|Ipswich Town 2 v 2 Blackburn Rovers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
McCarthy: We Need Six Points From Next Two
Tuesday, 15th Mar 2016 06:00
Boss Mick McCarthy believes the Blues need to take six points from the back-to-back home games against Blackburn this evening and Rotherham on Saturday to stay involved in the play-off fight. Town go into this evening's match, their game in hand, in ninth, four points from the top six with an inferior goal difference.
“We want six points from the two games,” McCarthy said. “I’m not being over-optimistic, that’s what we need, I think, to be involved.
“They’re our home games, that’s what we want. Who knows what tally it’s going to end up being to get in the play-offs.
“But just because Blackburn have been in a bit of a struggle and they’ve been inconsistent doesn’t mean they’re a poor team.
“Likewise, we’ve got Rotherham coming, who have just beaten Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough, they’re fighting for their lives. They’ll be two tough games.”
He added: “We want to go out and win the game, that’s what we want to do and that’s what we’ve tried to do every single week of every season that I’ve ever been anywhere.
“I’ve not really set my teams up to go and get a draw. We need to win, we need points out of these two home games and we need to be positive about it. That’s what we’ll be doing.”
Four of the Blues’ next five games are at Portman Road - after Town are at Wolves on Saturday 2nd April Charlton and Brentford are in Suffolk - a spell which seems certain to be key to the Blues’ chances of being in the top six come May 7th.
“That’s a blow isn’t it with our home record,” McCarthy joked, ruefully reflecting on his side’s less than impressive form of seven wins from their 17 games at Portman Road this season.
“We’ve got 10 games to play, we’re running out of games and we need to play well in them, we need to pick points up in them.
“I’ve no idea what the tally will be to get into the play-offs on the last day of the season, but we need to start picking up points and Tuesday night would be a good time to start.”
He hopes the Portman Road crowd will get behind his side but says the relationship works both ways: “We’ve got to play and entertain them and get them going as well.
“It’s a two-way street that, it’s not just about the fans sticking with us. It’s down to us to get them going in the first place.”
Tonight’s match is Town’s game in hand on everyone around them except Birmingham, a place ahead of them on goal difference, who aren’t in action this evening.
McCarthy says the game in hand will mean little unless Town win it - “Absolutely” - particularly with matches starting to run out.
“As the games ebb away you find your chances of picking up points less and less, of course,” he continued.
“The importance of picking points up and not leaving it until the end increases. We’ve got to go to Derby, we’ve got to go to Middlesbrough, we’ve got to go to Sheffield Wednesday, so the games that we have before those are vitally important because they’ll be really tough games.”
Looking back to Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Cardiff, he said: “I don’t think we should have lost the game. We’ve lost from a restart, a corner kick when we didn’t mark properly.
“And other than that, I know they shot [just over] the cross-bar in the second half, but other than that there was nothing in it.
“I don’t think Bart was making saves but neither was their goalkeeper. If we’d have come away and it had been 0-0 I would have thought that it was a fair result, but it wasn’t because we didn’t defend properly.”
He added: “We’ve conceded more goals this season, but I think that’s a team event, not just the back four or the goalkeeper because the goalkeepers have been excellent. We’ve conceded too many goals.”
Like so many other matches in the Championship Saturday’s game was settled by a single goal one way or the other.
“All season it’s been about fine margins,” the Town boss said. “There have been times when we’ve disappointed ourselves, we’ve conceded a goal in the last minute that’s cost us points.
“And there are times when we’ve come off and we’ve been absolutely cock-a-hoop because we’ve won it in the last minute.
“And I guess all the teams can say exactly the same. The teams in this league are pretty close, you can see that even with all the money that Derby have spent and Boro have spent they can still be beaten.”
He added: “We’ve got 10 games to play, there are 30 points to play for and we need to get as many as we can, by hook or by crook.
“I think if we got the same number of points from the next three games as we did prior to Saturday, seven points out of three, then [I’d be happy with that] irrespective of how we played.
“I’d like to play better, of course, but it’s not the time of year, I think. I’m looking around at so many teams that are just scrapping their way through.
“I was at Charlton on Sunday and they were the better team, the most efficient team. Middlesbrough played football, they’re struggling.
“It’s a time of year that the pressure comes on and it’s about getting results. But I’d love to play better, starting on Tuesday night.”
He says increased pressure and the relentless nature of the Championship are both factors affecting teams' form: “I think the pressure to get results quite clearly gets more and more intense as the games dwindle away.
“Dare I mention it that professional footballers may get fatigued at this stage of the season when they have five games in two weeks?
“They do and form can take a dip and I think that’s been the case within the Championship across the board, except for Burnley, who are just ploughing ahead.”
Having covered almost 1,000 miles on the trips to and from Bolton and Cardiff in the last week, McCarthy admits that he was getting fed up of life on the coach, although he refused to blame Saturday’s defeat on the time on the road.
“The travelling doesn’t bother me normally, but even to me coming back into Ipswich the other night I was getting a little bit tired of it, I have to be honest, so it’ll be nice to be at home,” he said.
“If you look at the stats we had loads of the game, we just conceded a goal from a corner kick, which was really poor defending.”
Blackburn, who are 16th, 12 points behind the Blues, have had an even busier schedule, their FA Cup run - the reason this game was postponed from Saturday 20th February - having meant that they’ve played two games a week for the last month, a total of 10 games in 31 days.
McCarthy says he didn’t particularly notice their players looking tired when watching Saturday's 2-1 home defeat to Leeds, although it was mentioned by one of the club’s scouts.
“Not really, although in one of the reports I’ve just read - I’ve not watched the game in full, I’ve only watched the first half of that and two other games - it does suggest that that was the case towards the end of the game.
“But that can be because you’re losing the game. But they have had a tough time, they’ve had a really hectic, congested fixture list and I think continue to do so after us.”
McCarthy was in no doubt that Blackburn deserved their 2-0 victory over the Blues at Ewood Park in October.
“They bashed us there, that was one of the biggest doings we’ve had all season. And it wasn’t long after that that Gary Bowyer lost his job,” he recalled.
“I spoke to him and told him I was amazed, I thought they were one of the best teams we’d played.”
Former Norwich boss Paul Lambert took over in November and McCarthy says he rates the Scot as a manager.
“I’ve not been keeping close tabs on what he’s been doing. I know he started really well and then he had a bit of a dip but overall I’m not certain in terms of what he’s done.
“But I just know he’s a really good manager. Wherever he’s been he’s had a positive effect and I certainly think he’s having that.
“Certainly in the games I’ve watched and the games we’ve done for our analysis they’re playing well.”
While the Blues have had a relatively stable squad this season, Lambert has added amongst others Danny Graham, Jordi Gomez (both Sunderland) and Tony Watt (Charlton) on loan.
“They were in a position where they needed to get five or six loan players, I wasn’t in that position,” McCarthy continued.
“Funnily enough in January I’d got a fully fit squad and everybody was going really well, [loanees] weren’t required. It was almost immediately in February that we started picking up injuries.
“They’ve got good players in Tony Watt, Danny Graham, Elliott Bennett, the front three have been playing particularly well.
“I think I’ve said before, every week the opposition team gets put up and I’ve never once looked it and thought ‘They’re a load of mugs, they can’t play’.
“It’s usually the opposite, ‘Wow, that’s a good Championship team with good Championship players’.
“Blackburn are exactly the same. I don’t know what he had in terms of players but they got good money for a couple of them, Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes. He’s had to replace and the players he’s stuck in are good ones.”
McCarthy is likely to stick with Bartosz Bialkowski in goal and his usual back four of skipper Luke Chambers at right-back, Jonas Knudsen on the left and Christophe Berra and Tommy Smith in the centre of the defence.
The Town boss has said he could look to shuffle his pack to some extent with the Blues playing the fourth of five games in 15 days.
Kevin Foley, who is fit after missing the Cardiff game with bruised ribs, could come into the team alongside Cole Skuse having impressed in the recent home game against Nottingham Forest and at Bristol City.
Ben Pringle will be on the left, while McCarthy will have to decide whether to opt to switch Freddie Sears back to the right, continue with Kevin Bru or perhaps bring in Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Up front, if Sears goes back to his wide role, Brett Pitman will come back into the team alongside Daryl Murphy.
Blackburn boss Paul Lambert says he could switch his personnel given their recent busy schedule.
"We are coming to the tail end of it now, game 10 of 11 games, and it is a big, big, ask," he told Rovers official website.
"We need to look at something with these games on Tuesday and Saturday because, whilst I never thought we deserved to lose the game against Leeds, I thought there was a lot of tired brains and decision-making.
"You could see it in their final pass, I just knew myself it was probably a game too much.
"So there might be a case for one or two changes, there's a chance to do, it is something that we'll look at to maybe give some of the lads a break.
"We'll be more or less the same squad that features, whether I decide to change it or not we'll have to wait and see."
Midfielder Jordi Gomez is amongst those who may be rested, while Craig Conway, Matt Grimes and Corry Evans could come into the side.
Sidelined trio Jason Lowe (foot), Nathan Delfouneso (knee) and Danny Guthrie (hamstring) are all on the comeback trail and played for the U21s yesterday but won't be involved against the Blues.
Town have had the upper hand on Rovers over the years, winning 17 games (14 in the league), losing 15 (14) and drawing 16 (15).
Home and away, the Blues have won just one of their last 11 games against Rovers in all competitions, drawing five and losing five, and only one of their last 14 in the league, drawing six and losing seven.
However, Blackburn have won only one of their last 12 league games at Portman Road, a Premier League match in November 1994 which ended 3-1.
In October at Ewood Park, Blues nemesis Jordan Rhodes, who moved on to Middlesbrough in January, scored two first-half goals to condemn Town to a 2-0 defeat.
The former Blues striker netted the first from the penalty spot in the 12th minute, then headed home the second four minutes later.
Last time at Portman Road, in October 2014, Ben Marshall scored an injury time freekick as 10-man Rovers grabbed a 1-1 draw.
David McGoldrick curled home a freekick in the 65th minute after Matt Kilgallon had been dismissed having picked up two yellow cards and the Blues looked well on their way to their fourth successive home win until Marshall’s late sucker punch.
Town midfielder Jonathan Douglas joined Blackburn from hometown club Monaghan United as an 18-year-old in 2000 but spent much of his time with Rovers out on loan and made only 16 starts and eight sub appearances in six years at Ewood Park, scoring once.
Striker Luke Varney left Blackburn last summer having spent the end of 2014/15 on loan at Portman Road. The 33-year-old had joined Rovers the previous July but made only one start and 13 sub appearances while at Ewood Park, without scoring.
Blackburn’s former Norwich striker Simeon Jackson spent time training with the Blues’ academy as a schoolboy.
Tonight’s referee is Iain Williamson from Berkshire, who has shown 107 yellow cards and six red in 28 games so far this season.
Williamson’s most recent Town match was the 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in March 2014 when Danny Graham scored both goals, while Blues skipper Chambers and Luke Hyam were the only players to be shown yellow cards.
Earlier that season, Williamson took charge of the 3-2 win at Blackpool in which Stephen Hunt was the only player cautioned.
Williamson has shown a number of Town players red cards over the years. At Scunthorpe in March 2008 he dismissed Pablo Couñago and Iron defender Jack Cork for an off-the-ball clash as the Blues won 2-1 at Glanford Park.
Three months earlier, in a 2-1 loss at Coventry, he gave Tommy Miller his marching orders and in April 2007 he sent off Alex Bruce and future Town loanee Stephen Bywater after they clashed in a 2-1 victory over Derby at Portman Road.
In December 2003, during a 0-0 draw at Millwall, Georges Santos was shown a red card which was later rescinded after an appeal.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Foley, Berra, Smith, Digby, Hyam, Douglas, Skuse, Tabb, Bru, Pringle, Maitland-Niles, Touré, Sears, Pitman, Murphy, Varney.
Photo: Action Images
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