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McCarthy Chasing Vital Three Points
Tuesday, 16th Apr 2013 06:00
The Blues go into tonight’s home game against Crystal Palace looking for the three points which manager Mick McCarthy expects will be enough to guarantee Championship football during 2013/14. Town currently sit in 17th place on 53 points, four from the drop zone with four matches left to play.
McCarthy believes another win ought to be enough to ensure safety, but given the division’s notorious unpredictability, he’s not entirely certain: “I think with 56 points we’ll stay up but that’s only me thinking, that’s only me assuming and as we all know, assumption is the mother of all cock-ups! But I do think that’s what will happen, and I’ll take it now.”
Whatever happens tonight, he says there’ll be no big celebration: “No, because it won’t be guaranteed.
“I think it will take 56 but while it’s possible to go down with 56, even if we get them, I’ll not be dancing on the pitch with me drawers in the air. I’ll be preparing for Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.”
The Blues boss says he’d happily have taken Town’s current situation if it had been offered to him on November 1st when he took over at Portman Road: “Of course, we were rock bottom with seven points.
“It didn’t look a very healthy position, and even now with 53 points it’s still looking precarious, but it’s a lot better of course.
“If I’d have been offered that, and if anybody at the club had been offered it, from Marcus Evans down, they would have all taken the position we’re in now to try and secure our status in the Championship.”
McCarthy wasn’t too downcast after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Hull City: “Not at all, and Hull are a good side.
“They had the best of it, I thought we were the better team in the second half and had the better opportunities and it should really have ended up one-all, but we just didn’t defend the corner kick particularly well.
“There were three or four little errors there, that end up with a big error and it’s in the back of the net. If you do that, you get beaten against the better teams and that’s what happened. But the second half performance was excellent.”
Palace were due to play Millwall on Saturday but their game was postponed due to the Lions’ appearance in the FA Cup semi-final.
The Town manager doesn’t expect that to be a huge benefit to the visitors: “It is an advantage in terms of resting up but the lads are used to playing Saturday and then again on Tuesday. I’m not going to start making that an excuse, I’ll wait until afterwards in case anything goes wrong.
“It’s one of those things, we can’t avoid it. It’s just the way it is and the more you make of it, the more everybody gets it into their heads.
“They haven’t had a game, maybe they'll feel it through not having a game. We’ve just got to try and make our home record, which has been decent over recent times, count. We can’t do anything about the fact that they didn’t play.”
Few Town fans will need reminding that Palace beat the Blues 5-0 at Selhurst Park in McCarthy’s second game in charge in November, but the Blues manager plays down the revenge factor: “I start off wanting revenge even if we haven’t played them. That doesn’t bother me - get your retaliation in first.
“We want three points, I’m not bothered who we’re up against. We’re a different side to the one that played at Selhurst Park that night when we were beaten 5-0.
“We’ve been far better, far stronger, far harder to beat, and that was very early on in the development of the team and how it’s come on since. Revenge? Not really.”
On the night both he and Eagles manager Ian Holloway felt the result was an unfair reflection of the game.
“We actually played well in the first half and conceded a bonkers goal, a mistake,” the Town manager recalled ruefully.
“And then we did all right, we started the second half really well, then we had three penalties against us and suddenly we were all over the shop. It wasn’t really [a 5-0 type of game], but that’s what it ended up, so it makes no odds.
“But it didn’t bother me too greatly, you get beaten whether it’s by one or by five. I didn’t like it by five. But we were developing a team and it happened.”
Given Palace's lack of action at the weekend, McCarthy might look to freshen up his side, however, he’s unlikely to tinker with his backline. Scott Loach will continue in goal with Richard Stearman at right-back, Aaron Cresswell on the left and Luke Chambers and Tommy Smith in the centre.
In midfield, the Blues boss may consider swapping Guirane N’Daw for Andy Drury, having made the opposite switch at the weekend, with Luke Hyam likely to continue in the other central role.
Skipper Carlos Edwards will be on the right with Jay Tabb, who is expected to be over the knee problem which forced him off on Saturday, on the left.
If the on-loan Reading man fails to make it, then Lee Martin could come in, unless he isn’t considered fit enough after his recent spell out ill and having turned his ankle in training on Sunday. Other alternatives are Anthony Wordsworth, although McCarthy has said he is wary of the ex-Colchester man’s fitness, and Daryl Murphy.
The Irishman started up front alongside Michael Chopra on Saturday, but McCarthy could be considering whether to bring in Frank Nouble. Aaron Mclean hurt his toe in training and may have a painkilling injection in order to take a place on the bench.
Central defender Patrick Kisnorbo could miss out on a place in the 18 having been the latest member of the Town squad to be taken ill with a bug which has hit both on and off-field staff in the last couple of weeks.
Paul Taylor and Josh Carson, who returned from his loan spell at York last week, are both out for the season with foot injuries. David McGoldrick's 93-day loan is up and he will be unable to play for the rest of the season.
Former Blue Owen Garvan is back in training after a knee problem but has said he’ll be sitting in the stands with Town-supporting friends for tonight’s game with a return to match action pencilled in for later in the month. Club captain Paddy McCarthy is also closing in on a return after a lengthy absence with a groin injury.
Midfielder Mile Jedinak is suspended for two games and on-loan Manchester City striker Alex Nimely is set to miss out with a hamstring problem.
Defender or midfielder Darcy Blake is expected to be back in the squad after a knee injury. Winger Jason Banton has been recalled from a loan spell at Plymouth having won the League Two Player of the Month gong.
Selhurst Park became a home for Town old boys during former Blues boss George Burley’s brief tenure at the start of 2010/11 with Garvan and Lewis Price still amongst the playing staff.
Centre-half Damien Delaney joined them last summer shortly after having his contract torn up at Portman Road.
Former Town academy schoolboy Stuart O’Keefe moved to the Eagles from Southend in the summer of 2010 summer, having been released by the Blues at 16.
By contrast, only coach Mark Kennedy from the Town staff has played for Crystal Palace, while goalkeeper-coach Malcolm Webster was on Burley’s backroom team at Selhurst Park.
Town have the edge over the years, winning 31 games between the sides (29 in the league), drawing 24 (24) and losing 26 (26). Palace, who have failed to win any of their last five league matches and have lost three of them, are currently fourth, 13 places above the Blues and 13 points ahead of them on 66.
In November, Mick McCarthy tasted defeat for the first time as Town boss as Holloway's Crystal Palace ran out comfortable 5-0 victors at Selhurst Park.
Yannick Bolasie had put the home side ahead at half-time before an extraordinary 11 minutes early in the second half in which Palace were awarded three penalties, Murray scoring two and having one saved, the striker later adding his third and the Eagles' fourth before sub Andre Moritz made it five in injury time.
Last time at Portman Road, in October 2011, Paddy McCarthy’s goal 10 minutes after the break was enough to give Crystal Palace a 1-0 victory, ending Town’s six-game unbeaten run.
The Blues, who had Aaron Cresswell sent off for a second yellow card late on, were second best throughout.
Tonight’s referee is Simon Hooper from Wiltshire, who has shown 96 yellow cards and five red in 35 games so far this season. Hooper’s most recent Town match was the 3-0 home victory over Cardiff in February last year in which he booked Arran Lee-Barrett and Luke Hyam.
Squad from: Loach, Lee-Barrett, Stearman, Hewitt, Cresswell, Mings, Chambers, Smith, Kisnorbo, R Brown, N’Daw, Drury, Hyam, Wordsworth, Tabb, Martin, Edwards, Emmanuel-Thomas, Murphy, Nouble, Chopra, Mclean.
Photo: Action Images
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