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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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Hoppersblue10 added 06:02 - Mar 17
Bl00dy mindedness springs to mind!

iaintaylorx added 06:09 - Mar 17
he really is stubborn! i'm dtarting to lose my oatience with mick, all these long balls make us look like a team fighting to stay in the championship! i don't want us to go up this year, as i know we will struggle massively in the prem! you look ag leicester, and two half decent sides, struggling to cope...

christiand added 06:09 - Mar 17
Don't need to make changes unless necessary? 1 clean sheet in the last 15 games, does that not require a change?

Blue_Heath added 06:17 - Mar 17
9th place it is then.

Rentaghost added 06:20 - Mar 17
To be honest we don't have many defenders and that's the way it is. I really get pissed off with attitude we should be higher. We spent no money and look where clubs like Wigan and Reading are. You need to be realistic. None us really expected us to be in the mix of play offs at start of the season. Just chill.

blue7579 added 06:24 - Mar 17
He had done an amazing job, now he is doing a terrible job, if we don't make playoffs we will be the only team in history not to make playoffs from being in top 2 at Christmas, even if we get a result tonight we will get a pasting at Watford, he has taken us as far as he can.

MickMillsTash added 06:24 - Mar 17
3 points tonight and we will all forget
Come on Town

Please win

Len_Brennan added 06:30 - Mar 17
Stubborn old Buzzard.

jas0999 added 06:46 - Mar 17
We simply don't have enough defenders or decent midfield players. You can't throw Clarke into crucial games at this stage of the season, which leaves us with just five senior defenders. Mick is playing one of those in midfield, presumably because he doesn't rate his other midfield options. Otherwise, why play a defender on the wing? The problem is lack of numbers. Small squad proving costly.

philpott2 added 06:46 - Mar 17
With minging Mings on the pitch then, 2-0 to Bolton, as I doubt Lonergan is going to throw the ball out to Murphy to give him a goal per the Boro one, so we ain't gonna score.
He's really p'ing me off with his half-arsed couldn't give a toss amble around the pitch - Tyrone, wake up cos most of us fans could do a better job than your 'efforts' over the last 3 months!!!
& I am not saying I was that impressed with him before that, just Hunty and the centre halves kept bailing him out.
We've been fading at this stage of the season for years, regardlessof the manager, so I shouldn't be surprised.

dukey44 added 06:51 - Mar 17
Yes Micks done a great job up until January with no money etc etc etc but f... sake the back fours been terrible since then. Sorry but same old same old now. He really doesnt want to get in at least play offs. And let me think Tabb will still be there too!!

footyblue added 06:57 - Mar 17
the likes of henshall and Stewart hevent been given the chance the others have i am afraid we need pace in the team look at the Bamford tore us apart for 2 goals

Jimmy86 added 07:05 - Mar 17
All I can say is Mick has done a brilliant job with what he's got, but my word he is a stubborn old goat!!! If Henshall and certainly Stewart can't get in the team ahead of Tabb, Chaplow and Parr plating out of position there's got to be something wrong. Mick signed Stewart on the back of him causing us problems whenever we played against him last season, (Leeds and charlton) also worth noting he played wide left and was up against chambo, playing our of position. Henshall linked up well with Mings earlier in the season and has pace to reach the byline and cross. Yea fair enough track back, but a wingers primary role is to attack, they shouldn't have to get bogged down to much with defending!!

bluechill added 07:12 - Mar 17
The writings on the wall, he's been doing a great job, but has lost it since we became contenders. How can he not see poor smith struggling ( he was during the good run too, but got away with it until the opposition have targeted him and chambers and the space between them). He's losing the fans and that's the beginning of the end I m afraid.

blue7579 added 07:13 - Mar 17
Some are missing the bigger picture here this was our chance, if we don't get back in the mix, next year we have no chance, we won't be able to keep murphy mings bishop Berra sears bru they will want to go somewhere with a better chance than we have, plus the teams coming down with even more money to spend next year, he should have finished the job off.

carsey added 07:16 - Mar 17
Oh dear Mick is certainly not happy.

smithy0981 added 07:23 - Mar 17

Parr Chambo Berra Mings

Anderson Bishop Skuse Stewart/hunt

Sears Murph

Steelmonkey added 07:23 - Mar 17
Well MM if you have not any other players to slot into the back four then who is to blame for that!
That's just bonkers.

smithy0981 added 07:25 - Mar 17

Parr Chambo Berra Mings

Anderson Bishop Skuse Stewart/hunt

Sears Murph

runaround added 07:32 - Mar 17
I know he hasn't got much to play with defensively but MM must surely realise Smith is struggling & the more nervous he gets the more mistakes he makes & so on.....
Tonight is THE must win match yet I fear he will rest our more creative players Sears & Bishop tonight & play his hard work but no skill favourites such as Tabby(ees great is Tabby). Would prefer them to play at Watford when we need to get stuck into them. My only hope is he plays 'Unty tonight as at least we will then get decent delivery from set pieces.
Mick's my way or t'highway approach has got us this far but is in danger of dropping us back again. Please Mick swallow your pride & play the right team

battyblue added 07:42 - Mar 17
Get Hewitt back played all season would be better than Chambers in that position also would have Parr in front of him play it on the grass,but Mick wont do that because Hewitt cannot hoof it far enough,,i am tired of his team and tactics, Parr is one of the best players in the squad he has played well when ever called upon only to find himself back on the bench next game, now he is great( Micks words) and cant do without him in midfield i think there is something wrong with the mans vision everyone else can see it but he cant.

Second how is he to know how Stewart /Connolly etc will play when he never gives them a chance its obvious he cant tell from training its not working and he needs to change it or let someone else who can. One feed up with this crap supporter who wants better.

big_gaz67 added 07:52 - Mar 17
I agree there are not many options in defence hence why he needs to play his best one!
Phil - at the next press conference can you ask him the following two questions from the fans with the caveat he only answers "Yes" or "No"

Q1 Is Johnny Parr at better right back than Luke Chambers?
Q2 Is Luke Chambers a better right sided centre half than Tommy Smith

What more is there to say?

parkinshair added 07:52 - Mar 17
So we didn't sign St Ledger who would have offered competition for places and instead sign three strikers in the transfer window two of which are warming the bench and one of which is no where near match fit. Great thinking.

Surco72 added 08:13 - Mar 17
Exactly as I said last season MM has no game plan for opposition just picks the same team week in week out of favourites and hopes that some we win some we will lose . No selection policy on form , opposition tactics / formation just if they run around a lot in training .
Stop moaning about having no options in defence it is your squad , play Parr at right back not midfield , drop Smith .
And for F***ks sake stop telling me how brilliant everyone has played all season , if our defence is so brilliant why have we let in 40 plus goals compared to Boro's 27 , and not kept 1 clean sheet since Xmas because Dids is missing ? And if you don't think it was the defenders fault for the 2 corner goals on Saturday you are watching a different game to me , Mings completely left his man at a corner for a free header and we were not marking at all for the second one as Boro played it around in our area ?
This squad is worse than last seasons team as we have lost Cresswell one of our main threats , Murphy having the season of his life has covered MM's inabilities and the teams .
Hopefully Bolton are so bad we can still get a win tonight to give us some confidence going into Saturday

blueherts added 08:15 - Mar 17
I disagree when he says the 2 corner goals were not defensive errors -

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