“But for the players to come back and be as consistent again I think is a real sign of a good team, a good manager getting the best out of them and a bunch of lads that are pretty confident.”
McCarthy is close friends with Seagulls boss Chris Hughton, the two having played alongside one another for the Republic of Ireland for many years, and he admits he’d like to see them win promotion.
“For the fear of upsetting somebody else like I did last year when I said I hope they win the play-offs, my opinion’s not changed this year,” he added.
“He is a pal of mine, I played with him for a long time, he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, dead straight, dead honest, just a regular guy.
“He did his hard yards with Spurs as the assistant and coach and he’s had great success as a manager and I wish him every success this year, of course after we’ve been there.”
Having added seven players to his squad in January, McCarthy’s options have again been limited by injuries with Christophe Berra (concussion), Cole Skuse (achilles), Steven Taylor (hamstring, Dominic Samuel (broken toe) and Danny Rowe (groin) all having picked up problems in addition to the longer term absentees.
“We had the old versus young game before the match and on Friday I was having to leave people out of it,” he added.
“Tommy Smith, Luke Hyam and Dougie didn’t take part in it because we’d got to the 20 [outfield players] and now we’re struggling to get it up to 16 again. It’s been nuts, the injuries.”
Skuse’s absence in central midfield has given Grant Ward a chance to impress alongside new loanees Emyr Huws and Toumani Diagouraga in the central midfield three.
“He’s played there before, he made his debut there and came on and scored a hat-trick from that position in a three, so quite clearly he’s done it. And he does offer a goal threat, that’s for sure,” McCarthy continued.
“He’s pretty comfortable wide right, which is his best position I’m not quite sure, but he’s been excellent in the centre of the pitch.”
The latest injuries have given players on the fringes their chance to show they're worth inclusion on a more regular basis.
“I’m hoping that they’ll play well, I never want squad members to not go in and play well, that’s what they’re there for," the Town boss added.
“That’s what they earn their money for, when they get their opportunity to come in and do it.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will again start in goal with McCarthy hinting at his pre-match press conference that he will continue with his three-man backline, despite the loss of Taylor and Berra.
That would see Jordan Spence on the right and Jonas Knudsen on the left of skipper Luke Chambers with Josh Emmanuel the right wing-back and Myles Kenlock on the left.
In midfield, Ward will continue alongside Huws and Diagouraga, while Tom Lawrence - still walking that suspension tightrope - partnering David McGoldrick up front.
Brighton have no new injury worries but full-back Gaetan Bong is expected to miss out again due to a knee injury, while former Blues loanee Liam Rosenior won’t be involved as he continues his comeback from an ankle injury.
Winger Anthony Knockaert, who was close to joining the Blues on loan two years ago when with Leicester, will be fit despite suffering a knock to the ankle during Saturday’s 4-1 home win against Burton Albion.
Brighton boss Hughton isn’t expecting an easy evening, despite Town’s lengthy injury list.
"Ipswich are always a threat. They went through a difficult period, but they have a manager I know very well,” he told the Brighton Argus.
"Whenever he is called upon to turn things around he can, because of the quality of the man and the quality of players they have got.
"In my time here we've never had a comfortable game against Ipswich. They are on the back of a very good victory at Villa, so they are coming here in good form with good confidence. We certainly have to be aware of that."
Historically, Town have the upper hand, having won 31 of the games (28 in the league) between the sides, Brighton 24 (22) and with 14 (13) ending in draws.
The Seagulls will be looking for their seventh successive home win, while the Blues have won two of their last three matches at the Amex.
Town still haven’t recorded the same result in successive league games since drawing with Wolves and then Norwich back in August, 27 games ago, a new club record.
In September at Portman Road the game between the sides ended in a 0-0 draw. Town were the better side but were unable to turn their superiority into goals even after the Seagulls were reduced to 10 men in the closing stages after Dale Stephens's red card.
The teams last met at the Amex Stadium four days after Christmas 2015 when Daryl Murphy netted his seventh goal of the season to see the Blues to a 1-0 victory at Brighton, their fifth successive away victory which equalled a club record set in 1976. Murphy seized on an error by Seagulls defender Lewis Dunk in the 32nd minute.
Brighton keeper David Stockdale spent the first half of 2011/12 on loan with the Blues making 18 appearances.
Full-back Rosenior was with the Blues on loan for most of the 2009/10 campaign making 28 starts and three sub appearances, scoring once.
Striker Leon Best, who has been told he won’t play for Town again and is also currently sidelined with a groin injury, spent the second half of the 2014/15 season on loan at Brighton from Blackburn and made six starts and seven sub appearances without scoring.
Blues assistant boss Terry Connor was a player with Brighton between 1983 and 1987.
Tuesday’s referee is Roger East from Wiltshire, who has shown 97 yellow cards and five red in 22 games so far this season.
East’s most recent Town match was the 5-1 defeat at Reading in September 2015 in which he yellow-carded Jonas Knudsen, Luke Chambers, Cole Skuse, Ryan Fraser and no home players.
He also took control of the play-off semi-final second leg against Norwich at Carrow Road in May 2015 in which Christophe Berra was red-carded and Cole Skuse and one Canary were both booked.
Prior to that, he was in charge of the 2-2 draw at Birmingham in August 2014 in which he cautioned only one home player.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Kenlock, Emmanuel, Spence, Digby, Diagouraga, Huws, Douglas, Bru, Bishop, Ward, Lawrence, Sears, Pitman, McGoldrick, Moore.
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