McCarthy Out to Keep Portman Road Buzzing
Friday, 15th Jan 2016 16:25
Boss Mick McCarthy is out to keep Portman Road buzzing when the Blues take on Preston North End on Saturday. Town beat Leeds 2-1 on Tuesday to record back-to-back home wins for the first time since August as they climbed to fifth in the Championship table.
“We all want to keep proving that we can keep doing it and keep winning games. Whatever happened last week, that’s gone,” McCarthy said.
“It’s bonkers, isn’t it? On Saturday night we’d been passed off the park by a League Two club and all is woe.
“Tuesday we beat Leeds in the last minute after a really good performance - if we’d have scored and had them beaten earlier on it would have been worthy - and the place is buzzing again. Let’s get the three points on Saturday and keep it buzzing.”
Having based their progress into the top six largely on their impressive away form, the Blues look to have got back on track at Portman Road in recent weeks, which bodes well for the second half of the season with only Hull City of the current top 10 still to visit Suffolk.
Preston have made a solid return to the Championship having won the League One play-off final in May and are up to 13th - 10 points behind the Blues - having won their last three league games.
McCarthy has a lot of time for his Lilywhites counterpart: “Simon Grayson is a good manager, a good coach, he’s had success at every club he’s been at. He was good at Leeds, he was at Blackpool, he did well with them, he’s now got Preston.
“Everywhere he’s been a he’s a had a really solid unit and they’ve played good football and been good teams.
“He manages to get the best out of people and they’re on a good run, three wins in a row, and I guess they’ll be relishing the prospect of taking us on, who are also on a good run.”
He says Preston have switched between formations in recent games: “They’ve been playing 4-3-3 but they went to Bristol City [where they won 2-1 on Tuesday] and matched them up and played 3-5-2.
“And they’ve done that a couple of times, but over the course of the games that they’ve had, they’ve played 4-3-3 just as much and I what I can guarantee is that they won’t be 4-4-2.
“I’m never quite sure until two o’clock when I get the teamsheet and then I’ll have a much better idea.
“But I would have thought they’ll either be three at the back or 4-3-3, and I’ll have a pound bet it’s 4-3-3.”
However the Lancastrians line up McCarthy says he’ll be sticking with the 4-3-3 system he has employed in the last three league games.
“The team I selected at Brighton was 4-4-2 with the knowledge I could go 4-3-3 if they did something different because I’d watched their Brentford game and they played well in the second half,” he added.
“And it was one of those occasions when I got it right, thankfully. I put Kevin Bru in behind Murph and it worked well. It also worked well at Burnley and against Leeds.
“The only other game we’ve had since then was the Portsmouth game when they played 4-4-2.
“We’ll be playing the same. Whatever they play, if they were three at the back there would be no chance we’d be playing 4-4-2 against them, and so the way we’re playing suits us fine.”
As well as the same formation, McCarthy, whose team are unbeaten in their last four league games, winning three, seems likely to start with the same personnel with Dean Gerken in goal, skipper Luke Chambers at right-back, Jonas Knudsen on the left and Tommy Smith and Christophe Berra at the centre of the defence.
In midfield, Cole Skuse will probably be partnered by Jonathan Douglas, although Luke Hyam is another option, while Bru will again be in the role between the deeper midfielders and central striker Daryl Murphy with Ryan Fraser and Freddie Sears to the Irish frontman’s left and right.
Brett Pitman will be looking to make the same impact he made against Leeds from the bench later in the game, but new signing Kevin Foley is unavailable as Town are yet to receive international clearance, the Irish international full-back’s last club having been Danish side FC Copenhagen.
Strikers Jermaine Beckford and Stevie May are both out with knee injuries for Preston, while winger Chris Humphrey is also a long-term absentee with a shin problem.
Having stretched their league winning run to three games with the win at Bristol City on Tuesday, Lileywhites manager Simon Grayson is looking to continue that form at Portman Road.
"We started off the week in a real positive manner, getting the three points on Tuesday, the lads are buoyant obviously but not over-confident but we go to Ipswich, a team who are in the top six and desperate to maintain their promotion push,” he told the Preston official site.
"You know with Mick's teams what you are going to get, they are a hardworking, organised, resilient group, so we know we are in for a tough test.
"But we played them in the early part of the season and played very well for the first half an hour, they had to change how they were playing, we dominated.
“But unfortunately for us we lost a game that really we could have got something out of, other than two moments of brilliance from Pitman and Fraser. So it will be a tough game but a game that we are looking forward to."
The Lilywhites have had the better of the Blues historically, winning 13 games (11 in the league) between the sides while Town have been victorious on 10 (nine) occasions and eight (seven) matches have ended in draws.
In August, Pitman and Fraser netted as the then-top-of-the-table Blues won 2-1 to record their first league win at Deepdale since January 1966.
Pitman put Town in front with a header against the run of play in the 24th minute but Daniel Johnson hit back for the home side before Fraser sealed it with a brilliant strike on 65.
Prior to that the teams last met in the FA Cup in January 2014 when Preston beat the Blues 3-2 after a replay at Deepdale, the first tie having ended 1-1.
At Portman Road in the first game, David McGoldrick followed up to score in the 38th minute after having a second penalty in a week saved, before Kevin Davies equalised for the visitors four minutes later.
In the replay, Lilywhites sub Joe Garner scored a 20-minute second-half hat-trick as the League One side came from behind to win.
After a goalless first half, Frank Nouble put the Blues in front but Garner hit back twice in a minute before sub David McGoldrick equalised, however, the Preston striker’s third in the 87th minute sealed the victory.
The teams last met in the Championship at Portman Road in the 2010/11 season when the Blues won 2-1 with Jason Scotland and David Norris on target for Town and Paul Coutts for the visitors.
Despite the inclement weather, Saturday's game isn’t expected to be in any doubt with the Portman Road pitch having been covered by its protective bubble since Wednesday.
The Town support will once again be joined by around 100 fans of Fortuna Düsseldorf, who will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of their link with the Blues.
Town are running a ticket promotion at Saturday's game with season ticket holders able to buy a further four seats at reduced prices in advance of the match.
After the game former strikers James Scowcroft and Alan Lee will be appearing at a Legends in Legends event.
Saturday’s referee is Simon Hooper from Wiltshire, who has shown 66 yellow cards and two red in 28 games so far this season.
Hooper’s most recent Town match was the 3-0 Capital One Cup defeat at Manchester United in September in which he booked only Jonny Parr.
Prior to that he was in charge of the Blues’ 2-0 home victory over Burnley at Portman Road in August in which he yellow-carded visitors’ winger Michael Kightly and no one else.
Hooper also officiated in the 1-0 defeat at Reading in August last season in which he booked Tyrone Mings, Tommy Smith and Christophe Berra and two home players.
He also took control of the 1-0 win at Yeovil the previous season and the 3-0 home win against Crystal Palace in April 2013.
Squad from: Gerken, Bialkowski, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Emmanuel, Berra, Smith, Malarczyk, Skuse, Douglas, Hyam, Coke, Tabb, Bru, Maitland-Niles, Fraser, Oar, Sears, Pitman, Murphy, Varney.
Photo: Action Images
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