McCarthy Has Decisions to Make Ahead of Forest Trip
Friday, 13th Dec 2013 11:20
Manager Mick McCarthy has decisions to make as the Blues go to Nottingham Forest looking for their fourth win on the trot, having played different teams in each of the last three games. Former Forest man Paul Anderson and striker Paul Taylor are doubts, due to illness, while Cole Skuse has recovered from an ankle problem.
Having won 1-0 at Charlton, McCarthy made four changes for the 3-1 home win against Blackburn, then two more as he switched from his usual 4-4-2 system to 4-3-3 for the 2-1 victory over Huddersfield at Portman Road last Saturday.
The Town boss says the situation is a double-edged sword: “It makes it easier in a way because you’ve got more options, but it makes it harder having to tell players who have actually played well [that they aren’t playing].
“That’s the art, the skill of managing them. But it doesn’t matter what you tell them when you drop them, ’By the way, you played well, but I’m changing the team’.
“It makes it harder doing it, but I do it and I do it for what I think are the right reasons and then afterwards it doesn’t bother me at all because I’ve made the decision and whether it goes good, bad or indifferent, that’s part of the gig.”
McCarthy looks set to revert to 4-4-2 with last week’s switch to 4-3-3 having been aimed specifically at counteracting the Terriers’ regular system: “I thought we played well in the first half up until the penalty decision when it changed the course of the game slightly.
“Overall, I thought it was a really good performance by us playing 4-3-3. It required changes. I’d just watched them play Sheffield Wednesday, Burnley and Bolton and they’d murdered the three of them with the ball. I wasn’t going to allow that to happen.
“We’ve played against 3-5-2 before, I remember last season against Bristol City, Peterborough, Watford and Hull. If they play it well it’s difficult to get the ball back from them and I thought us changing it made them change [their formation], which was a testament to how we played.”
Despite the three successive victories – the last time Town managed four in a row was in January 2012 – the Blues boss believes performances may actually have been better in earlier matches.
“I don’t think they’ve improved that much,” he said. “In fact, I wonder whether we’ve played as well in those games as we did early on in some of the others.
“But we’re coming up to the period where it really is a time when you grind out results and you have to be bloody-minded and belligerent and professional and hard to beat. And I think we’re all of those things.
“And we’ve got a fair amount of talent and skill and ability and quality in the team. But if you don’t have the first group of qualities, that stubborn streak, being hard to beat, you lose a lot of games.
“I think we showed all of those, especially going down to Charlton and the way we had to defend in the second half.
“Maybe it’s the rub of the green that comes around from time to time. The better ones will stay up there and will be there and might have better quality and bigger squads and there’ll be some who’ll be not so good and will stay there and probably think they don’t get the rub of the green.
“But then there’s a whole chunk of us in the middle, who are just as good as one another, Blackburn, Huddersfield, we’re no better than them.
“Huddersfield have just had three on the bounce. Maybe we are [getting the rub of the green at the moment], I did say it would come around when we had that deflection at Birmingham and the deflection at Reading and the one against Leeds.”
Last time Town were at the City Ground, in March, the game didn’t go entirely to plan with the Blues ending the match with nine players and losing to a late goal.
“There were some bonkers decisions, weren’t there?” McCarthy recalled. “The sending off of Lee Martin was a sending off, that was irresponsible on his part.
“But then [referee David Webb] sent Stears off and it was a complete nonsense decision. And then to cap it all the goal was a deflection from McGugan. It was a harsh game, but that’s the league unfortunately, that’s what can happen.”
McCarthy says he expected Forest to be in the automatic promotion places rather than their current position of fifth, two points and four places above the Blues: “They were the pre-season favourites. They had a fantastic start.
“They’ve had a few injuries, like everybody else, and I thought they’d be up in the top two with the squad that they’ve got and maybe they’ll still end up there, I don’t know.
“It’ll be a hard game, but just look at our results and the way we’re going, I can’t imagine that Billy will be feeling ‘Happy days, Mick’s team’s coming up here for a nice easy Saturday afternoon’, because it’s not going to be that way.”
He gets on well with his opposite number Billy Davies, although he says results impact upon their relationship: “I get on great with him. And I tend to find I get on even better with him when I’ve won. I like him better when I’ve won and he likes me better when he’s won!
“He’s a good character, Billy. I like him and he’s done really well at this level. He had Preston in the play-offs I don’t know how many times and he got promoted with Derby.
“He’s got history in this league and a good record. They’ll be one of the play-off teams at least, I think.”
The Blues boss is unlikely to make any changes at the back with Dean Gerken set to continue in goal, Aaron Cresswell at left-back, Luke Chambers at right-back and Tommy Smith and Christophe Berra in the centre.
In midfield, Cole Skuse will be in the centre but McCarthy will have to choose between Luke Hyam and Ryan Tunnicliffe alongside him.
Tunnicliffe also comes into the reckoning on the left of midfield along with Jay Tabb and Stephen Hunt, with the latter perhaps getting the nod having impressed in his first start for the Blues against Blackburn.
On the right, skipper Carlos Edwards may start ahead of Paul Anderson with the ex-Forest man having been ill this week.
Up front, Frank Nouble seems likely to be the unlucky man dropping out with David McGoldrick and Daryl Murphy, both scorers in last week’s win against Huddersfield, McCarthy’s favoured front pairing.
For Forest, Chilean international defender Gonzalo Jara and versatile ex-Colchester man Greg Halford have emerged as doubts with knocks.
Striker Darius Henderson and on-loan midfielder David Vaughan are closing in on returns from hamstring problems but won't be involved.
Centre-backs Danny Collins and Kelvin Wilson are out with ankle and back injuries respectively, while skipper and left-back Chris Cohen is sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee problem. Striker Dexter Blackstock will also miss the rest of the campaign having injured his knee while on loan at Leeds.
Collins was on loan with Town in the 2011/12 season, while former Blues left-back Dan Harding is also a member of the current Forest squad. One-time Town coach and caretaker-manager Charlie McParland is now Forest’s U21s boss.
Luke Chambers joined Town on a Bosman free transfer after departing the City Ground in the summer of 2012, while David McGoldrick signed on loan from the Tricky Trees in January before putting pen to paper on a permanent deal in the summer. Paul Anderson was with Forest from August 2008 until July 2012, initially on loan.
Scott Loach was an academy schoolboy with his hometown club after leaving the Blues’ youth set-up when his family relocated back to the Midlands.
Historically, the home team very much have the upper hand, winning 34 of the games between the two sides (31 in the league), 14 (13) ending in draws and Town winning 19 (18). It's 14 years since Town last won at the City Ground.
On their last visit in March, Town had two players sent off in a match for only the second time in their history as they fell to an unlucky 1-0 defeat.
Lee Martin saw red just before the break after an altercation with Henri Lansbury, then Richard Stearman received a second yellow card for a clash with Andy Reid in the second half, before the Blues' stubborn resistance was broken by a deflected Lewis McGugan shot in the 84th minute.
In November last year at Portman Road, Guirane N’Daw, Luke Hyam and Daryl Murphy were on target as Town climbed out of the bottom three by beating Forest 3-1.
Visitors’ keeper Lee Camp should already have been sent off before he and ex-Blues loanee Collins failed to deal with a long ball and N’Daw netted his first and ultimately only goal for Town.
Dexter Blackstock equalised for the visitors after the break but Hyam slammed in his first for the Blues after DJ Campbell’s penalty had been saved and Murphy added the third late on.
Tickets will be available on the day of the game for cash only from 1.30pm at Forest's Ticket Office.
Saturday’s referee is Scott Mathieson from Cheshire, who has shown 41 yellow cards and two red in 15 games so far this season. His last Town match was the 0-0 draw at Cardiff in January in which he booked only Luke Hyam and Bradley Orr.
Squad from: Gerken, Loach, Chambers, Veseli, Hammond, Cresswell, Mings, Smith, Berra, Skuse, Hyam, Wordsworth, Tunnicliffe, Edwards, Anderson, Tabb, Hunt, Graham, Murphy, McGoldrick, Nouble, Taylor, Lee.
Photo: Action Images
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