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Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
McCarthy to Make Changes as Blues Face Owls
Tuesday, 21st Nov 2017 19:36
Town boss Mick McCarthy has confirmed he’ll make changes to his team as the Blues take on Sheffield Wednesday at Portman Road in the second match in their run of five in 15 days (Sky Sports Main Event/Football from 7.30pm, KO 7.45pm).
McCarthy says he'll reshuffle the side which began Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Hull City: “It’ll be a different team tomorrow, definitely.”
However, the Blues manager wouldn’t be drawn on how many changes he might make but seems unlikely to replicate the six he made for the recent midweek trip to Cardiff with his options more limited.
“I had 20 first-team outfield players training today, that’s what I’ve got,” he said. “Emyr Huws and Bish are two of them, Ben Folami’s another, Jonas Knudsen [who is suspended] was another, so I’m down to 16 really.
“Tristan Nydam’s another, who has just turned 18, Flynn Downes was another who is 18. That’s why it’s important that we can get Bish back, I mean really back, Emyr really back, Tom Adeyemi really back, Tommy Smith really back to bolster that squad because at the moment they’re all first-team players. Anybody who walks past my door’s a first-team player.”
Although Huws and Teddy Bishop will be back in the squad for the first time this season, Adeyemi remains sidelined with his hamstring injury.
McCarthy admits it’s been frustrating to have his two summer midfield additions - Huws was signed from Cardiff on a permanent basis having been on loan at Portman Road in the second half of last season and Adeyemi was recruited having been released by the Bluebirds - yet to play together and academy product Bishop also having been unavailable.
“It has been, but thankfully I’ve got some good young players and I’ve got some good pros, like Kevin Bru, who was available for transfer, and when he’s had to play he’s been great, so people have stepped in,” the Blues boss added.
“Callum Connolly’s come in and played in midfield. It’s been good that we’ve had those players to back it up and to supplement it, but it has been disappointing because who knows [what would have happened if they’d been fit]?
“Just seeing Emyr and Teddy Bishop in training, the ability that they’ve got, and we’ve seen Tom play, of course, and we know what he brings to the table. Having them fully fit I’m sure would have made us a better team.”
In their absence he says he’s been delighted with Connolly, 20, who is on loan for the season from Everton.
“Very pleased,” he said. “I think he was a bit disappointed that he didn’t have more of the ball and he wasn’t in there dictating, dominating, passing it all over [at Hull],” he said.
“I said to him, ‘Look, I’ve got four strikers on the pitch, David McGoldrick, Garns, Waggy and Bersant. They need a solid base from which to perform and if they hadn’t got that then we’d be defending a lot more.
“And he was in the right places, his positioning was really good, he won his tackles, his headers when he needed to, he tracked back, he cleared one out of the six-yard box when he had to.
“He did all that stuff that goes unseen, that water carrying that Didier Deschamps used to do so wonderfully well which enables the front players to be able to play and create their chances. I’ve been pleased with him. He’s been very good in there.”
The Blues are still to beat a side currently in the top half of the division - although Preston, who were defeated 3-0 in the last game at Portman Road, were 10th going into the match - but McCarthy isn’t particularly concerned where points are picked up as long as they’re put on the board.
“I told you, I’d settle for 23 wins against the teams in the bottom half,” he insisted. “But we want to play well and beat Sheffield Wednesday. I’m not being flippant about that.
“But it’s the points that you get that matter, not where you get them from. But, of course, we’d like to play really well against Sheffield Wednesday and put a team to bed that we think should be in the top six and have a good performance. And our next game is against one of them, so let’s hope we can do it.”
Despite their record against the division’s higher flyers, the Blues have rarely been outclassed this season.
“We’ve not been really turned over,” McCarthy reflected. “The team that turned us over most was [now-17th] Fulham and I don’t know what’s happened to them. I scratch my head every time I look at the league and see them playing.
“We’ve got Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow, we want to play well and, of course, we’d like to win.”
Ahead of the Tuesday night fixtures the Blues are ninth, one point off the top six with a game in hand, next Tuesday’s trip to Derby County. Does the Town boss believe Town have a chance of being in the play-off shake-up come May?
“I think so, I never think anything else, I just think we’re always going to be competitive,” he said.
“We’ve had a good start to the season. I thought it was a good performance on Saturday and a great point, particularly in the manner in which it came - late on having missed a penalty.
“But we’re playing one of the teams that you would think would be in the top six and should be. They have been in the play-offs with Carlos Carvalhal twice, they’re a team that we need to beat at home.”
McCarthy expects Wednesday, who are a point and a place behind Town going into Tuesday’s games, to make the top six again this season despite some fans having called for Carvalhal’s head not too long ago.
Since suffering back-to-back mid-October defeats at lowly Bolton and Derby, the Owls have sandwiched two wins - both 2-1 at home to Millwall and away at Aston Villa - between two draws, 1-1 and 0-0 at home to Barnsley and Bristol City respectively.
“They’re just behind us in the table, I think they’ll get in the top six,” McCarthy continued. “They’ve been there, they’ve been used to being in there. I know that when you’ve been in the play-offs and you don’t get promoted, you can have a real downturn.
“And I think they’ve had that but they seem to be coming back. Fernando Forestieri, Gary Hooper, Steven Fletcher, Jordan Rhodes - they’ve got some firepower when they get it going.
“And they have good supply from Ross Wallace and Adam Reach, they’re not bereft of options, that’s for sure.
“They’ve got a good squad and I think Carlos is a top bloke, I really like him. He’s brought other things to it but he’s embraced everything about the Championship.
“I know we all like him, all the staff. I don’t want to give him anything tomorrow and until after the game he’s my enemy but he’s a good bloke and I wish him well.”
McCarthy says the pair will have a beer after the game whatever the result, a convention he feels is important and one to which the majority of bosses also adhere.
“Yes, most of us do, there are some mizzogs that don’t,” he added. “Generally it’s been the Brits that have done it and some of the other managers.
“Having said that, Carlos did, I always remember the little Italian fella that got the Watford job [Giuseppe Sannino], he was great. He couldn’t speak English, I couldn’t speak Italian, but we had a great conversation for about 10 minutes about how in Italy it’s just war all the time, there’s none of this social side.
“And I think there should be a social side, I think there should be that mutual respect after games and going and shaking his hand and saying ‘Well done’.
“You might be seething at the referee’s decision, you might be seething at something that’s happened, but there’s not that many of us so at least go and shake his hand, wish him well and prepare to kick lumps out of him the next time.
“That has always been the way that we’ve done it. Most of us do, most of us get together and have a beer.
“Leon [Slutsky] did on Saturday at Hull, he was different class, by the way. I liked him, a smashing fella, I really liked him.
“He said the Championship is the hardest league in the world. I said, ‘Yeah, I know, I’ve been in it for 20-odd years!’. He went, ‘Oh no, no, no! Suicide!’. I said, ‘I’m thinking about it!’.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will again start in goal with Myles Kenlock replacing the suspended Jonas Knudsen at left-back.
McCarthy could opt to swap Jordan Spence, the scorer of the last-gasp goal at Hull, for Dominic Iorfa as he has done during previous similarly busy periods. Skipper Luke Chambers and Adam Webster will be the cente-halves.
Cole Skuse will be in his usual central midfield role with Callum Connolly again seeming likely to be the Bristolian’s partner with one or both of Huws and Bishop potentially playing a part from the bench.
Joe Garner will be in his lone out-and-out striker’s role but McCarthy might look to rest one or two of the trio - David McGoldrick, Martyn Waghorn and Bersant Celina - playing behind him with Freddie Sears and Grant Ward both hoping for recalls.
If McGoldrick is on the field - the Irish international has tended to be one of those rested when the Blues have had three games in eight days previously - McCarthy says he has no qualms about the Town number 10 taking another penalty, despite his weekend miss: “If we get one tomorrow he’ll have it, no problem, not at all.”
For the Owls, winger Ross Wallace is expected to be over a bout of flu, but midfielder George Boyd (shoulder operation), defender Sam Hutchinson and striker Fernando Forestieri (both knee) will miss out.
Carvalhal hints that he won’t make too many changes against Town but may instead look at resting players on Saturday when the South Yorkshiremen travel to Reading.
“We will play with the team that we think is best to play against Ipswich and will try to win the game,” he said. “We must manage the team after Ipswich. We will see which players recover best.”
Historically, Town have the edge having won 19 games (18 in the league), Wednesday 18 (17) and with 12 (11) matches having ended in draws.
Wednesday have been defeated in nine of their last 12 away league games played on Wednesdays, winning one and drawing two. The Owls have gone 33 games without winning a penalty.
In April, Kieran Lee’s 77th minute goal saw Sheffield Wednesday to a 1-0 victory over the Blues in last season's final game at Portman Road.
The midfielder turned home Daniel Pudil’s low cross to confirm the Owls’ play-off place and consign Town to back-to-back league defeats for the first time in 59 games stretching to February last year.
Prior to that match Blues boss McCarthy had gone 14 games without losing to Wednesday since a 2-0 League Cup defeat at the Den while in charge at Millwall in 1995, his only previous managerial loss to his fellow South Yorkshiremen.
At Hillsborough in November last year, skipper Luke Chambers headed an 87th minute winner to see the Blues to a 2-1 victory.
In the first half Tom Lawrence had put Town ahead with a brilliant first goal for the club but Hooper had hit back almost immediately with what looked to be an offside goal for the Owls.
Town striker David McGoldrick spent a month at Hillsborough during the early part of 2011/12, scoring once in three starts and one sub appearance.
Jordan Rhodes, who joined the Owls from Middlesbrough in January, initially on loan before making his move permanent in the summer.
The former Kesgrave High School pupil came through the academy ranks at Playford Road having moved to the Blues’ youth set-up in March 2005 for £5,000 from Barnsley after his father Andy joined the club as goalkeeper-coach.
The striker made 10 sub appearances and scored one goal for the Town first team before being controversially sold to Huddersfield by then-manager Roy Keane in the summer of 2009 for a fee which, after top-ups and a sell-on following his £8 million move to Blackburn Rovers in August 2012, climbed to just over £1 million.
During his time at Ewood Park, Rhodes scored six goals in six games against the Blues, the team he still supports, while he failed to find the net as Town drew 0-0 with Boro at the Riverside in April 2016 and after coming on as a sub for the Owls on their visit to Portman Road at the end of last season.
Rhodes senior is currently head of goalkeeping at Hillsborough, while ex-Blues left-back Neil Thompson coaches their U23s.
Defender Morgan Fox was a schoolboy at Town's Playford Road academy before being released at 11.
Wednesday’s referee is Keith Stroud from Hampshire, who has shown 42 yellow cards and three red in eight games so far this season.
Stroud’s most recent Town game was the 1-1 draw at Leeds in February in which he booked only Knudsen.
Prior to that he refereed the Blues’ 3-2 win at Wigan in December in which he awarded Town a contentious penalty, which was converted by Brett Pitman, and booked the striker, Andre Dozzell, Tom Lawrence and three home players.
Before that the veteran official was in charge of the 4-2 victory over Barnsley at Portman Road on the opening day of last season when he also awarded the Blues a penalty which was converted by McGoldrick. He booked Bru, Bishop and three Tykes.
He also took control of the 3-2 home victory over the MK Dons in the final home match of 2015/16, in which he booked Smith and one opposition player and awarded the visitors a spotkick.
Stroud also officiated in the 1-1 home draw with Birmingham in September 2015 in which he gave the Blues another penalty, again netted by Pitman, which was bitterly disputed by the visitors when Ainsley Maitland-Niles was felled by Jonathan Spector. He booked Christophe Berra, Jonathan Douglas and two visiting players.
A former Premier League referee and one-time FIFA assistant, Stroud also refereed the 3-2 defeat at Brighton in January 2015 in which he booked Bru and Noel Hunt and one Seagull.
He also took charge of the 1-0 home derby defeat to Norwich at Portman Road in August 2014 and Town’s 1-0 home victory over Birmingham in March of the same year.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Spence, Iorfa, Knudsen, Kenlock, Chambers, Webster, Woolfenden, Skuse, Connolly, Bru, Huws, Nydam, Downes, Bishop, Ward, Celina, Garner, Sears, McGoldrick, Waghorn, Folami.
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