|Cardiff City 3 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 18th March 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Town Out to Ease Relegation Concerns and End Run of Draws With Win at Cardiff
Saturday, 18th Mar 2017 06:33
Town travel to Cardiff City looking for a win which would ease concerns that they could get drawn into the relegation battle and end a six-game run of draws.
The 16th-placed Blues, who are unbeaten in eight but having won only one of their last 12 in all competitions, are now six points off the drop zone - following Friday night's games - with nine more to play. Another draw at Cardiff would equal a club record of seven on the trot set in November and December 1990.
Manager Mick McCarthy says he’s not setting a points target which would see the Blues to safety, at least not publicly.
“No, I don’t give you [the media] targets because when I do it’s always ‘Well, we’re near it, we’ve got one closer, three closer’.
“If I say I want to sign seven players it’s ‘He’s got five, he’s got six, he’s missed out on one’. I’ve had all of that so I’m sorry to disappoint you, I haven’t. As many as we possibly can achieve is my target.”
While Cardiff, three places and three points above the Blues, appear to have nothing left to play for this season, Town are mainly up against clubs battling at either end of the Championship in the final weeks of the campaign among them several sides below them in the table.
Is it better to be playing teams who have something left to fight for rather than those whose seasons are effectively over and might be playing with greater freedom? “I don’t know. That’s a theory that, isn’t it? That if they’re going for things they might tighten up.
“I was at Fulham [on Tuesday] night. They were in the play-offs for a while and then they were out of the play-offs. It was a different game for them, it was a real pressure game.
“And yet Blackburn who are scrapping tooth and nail at the bottom of the league [deserved to win, it ended 2-2].
“Fulham were brilliant for parts of the first half and Blackburn were great in the second half and deserved to win.
“So, I’ve no idea whether that happens. We played Barnsley who aren’t going to go up, aren’t going to go down and they were good.
“I don’t know who I’d prefer to play. I’d prefer us to play well, I’m not picking and choosing about my opposition. I’m more concerned with us really, how we play.”
He added: “I’d really love us to play well and win and if not I’d really love us to win.”
As he celebrates his 25th anniversary in management - he was appointed Millwall boss on March 18th 1992 - McCarthy, 58, faces one of his former Barnsley team-mates with the Bluebirds now managed by Neil Warnock.
The Town boss says it’s no shock that Warnock, 68, has turned things around at Cardiff, who were 23rd at one stage, having taken over as boss in October.
“No surprise at all,” McCarthy added. “He gets his teams organised and really hard to play against, as he did with Rotherham, that was a really remarkable achievement he had there [in keeping the Millers up last season].
“And I believe he’s signing a new contract. He’s retired more times than anybody I know and he still keeps coming back.
“He loves it and I’m glad to see him because he’s a pal of mine and he’s colourful. He makes it an event when you go down and play there.”
Is man management the secret of his success? “Quite clearly, although I’ve never worked for him, I’ve never worked with him. I played with him a hundred years ago for Barnsley.
“He’s got a personality, certainly. He just seems to get the best out of players, out of teams.
“It’s not everybody, we’ve got Emyr Huws here who’s playing for us and he doesn’t get in his team.
“But that’s the same everywhere, managers don’t have the same effect on every single player.
“But the ones he’s got in the team he’s having a great effect on them and they’ve done really, really well.”
Have the two ever had a bust-up? “Oh yeah! On the sidelines, I was at Millwall, he was at Notts County and we’ve had words when he was at Sheff U and at probably every other club he’s been at and I’ve been at, but the pair of us are quite vocal on the sidelines. But that’s as far as it’s gone, I’ve never fallen out with him ever.”
While McCarthy has taken control of 911 matches over his 25 years in management, Warnock, 10 years his senior, is more than 400 ahead of him on 1,357.
“Is that what he’s had 1,300? Wow!” McCarthy continued. “It is some achievement. And he’s had a lot of success, club promotions and avoiding relegations, which is success in itself when he’s inherited teams in the problems Rotherham were in last year. Very successful, at what he does, he’s been absolutely brilliant at it.”
Earlier this week Warnock said he’s “not bothered about getting the sack, if I want another job I'll get another job”, believing that there aren’t “that many good managers around”.
“Why would he [fear the sack]?” McCarthy said. “He knows he’s not getting the sack anyway, for one, because they look like they’re safe anyway, and I’m sure he’ll be thinking they want another three points and will be looking to get them off us in a home game.
“He’s just not getting the sack, I think he’s signed or he’s going to sign another contract, so it’s kind of a nice, warm position to be in to say that.
“But he is a good manager and, do you know what? Even if he did get the sack for whatever reason, there’d be somebody coming knocking at his door at some stage.
“There would be somebody in trouble that’ll want Warney coming in fire fighting for them, and he does it really well.”
McCarthy said he was considering whether to switch his system in Wednesday’s pre-match press conference as the Blues look for their first win since the victory at Aston Villa on February 11th.
However, with the Blues unbeaten in eight, he was keen not to “throw the baby out with the bath water” and seems likely to stick with the 3-5-2 system he has largely used since the turn of the year.
Bartosz Bialkowski will continue in goal behind the back three of skipper Luke Chambers, Christophe Berra and Jonas Knudsen or Tommy Smith.
Steven Taylor is back in training after his hamstring injury but won’t travel, however, the former Newcastle man will play for the U23s against Crewe Alexandra at Portman Road on Monday (KO 7pm).
Jordan Spence again seems likely to get the nod at right wing-back while Myles Kenlock or Knudsen will be on the left depending on who McCarthy wants to start in the back three.
The Town boss will be forced into one change in central midfield with Emyr Huws unavailable against his parent club. The Welshman would have missed out anyway as he is suffering from a hamstring problem.
That’s likely to see Grant Ward, who impressed as a sub at Barnsley, return alongside Toumani Diagouraga and Cole Skuse.
Tom Lawrence and David McGoldrick are again likely to start up front, although McCarthy may look to start Brett Pitman, who created the equaliser at Oakwell, in which case Lawrence could move back to the role he played at QPR in January instead of Ward.
There could be changes on the bench with Kevin Bru (knee) and Kieffer Moore (groin) both doubts ahead of the match.
Cardiff have had extensive injury problems of late with Lee Peltier (ankle), Rhys Healey (knee) and Matthew Connolly all having missed out.
Warnock hopes centre-half Bruno Ecuele Manga will be fit enough to be among the subs after a knee problem, but former England man Rickie Lambert is not yet ready for a return after a back problem.
Icelandic midfielder Aron Gunnarsson is not yet fully fit after a virus which also affected other members of the squad.
Warnock felt his team did well in last week's 1-1 draw at home to Birmingham.
“I thought we played quite well at times, I thought we played a lot of good football in areas," he told the official Cardiff website.
"It’s always difficult playing against that sort of system, and Ipswich play a similar kind of system.
“We’ve got to come up with different scenarios. You’ve got to have plan Bs for that sort of system, which we’ll be trying tomorrow. We’ll have a look at the way they set their play up and see if we can cope with that.
"We're a bit thin on the ground, with a couple of doubts for the match. [Bruno Ecuele] Manga trained well on Thursday, and we hope he might be able to go on the bench.
"It's a tough game against Ipswich, but then we've got a few weeks to recuperate."
Town have the upper hand historically, winning 21 (19 in the league), drawing 14 (14) and losing 13 (12).
While the Blues have drawn six in a row and would match a club record seven if Saturday's game ends level, Cardiff have drawn three of their last four matches.
In December at Portman Road, Luke Varney netted an equaliser just after half-time as Town drew 1-1 with the Bluebirds, who had central defender Sol Bamba sent off for abuse towards the fourth official during a bizarre second-half temper tantrum.
Aron Gunnarsson put the visitors ahead following a Bartosz Bialkowski error in the 38th minute, Varney levelled on 52 but despite the one-man advantage the Blues were unable to find a winner.
The teams last met at the Cardiff City Stadium in March last year when Bruno Ecuele Manga’s 18th-minute goal saw the Bluebirds to a 1-0 victory.
The defender nodded home Peter Whittingham’s corner at the near post with Town rarely seriously threatening to find a reply.
Former Town keeper Brian Murphy joined Cardiff last summer having been released by Portsmouth and has made four appearances for the Bluebirds. Murphy was with the Blues between January 2010 and the summer of 2011 making 25 appearances.
Cardiff midfielder Stuart O’Keefe, who is currently on loan with the MK Dons, was an academy schoolboy with Town, while the Bluebirds’ Icelandic midfielder Aron Gunnarsson had a trial with the Blues' youth set-up when also a schoolboy.
Bluebirds central defender Semi Ajayi, who is yet to make a senior appearance for the Welsh club and is currently on loan at Rotherham, was on trial with Town in January 2015 when he played a game for the U21s, coincidentally against Cardiff.
Town loanee Tom Lawrence spent the second half of last season on loan at Cardiff, making 11 starts and three sub appearances without scoring.
Another of the Blues’ Welsh loanees, Emyr Huws, is a current Cardiff player but has made only two starts and two sub appearances since joining the Bluebirds last summer.
Fans travelling to the game may want to take a look at Cardiff’s Away Fan Guide 2016/17, while the Bluebirds have a Twitter account specifically for away fans - @CardiffCityAway - and a specific email address email@example.com where they will answer any questions Blues supporters might have. Their Supporter Liaison Officer is also on Twitter: @CardiffCitySLO.
Saturday’s referee is James Linington from Newport Isle-of-Wight, who has shown 125 yellow cards and three red in 28 games so far this season.
Linington’s most recent Town match was the 3-2 home victory over Blackburn in January in which he booked Andre Dozzell and Tom Lawrence and awarded Rovers a penalty when Adam Webster tangled with Hope Akpan which was converted by Danny Graham.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 2-1 home victory over Sheffield Wednesday in August 2015 in which he booked Jonathan Douglas and Ryan Fraser and two of the visitors.
Before that he officiated in the 3-2 home win against Blackpool April 2015 in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Earlier in the 2014/15 season he refereed the 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest, when he booked only one home player, and the 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough at Portman Road in which he yellow-carded David McGoldrick and three Teessiders.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Kenlock, Emmanuel, Spence, Berra, T Smith, Digby, Skuse, Diagouraga, Douglas, Bru, Ward, Rowe, McGoldrick, Lawrence, Sears, Pitman, Moore.
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