McCarthy Set to Stick With Back Four
Tuesday, 17th Mar 2015 06:00
Town boss Mick McCarthy looks set to stick with his regular back four when Bolton Wanderers visit Portman Road this evening, despite the Blues having kept only one clean sheet since the turn of the year.
McCarthy defended his increasingly under-fire backline and pointed out that he has few alternative defensive options at his disposal at present, aside from 18-year-old centre-half Matt Clarke, who has made one Capital One Cup start - at left-back - and two brief Championship sub appearances in midfield, and Jonny Parr, who has impressed at wide midfield in recent games.
“Am I tempted to change it at the back? I’ll put Matt Clarke in and Jonny Parr, [they’re our other] defenders,” he said.
“Our back four has been almost ever-present and have been brilliant. I don’t think they deserve too much derision from anybody because they’ve been outstanding.
“The two corner kicks [from which Middlesbrough scored] were not down to our back four and that’s what ultimately cost us on Saturday, how we conceded from the two corners.
“It makes us look like chumps, as if we don’t prepare. And of course we do, we’re very thorough in how we deal with corner kicks and it’s not like us.
“We ended up two down and chasing it and then we got caught at the back and suddenly it’s down to the back four. Well, that’s not the case because they’re a big part of the reason we’ve done so well this season.”
McCarthy, who also dismissed the suggestion that he might consider moving to three at the back, says he’s not one to make changes unless he believes they’re really necessary.
“I do [stick by players and give them a run in the team],” he said. “I think when we play as well as we have done that’s important.
“I don’t believe in chopping and changing. I don’t think they know where they stand then.
“I think there’s got to be a good reason in my mind why they don’t play - there might be somebody who’s tired, there might be someone who is carrying an injury.
“There’s all of that. But when they’re fit and firing and they play well, then they deserve to be in my team.”
Those out of the team have to show the right attitude in training: “I insist that they do things in training to impress me, whether they get in the team or not is another matter.
“At a time like this, every other player is better than the ones I’m picking. That’s what people like to tell me.
“When we’re struggling on the pitch, no matter who I’ve picked there are always seven behind me that are better and about three in the stand as well.
“But generally that’s not the case because I’ve a fair insight as to who are the best players and which is the best team and what I need to do.”
Winger Cameron Stewart, who signed a three-year deal when he signed on a free Bosman transfer in the summer, is still to make his league debut for the Blues - although he did make two sub appearances in the FA Cup ties against Southampton - while Alex Henshall, another summer recruit, made the most recent of his four sub appearances back in September.
“You’ve got to earn a place," McCarthy continued. "I signed Alex Henshall and Cameron Stewart to compete with the Tabby and Hunty and Paul Anderson and, you know me by now, if they’d done enough to compete and be better than them, do you think they would have played? So quite clearly they haven’t. And that’s the way it is.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will start in goal with Dean Gerken not being risked having been knocked unconscious at Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Gerken was back at Playford Road yesterday and is OK but won’t be involved so soon after suffering a concussion. Paddy Kenny will be on the bench.
Skipper Luke Chambers is again set to be at right-back with Tyrone Mings on the left and Christophe Berra and Tommy Smith at the heart of the defence.
In midfield, Cole Skuse will probably keep his regular holding role, but McCarthy may look to freshen things up elsewhere with the Blues quickly in action again at Watford on Saturday.
Youngster Teddy Bishop may drop out in favour of Kevin Bru, while Stephen Hunt could be a candidate to come into the side for Jay Tabb on the left if McCarthy opts to rest him. Paul Anderson and Richard Chaplow are alternatives to Parr on the right.
Up front, 23-goal Championship top scorer Daryl Murphy will again start alongside Freddie Sears with David McGoldrick not yet ready to return from his thigh problem. The Ireland international could be involved at Vicarage Road, however.
Bolton have endured a tough season but have climbed to 16th and are now 10 points off the relegation zone and McCarthy isn’t expecting an easy evening: “Not at all, or against Watford or Bournemouth or Huddersfield or Wolverhampton or anybody else that we’ve got to play.
“We’ve just got to knuckle down and make sure we do our best and try and win a game on Tuesday. It has a different outlook if we win on Tuesday.”
The Blues manager has been impressed with the job Neil Lennon has done since taking over at the Macron Stadium in October: “I think he’s had a great impact from going in. I think you generally change manager at a club because it’s not going right for whatever reason.
“You need an instant impact, especially where they were and that’s what they got. Since then they’ve had a bit of an up and down time.
“He’s had to take a lot of players in on loan because of injuries and what have you. He’s had a really good impact.
"They had a good result on Saturday [a 1-0 home win] against Millwall, so they’re coming here on the back of a victory.”
McCarthy says the Blues will have to be wary of striker Adam Le Fondre, who has already netted five goals in nine starts and one sub appearance since joining on loan at the end of January.
“He’s a good player, isn’t he?” the Town boss continued. “When he signed for Reading he was a good player. He signed for Cardiff for a chunk of money, so I’m told, and now Bolton have taken him on loan.
“I thought that was an amazing loan signing. I thought that was a great loan signing for them and he’s a player that I’ve always admired and respected. He’s a proper goalscorer. And he’s one who is a real threat and we’ll have to watch.”
Bolton are likely to be without on-loan Manchester United midfielder Saidy Janko, who has a glute problem, while former Colchester man Neil Danns is suspended having amassed 10 bookings this season.
Defender Dorian Dervite is back from a knee injury, but midfielder Mark Davies is not yet ready to return from his knee problem.
Definitely ruled out are full-backs Kevin McNaughton and Marc Tierney (both leg), midfielder Darren Pratley, central defender David Wheater (both hamstring), frontman Max Clayton (knee) and highly-rated young striker Zach Clough (shoulder).
Historically, the Blues just have the edge, having won 16 times (14 in the league), Bolton 13 (nine) and with nine (eight) games between the teams ending in draws. Town are unbeaten in their last five games against the Trotters.
Bolton have won only two of their last seven matches and have lost 13 - a total equalled only by bottom-of-the-table Blackpool - of their 18 away games this season, winning only two, most recently at Sheffield Wednesday on January 17th.
In December, Town dropped to fourth as the teams drew 0-0 at the Macron Stadium. After an evenly balanced first half in which the home side had the better opportunities, the Blues were on top for much of the second period with Jay Tabb twice going close to breaking the deadlock.
The teams last met at Portman Road in February last year when David McGoldrick’s 55th minute penalty saw Town to a 1-0 victory.
The striker had been hauled back by Trotters’ keeper Andy Lonergan after he had dropped a high ball.
Former Blue Liam Trotter joined Bolton from Millwall in January 2014, initially on loan before the switch was made permanent the following summer, while ex-Town loanee Keith Andrews, 34, is still a Bolton employee but is on loan with the MK Dons.
Blues keeper Paddy Kenny was on a short-term contract with the Lancastrians between September and January but failed to make a senior appearance.
Following the game there will be roadworks on the A14, while Grafton Way will be closed from 11pm for resurfacing work, which will also affect the Novotel and the Punch and Judy roundabout.
Tonight’s referee is Fred Graham from Stanford-le-Hope in Essex, who has shown 36 yellow cards and no red in 13 games so far this season.
Graham’s most recent Town match was the 4-2 win at Brentford on Boxing Day when he booked two home players and Noel Hunt.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Kenny, Chambers (c), Mings, Berra, Smith, Clarke, Skuse, Bru, Bishop, Parr, Tabb, S Hunt, Anderson, Chaplow, Connolly, Henshall, Stewart, Murphy, Sears, Wood, Varney.
Photo: Action Images
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