Top-Six Finish Now Difficult But McCarthy Not Giving Up
Friday, 8th Apr 2016 06:00
Boss Mick McCarthy admits that finishing in the top six is looking “increasingly difficult” but says while it is still within reach the Blues will continue to fight for every point. Eighth-placed Town, who are seven points plus goal difference off the play-off places, have six games remaining, starting with Saturday’s home match against Brentford.
“We will try and get every point we possibly can and still try and get in the play-offs, although that’s become increasingly difficult,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that everybody within the confines of this training ground is all pulling together, that’s fine, there’s no doubt about that. And within the club I would hope that’s all the same.
“There’s none of us set off disappoint anybody, but I understand fans want to come and see us win and we’re all trying our best to make that happen.
“It’s still within reach, who knows, if we win on Saturday we’ve got Sheffield Wednesday next.
“Doesn’t look like it at the minute, it’s pie in the sky with the results we’ve had and the performances, maybe.
“But if we do win on Saturday and we won the following Saturday, suddenly it would all be open again.
“There is [still a lot which can go up and down with the other clubs in the running before the end of the season]. We’ve got to win, it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference unless we win. They can all do what they want, we’ve got to win.”
With the end of the season approaching, betting odds at Betway's Sportsbook currently have Ipswich priced at 14/1 to be in the play-offs after the remaining six matches.
He added: “It’s within touching distance. As my mate said, it’s the stick needs to be a bit longer, that’s all.”
McCarthy says that now’s not the time to pacify unhappy fans by introducing youngsters such as Andre Dozzell into the first team, although they may well get their chance if and when the top six is mathematically out of reach.
“Let’s concentrate on [trying to reach the play-offs] rather than anything else. But if it does become out of reach, then it would be a consideration,” he said.
“I always found that winning placates the fans and, of course, if you’re winning, no matter how you play people like it.
“If you’re not winning and you’re not playing well, that’s just horrible, I get that. I don’t particularly like it either.
“We talked recently about my pragmatic nature and the way my teams are and I said that but for that we might be in League One and but for that we may well be at the bottom scrapping away against relegation. Who knows?
“There are a few that would be happy to be in our position and I’m sat here unhappy about it. It depends which way you’re looking at it from.”
Town have gone 273 minutes since their last goal, despite fielding a side including three front players and Ben Pringle behind them in the last two games.
McCarthy says the Blues have lined-up more defensively on previous occasions and found the net more easily.
“It’s strange, isn’t it?” he continued. “We’ve had teams which have been far more disciplined and organised and rigid in their formation and won games, we’ve played and stuck at it and just not been as expansive.
“There’s not answer to it. You can sit in and nick a result or you can be all over them and get caught on the break, which, to be honest, we did with Rotherham. We were doing the attacking and got done on the break.”
He says the players are continuing to work on the training field as they try to end the goal drought.
“TC’s has his routines every Friday, not every Friday, if we’ve played Tuesday that’s too much because it’s a bit demanding then to be doing what he would do. But they continue practising.
“Nothing changes, it doesn’t change that much. You get into a routine and practice things and then you don’t ease up and stop doing it, then start doing it because we haven’t scored goals, it’s not fickle as that.”
The Town boss is pleased to have midfielder Teddy Bishop and striker David McGoldrick available again after their injuries but says they’re not yet ready to start games.
“I’m 100 per cent Bish is over his injuries but he’s nowhere near 100 per cent fit and ready to play 90 minutes,” he said.
“But that’s the minor side of it. The big side of it is that he’s not suffering with any injuries, he’s training every day, it’s brilliant.
“Didzy, I’m not certain about to start and play, that’s still the same. He had his 30 minutes cameo and I think he’ll benefit from that.
“Throwing them in and asking them to play 90 minutes, it’s just so different. Gradually getting the minutes into them so they can compete for 90 minutes is the way forward.”
Does he wonder what might have been this season had he had the duo fit and hadn’t also lost Ryan Fraser for two spells and more recently Daryl Murphy to injuries?
“Of course, but it doesn’t do me any favours thinking about that. And there’s nothing I can do about that at any stage, whether it’s when we’ve lost Murph, we’ve had Ryan missing for two chunks of the season. We just have to concentrate on Saturday and try and win the game.”
McCarthy has said he plans to freshen his side up for their third game in eight days and one of those who could come into the starting line-up is Luke Varney, who has impressed his manager having got over his achilles injury.
“I’m delighted with him, he’s been great. He’s an example to any professional. From snapping his achilles about this time last year to come back and train the way he’s done and to contribute the way he has and just to be a really good pro around the place is fab.”
Reflecting on the 2-2 draw at Brentford on the opening day of the season, when the hosts netted twice in injury time, McCarthy said: “It was one of our best performances and one of our biggest disappointments because we should never have lost two points in that game, as we have done in other games, at Forest, at Bolton, I can’t remember anywhere else off the top of my head.
“That was one of the best performances and one of the biggest regrets, biggest disappointments because we should have had three points from it.”
The Blues boss is unlikely to switch his keeper, Bartosz Bialkowski, or his back four of skipper Luke Chambers, Tommy Smith, Christophe Berra and Jonas Knudsen.
McCarthy may look to change things around in midfield. If he sticks with the 4-3-3 system he has utilised in recent matches Cole Skuse could be joined in the deeper lying roles by Luke Hyam with Kevin Bru perhaps coming into the more advanced position.
With Daryl Murphy still injured, Brett Pitman seems likely to continue in the central striking role with Luke Varney perhaps coming into the side for Liam Feeney on one flank with Freddie Sears on the other.
The returning McGoldrick and Bishop are likely to be introduced from the bench in the second half.
Brentford have a lengthy injury list with midfielder Josh McEachran out for the remainder of the campaign having refractured a metatarsal.
One-time Town trialist John Swift, who is on loan from Chelsea, is out with an achilles injury, while Leandro Rodriguez (hamstring) is not yet ready to return.
Lewis Macleod (knee), Philipp Hofmann (back) and Andreas Bjelland (cruciate) are also set to miss out, while Marco Djuricin has returned to training having been ill.
Bees head coach Dean Smith says his side is full of confidence after back-to-back victories over Nottingham Forest away, 3-0, and at home to Bolton, 3-1.
“The six points were just what we needed and they are what our performances deserved,” he told the Brentford official site.
“It gives everyone a bit of a breather but it also gives people renewed confidence and smiles on the faces.
“Hopefully, we can take that into Saturday’s game now against Ipswich Town who are pushing for the play-offs.
“I have a lot of respect for Mick McCarthy and the job that he has done at every football club.
“He gave me some great advice when I first took over at Walsall and he was at Wolves. I am looking forward to pitting my wits against him.
“We have got to be at our best because they are fighting to get into the play-offs. Every game in the Championship so far has been a physical test.
“There are a lot of physical players about in the league but we have got a good technical ability to our play as well.
“Historically the pitch at Portman Road has always been fantastic, so hopefully it will be the same and we can play some of our football.”
The teams have only met on 11 previous occasions with the Blues having had much the better of the West Londoners.
Overall, Town have won six of the games between the sides (two in the league), the Bees one (one) with four (four) ending in draws.
On the opening day of the season at Griffin Park, injury-time goals from Andre Gray and James Tarkowski saw Brentford grab a shock 2-2 draw.
Town had seemed well on their way to claiming all three points via goals from Kevin Bru and debutant Ryan Fraser either side of the break, but the Bees struck twice in time added on to claim a hugely unlikely point.
In March last year at Portman Road, Town missed a succession of second-half chances as the two play-off challenging sides drew 1-1.
Daryl Murphy put the Blues ahead in the ninth minute via his 22nd goal of the season, then Jonathan Douglas hit back for the Bees, before the Blues failed to take numerous opportunities to win it in the second half with Murphy missing a gilt-edged chance just after half-time.
Three current Town players have previously been with Brentford. Jay Tabb was at Griffin Park between August 2000 and June 2006, making 114 starts and 42 sub appearances, scoring 24 goals.
Centre-half Tommy Smith was on loan at Brentford between January and March 2010, making eight starts.
Former Bees skipper Jonathan Douglas joined the Blues on a free transfer last summer having made 186 starts and one sub appearance while at Griffin Park, scoring 17 goals.
Brentford loanee Swift was on trial with the Blues from his parent club Chelsea with a view to joining on loan in November 2014 but having impressed the Town management suffered an injury and the move never materialised.
Bees winger Alan Judge came close to joining the Blues from Notts County in the summer of 2013 but ended up moving to Blackburn.
Following the game the Supporters Club is staging their annual Player Awards Evening where the Player of the Year and the Academy Player of the Year will be named. Tickets to the event, which will be attended by the players and management staff, have already sold out.
Saturday’s referee is Phil Gibbs from the West Midlands, who has shown 56 yellow cards and two red in 19 games so far this season.
Gibbs’s last Town match was the 1-1 draw at AFC Bournemouth in which he booked only Luke Hyam.
Prior to that, he was in charge of the 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in September 2012 in which he again only showed one card, a yellow to a Teessider.
Earlier that year Gibbs refereed the Blues’ 1-0 home victory over Barnsley, while his only other Town game was the 2-1 defeat to the Tykes in October 2009.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Foley, Berra, Smith, Digby, Hyam, Douglas, Skuse, Tabb, Bru, Bishop, Pringle, Feeney, Maitland-Niles, Touré, Sears, Pitman, Varney, McGoldrick.
Photo: Action Images
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