Town Out to Make it Four Wins From Four at Millwall
Monday, 14th Aug 2017 20:27
Town boss Mick McCarthy visits one of his old clubs for the second time in four days as the Blues look to continue their 100 per cent start to the season at Millwall.
Having beaten Barnsley, where he began his playing career, 2-1 on Saturday, Town take on the Lions, with whom McCarthy began his 25 years in management.
“Barnsley my home, my hometown and that’s never going to change and I don’t want it to,” the Town boss reflected on the weekend trip to Oakwell.
“And going back evokes so many happy memories of playing there, the number of games I played.
“Millwall gave me my first chance as manager and I’ll never forget that. I think I’ve got a good relationship with them for 363 days of the year, it's only the two days we play them home and away that they really give out to me, which is fair enough, I get that.
“It’s a great club, I love going back to it. But, wow, they don’t half make it hard.
"I’ve a lot of respect for Neil Harris, having played there because you can be the hero scoring all the goals and then you become the manager and it can get tough, which it has been.
“But he got them promoted and I’ve watched them in both games and they were unlucky against Forest.
“Saturday’s game was a bit more of a turgid affair because I think both of them wanted to avoid losing more than forcing a win. It was a tough game. And I’ll be expecting exactly the same tomorrow night.”
Do fans give managers a bit of leeway if they've been successful ex-players there previously? “Not at all, no. I think they do when you initially get the job, they’ve always got that fondness for you, love for him because he was a goalscorer and they really thought highly of him, he was fantastic.
“I didn’t play as many games there as he did and, of course, if you put the ball in the net you’re always thought of a lot more highly.
“I know that they get fractious with us like everybody else does, they want to see the team winning and playing well. But I know everybody thinks very highly of him, and rightfully so.”
Looking back to his own start as a manager back in March 1992, he added: “It was a good club, they were in what’s the Championship now, it was the Second Division at the time when I took over.
“And there was a lot going on. I had to deal with a lot, it was a real eye-opener, it was brilliant and I loved it.”
McCarthy was in charge at Millwall when they moved to their current home, a switch which he said changed the culture of the club to some degree: “It did a bit. It was certainly harder to play at the old Den, that’s for sure.
“That's a bit like a lot of stadiums that have changed, though. You could argue Derby and Sunderland and a lot of others, Brighton, going down to the Goldstone Ground or the Withdean.
“That has changed a lot of clubs but it was certainly for the better to have a brand new stadium and hopefully they can be a success again. But not tomorrow.”
He says current Lions boss Harris will have been determined to get a first point on the board from Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with Bolton, having lost their opening match 1-0 at Forest before beating Stevenage 2-0 in the Carabao Cup.
“That’s the point I’m making about the Bolton game, neither of them would have wanted to lose that game,” McCarthy continued.
“I thought they played better in the Forest game, which was a more open game and had more chances. They needed something, it’s vital at the start, you need to get something on the board, and they’ve done it.”
Reflecting on his own side’s three-wins-out-of-three start to the season, the Blues manager says it’s been particularly pleasing given the number of players who have been absent with injury or as they’re recovering from illness.
“It has given the fact that we have had a fairly depleted squad, we’ve had five midfield players and then two centre-backs missing,” he said. “And they're all first-team players, it’s not like they’re just bit-part players.
“Everybody who has come into the team and has had to play, whether that’s slightly out of position or in a slightly new role, they’ve all acquitted themselves wonderfully well and it’s been lovely. But it is a start, that’s all.
“Tuesday night will be tough for us at Millwall, then we’ve got Brentford coming, who we know are always a good side.”
The Blues boss is also delighted his strikers have made a good start with Joe Garner and Martyn Waghorn both netting on their Blues league debuts and David McGoldrick having scored three in the last two games, while Freddie Sears is yet to find the target but has also made a significant contribution to the promising first eight days of the campaign.
“Didzy’s come into the team and had a real impact, which is great because he wanted to play,” McCarthy added.
“He thought he was fit for the first game. He had a real impact on Saturday coming off the bench.
“Joe’s just been great, everybody’s taken to Joe Garner. Waggy was a different thing, he went and played out wide right, but I’ve no worries about that, he’s played that position.
“He drifts on the inside [like he did for the goal on Saturday], it was a great finish, he just passed it into the net, it was a fabulous goal.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will continue in goal for Town at the Den where McCarthy may well continue with the four-man backline which ended Saturday’s match at Oakwell.
That will probably see Dominic Iorfa and Jonas Knudsen as the full-backs and Jordan Spence join skipper Luke Chambers in the centre. Alternatively, he could swap Spence and Iorfa.
Grant Ward is likely to join Cole Skuse in the centre of the midfield with Flynn Downes on the bench if he is over the knocks to his foot and calf which saw him subbed at Barnsley.
Out wide, McCarthy could opt to start with the pair who ended Saturday’s game, Waghorn, who will be making his full debut for the Blues, on the right and Sears on the left, with McGoldrick partnering his one-time Forest team-mate Garner up front.
Bersant Celina is likely to play a part and make his Town league debut from the bench at some stage.
Town's last visit to South London saw them thrashed 6-1 by Charlton in their final pre-season friendly in stark contrast to their form since the season proper began.
“I’m not surprised, they had a terrible pre-season, so I thought they’d have a great start,” Millwall boss Harris joked when speaking to News at Den.
“It goes against what fans think is going to happen based on pre-season, that goes all out the window.
“What you get from Ipswich is hard work, organisation, gritty determination – and they have quality at this level.
“Mick has got some really experienced Championship players, and he’s got some good young players coming through as well. So it’s a good blend.
“They had three good results in the opening week. We know that they are going to be tough to break down and they will be resilient.
“They’ve got some attacking prowess in their side. Mick spent money bringing in attacking threats in Joe Garner and Martyn Waghorn to add to David McGoldrick and Freddie Sears. That’s four really good attacking players who could cause us problems.
“We have to be mindful of that and defend as well as we have done in the first two games. Certainly at Forest we were excellent until the last touch, and against Bolton we could have been better in the final third.
"Our play up to then was very impressive. We have to just add the final touch and the goals will come.”
Lions striker Aiden O’Brien seems unlikely to be involved against the Blues due to a hamstring problem picked up in the opening fixture.
“He came off at Forest with what we thought was a tight hamstring but he had a scan a couple of days ago and there is a small tear in there,” Harris added.
“At this stage of the season we can’t take any risks. We’ve got to make sure he is 100 per cent right before he comes into the squad.
“Everyone else is fine. It’s just a case of making sure we know who is fresh and ready to go on Tuesday night.”
Defender Jake Cooper could come back into the team after recovering from an ankle injury, while ex-Blues loanee Ryan Tunnicliffe may make his Lions debut.
Blues manager McCarthy was a Millwall player at the end of his career between 1990 and 1992, when he took over as boss. He remained manager at the Den until 1996 when he took charge of the Republic of Ireland.
McCarthy’s record as manager of the Lions reads played 203, won 74, drew 70 and lost 59. In 1993/94 they finished third in what’s now the Championship but lost out to Derby County in the play-off semi-finals.
New Blues striker Waghorn spent time on loan at the Den in the 2013/14 season when a Leicester player, scoring three goals in 13 starts and one sub appearance.
Millwall midfielder Tunnicliffe spent time on loan with the Blues in the first half of the 2013/14 season when with Manchester United, making 24 starts and five sub appearances without scoring.
He joined the Lions last month following his release by Fulham, Town having shown interest earlier in pre-season but without making the 24-year-old a contract offer.
Another Millwall midfielder, 26-year-old Calum Butcher, was an academy schoolboy with Town before moving on to Tottenham’s youth set-up but returned to Playford Road for a trial in December 2010 when he featured at right-back for the Blues’ reserves in a 2-1 defeat to Luton.
The sides are closely-matched historically, Town having won 20 games (16 in the league), Millwall 19 (18) and with 13 (13) having ended in draws.
The teams last met at the Den in January 2015 when full debutant Noel Hunt scored twice and sub Jonny Parr once as Town beat Millwall 3-1 to climb to second in the Championship.
Hunt put the Blues two in front before Magaye Guyeye pulled a goal back for the Lions just before the break but Parr sealed it in the 77th minute.
In the previous September at Portman Road, strike pair McGoldrick and Daryl Murphy were on target as the Blues beat Millwall 2-0. McGoldrick put Town in front in first half injury time and Murphy added the second in the 63rd minute.
Tuesday’s referee is James Linington from Newport Isle-of-Wight, who has shown nine yellow cards and no red in his two games so far this season.
Linington’s most recent Town match was the 3-1 defeat at Cardiff in March in which he booked only Christophe Berra and Brett Pitman.
Prior to that he was the referee in the 3-2 home victory over Blackburn in January in which he booked Andre Dozzell and Tom Lawrence and awarded Rovers a penalty when Adam Webster tangled with Hope Akpan which was converted by Danny Graham.
Linington was also in charge of the 2-1 home victory over Sheffield Wednesday in August 2015 in which he booked Jonathan Douglas and Ryan Fraser and two of the visitors.
Before that he officiated in the 3-2 home win against Blackpool April 2015 in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Earlier in the 2014/15 season he refereed the 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest, when he booked only one home player, and the 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough at Portman Road in which he yellow-carded David McGoldrick and three Teessiders.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Spence, Iorfa, Knudsen, Kenlock, Chambers, Woolfenden, Skuse, Downes, Nydam, Ward, McDonnell, Celina, Rowe, Garner, Sears, McGoldrick, Waghorn.
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