|Cardiff City 3 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 18th March 2017 Kick-off 15:00
McCarthy: We're in a Relegation Scrap
Saturday, 18th Mar 2017 18:30
Boss Mick McCarthy admitted Town are in a “relegation scrap” following their 3-1 defeat at Cardiff City, the Blues having dropped to 17th, just five points above the relegation zone.
“We were well beaten,” he reflected on the defeat to the Bluebirds, who came from behind to win after Luke Chambers had put Town in front. “We were poor and I thought they were good.
“I guess [Cardiff boss] Neil [Warnock] will say that you go out and beat somebody and you make them play poorly, badly, you don’t let them get going.
“I thought they were very good but I didn’t think we were anywhere near what our standards have been.”
The Blues boss, who was celebrating his 25th anniversary as a manager, felt Cardiff’s second goal five minutes after the break was a key moment.
“We won the first header, then it got headed back on top of us and we didn’t win the first ball, we didn’t win the second one and it ended up in the back of our net. It was really poor from us, poor defending.
“All three. We’ve not defended well for any of them. We didn’t get organised for the set piece, having talked about it. They won’t score an easier equaliser, that’s for sure.”
He added: “We didn’t start well at all, we gave far too many freekicks away, they were putting it in freely from the edge of our box.
“Having got the goal, you never know what’s going to happen, we thought we might get a response and I think we did actually, it was OK then.
“It was their goal, we’ve allowed them to stick the ball in the box, which was really poor. But you could see it coming, they were putting a lot of pressure on us.”
At half-time McCarthy switched from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 but he admitted the change didn’t work.
“Because what we were doing wasn’t working,” he continued. “The way they were playing, I think our back three defenders were almost being occupied by one striker and it wasn’t working. But it didn’t work the other way around when I took him [Tommy Smith] off either.
“[The second] was an awful goal to concede. We’ve got a back four and we weren’t really organised, it’s not like we haven’t played a back four. To think that we can’t play a back four is ridiculous, we’ve played that for pretty much four and a half years since I’ve been here.”
With eight games to go the Blues look to be one of seven sides battling to avoid finishing 22nd, which would see Town drop into the third tier for the first time since 1957.
“We’re in a relegation scrap, I’ve never denied that,” he said. “I’ve been asked that in press conferences all the time and I’ve always said I’m looking over my shoulder or in the wing mirrors at teams behind me not up in front of me.
“I’ve not been shying away from that ever and we can’t afford to play like that because there’s always somebody that slithers into that bottom three and always somebody that scraps their way out.
“And it’s funny, when you’re trying to scrap your way out, it’s amazing how much fight you have in you and when you’re going the other way it can be quite the opposite.”
Having been the ones fighting their way out of trouble in his first season in charge, the boot is now on the opposite foot.
“It is,” he admitted. “We all need to regroup I think in the week prior to the games that are coming up, they’re huge games, Birmingham and Wigan. We’ll certainly need to compete better and play better than we have.”
Given the Blues’ form, does he feel it’s a good or a bad time to have a break with no game next weekend due to the international fixtures.
“It doesn’t matter, we’ll find out when we come back against Birmingham whether it’s a good time or not, when we have those two games,” he reflected.
“It’s just important that when we do come back everybody’s in it together and we make it a really tough place for people to come, Portman Road. They’re huge games, massive games for us.”
McCarthy says he understands the frustrations felt by fans: “Do I look happy? I’m not happy with it at all and I’m not happy that people aren’t happy with me or with the players or with the club.
“I fully understand the dissenting voices but we’ve just got to make sure we’re staying in this league.”
The Town boss says it’s not easy to work out why form has fallen away after the promising displays in February.
“It’s more than frustrating, it’s bloody annoying,” he added. “Why have they not continued? It’s difficult to put your finger on it because we were playing particularly well, playing well with the 3-5-2. It wasn’t great last week and it wasn’t great today.”
Despite the result, McCarthy says he still plans to give players some time off during the international break.
“I will be, yes,” he continued. “There’s no point in bringing them in and hammering them, that’s not going to do any good.
“I think we need to be fresh when Birmingham and Wigan come to our place, we need to be full of running.”
Warnock was pleased that his team's performance brought them three points.
“We’ve had our opportunities with a little bit more nous we would have had nine points from three games," he reflected.
“As I said to the players just now, if you’d have told me when I walked through the door that we’d have 51 points with eight games to go, I’d have snapped your fingers off.
“You’ve got to give them credit, they’ve listened and learned and you can see they’re enjoying it, they’re winning their battles in every department.
“And there were some good goals today as well, I thought. A good atmosphere with the fans, just what we wanted before the international break.”
He added: “We wanted to change it slightly today, we were outnumbered in midfield today but we said let’s have a gamble.
“Last week we went with a different system and it was boring, I didn’t enjoy it at all, even though we should have won. I want to enjoy it if I can.
“I thought today it was a gamble because they could have picked us off in midfield but I thought we created more with the strikers on the field than we would have done like we did last week.
“I’m pleased that we scored the goals because that’s what we set out to do today, to be a bit more positive. Whenever the full-backs could get on that’s what I wanted them to do today, to get bombing on as much as they could.
“I thought they both did ever so well apart from the break away from the freekick when they should have scored [through Grant Ward], I thought we should have been stronger there then, but we’ll learn from that.”
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