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Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
McCarthy: Derby Win a Morale Booster Ahead of Forest Clash
Friday, 1st Dec 2017 17:01
Town boss Mick McCarthy says Tuesday’s 1-0 win at Derby was a morale booster for the Blues ahead of Saturday’s home game against the Rams’ East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest.
Winning Tuesday’s match - Town’s long-awaited game in hand - saw McCarthy’s side climb a place above the Tricky Trees into ninth only three points off the play-offs.
A rare defeat at Pride Park would have seen them go into Saturday’s game eight points off the top six, a very much more mid-table situation.
Asked whether the result and the move so close to the play-off places was a morale boost, McCarthy said: “Of course, it is. I can’t deny that, and the way we played. We didn’t give them that many chances.
“I thought we kept the ball in the first half well, in the second half they had more of the ball.
“Bart made one good save but I can’t remember him scampering around diving and making loads of others.
“It was a morale booster. When you’ve won you just come back down the road and you’re all happy about it. When you’ve lost you do nothing else but think about why you’ve lost, how you’ve lost, so it was a nice feeling.”
Town will play their fifth game in 15 days on Saturday but McCarthy says legs feel less tired if a team is in good form.
“Of course, if you’re playing well and winning. And we have played well. I’m not convinced we’ve had the points that we’ve deserved out of it.
“I thought we deserved a point at Hull. We should have beaten Sheffield Wednesday, that was just complete naivety and stupidity at the end.
“Villa, whether we deserved anything I thought we played well in the first half and then gave two stupid goals away.
“And I thought our all-round performance deserved it on Tuesday night. I’m not saying we were the best team with the ball, they had a lot of it, but they didn’t do a lot with it. We frustrated them, we’d scored our goal.
“Thank God for goal-line technology. It’s funny, isn’ it? The ref just looks at his wrist now and says ‘Goal’ and nobody argues a jot, not a thing.
“He could have a FitBit bracelet on and he’d go, ‘Goal, no problem’. It’s brilliant. I love it, it’s stopped all arguments.”
Tuesday’s win was Town’s first of the season against one of the higher-placed sides in the division - Derby were fourth - and only the second against a team in the top half, Preston having been 10th going into their visit to Portman Road.
“I don’t give that a minute’s thought,” the Town boss insisted. “I’ve said before, I’ll beat all the bottom half teams twice, 69 points, get in the play-offs. Bang, move on.
“That doesn’t worry me that. It was nice to beat Derby but then pretty much every time we’ve gone up there we’ve beaten them.
“Nevertheless, it’s a good result against a very good team, against a team which is full of good players. And I would expect them to be in the top six come the end of it.”
Did such a hard-working performance as Tuesday’s take a lot out of his players? “They did [work hard] but in a lot of respects when you’re almost having to play that way - we scored and I thought we played well in the first half, in the second we had to defend - you’re actually behind the ball for a lot of the time and it’s concentration as much as energy sometimes.
“But it was a tough old game. I said when we played Aston Villa after we’d played in the week that it didn’t look like it had taken the legs out of us and I’m not so sure it will again.
“Had we lost, that’s different but when you’ve won, you’re absolutely buoyed by the result, by the performance and every one of them played well. They’re all looking forward to it. They’ve trained today and they’re all in good shape.”
When games are coming as thick and fast as they are at present does he talk more regularly with the club’s medical staff regarding the players’ condition?
“I only liaise with them if they’re fit or injured really, not in terms of how they’re feeling. Lids [fitness coach Andy Liddell] is a better guide of that, to be honest.
“I’m saying that, but on Wednesday we all had the day off but pretty much every one of them came in to recover, to have a massage or an ice bath or some form of recovery, whether it was a bit in the gym or something like that.
“So I know then they’re feeling it, I don’t need to have any discussion with anybody. Once I know they’ve all been in, they’re all feeling pretty much knackered. But they’re all fit lads, they’re all fine, they’re all OK for Saturday.”
A lot has changed from McCarthy’s day as a player: “They all have energy drinks, they all have strength and conditioning coaches, they all have better nutrition instead of having a steak at 11 o’clock, which was pretty much how it was, chicken or steak.
“It didn’t seem a great deal of thought went into it at that time. They’re better looked after, certainly. Whether they get more injuries or not is maybe a bone of contention. But they’re better athletes just because of the facilities that they have and what’s available to them.”
The Blues will again be without Joe Garner against his old club on Saturday but McCarthy felt Martyn Waghorn, who like Garner played for Forest boss Mark Warburton at Rangers, impressed in the lone out and out striker’s role at Derby.
“I thought he was excellent, Waggy,” McCarthy enthused. “He was really was a constant threat. He held the ball up for us.
“He didn’t get that many chances but he gets in the box as well, he doesn’t set things up and stay out of the box, he goes and get in the box looking for goals. I thought he played really well.
“He might not be as prolific in the air as Joe but certainly he’s as mobile and certainly as strong, that’s for sure, he can hold the ball up. We try to play the same way with them both.”
McCarthy was also pleased with Grant Ward’s performance at Pride Park: “We all know the start he had here with his hat-trick. After that he was penned in, every week he played.
“But then we had a spell where I’ve got four strikers on the pitch and they were all playing well and he couldn’t get back in.
“And all you can do is keep training, keep waiting for your chance and then take it. And he did. And he was excellent the other night.”
Do the number of games and Tuesday’s win make selecting a team for Saturday tougher? “As I’ve said before, I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. If you change it and it doesn’t work, it’s ‘Why did you change it?’. So, whatever team I do put out I hope it works and then we’re not complaining.”
McCarthy says Forest have had a similar season to Town with their recent form very up and down - they have won five and lost five of their last 10, alternating results in their last six. They have lost four of their last five away Championship games.
“They’ve had a bit of a topsy-turvy one as well in terms of their start,” he reflected. “In our last game last year [at the City Ground] you could see the influence that Mark Warburton was going to have over them.
“He’s signed a few players from Scotland who have settled in well now and are doing well and, of course, the evergreen Daryl Murphy, who we know as well, if not better, than anybody else.
“He’s still playing well up at the top on his own, is scoring goals and is being a real threat. I think they’ll probably look at themselves, probably like us, and think they’ve done OK, but maybe could have done better.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will again be in goal for the Blues while Jonas Knudsen seems the favourite to move into the centre of the defence in the absence of skipper Luke Chambers.
That would see Myles Kenlock start at left-back with the 21-year-old expected to be fit despite having missed training with a hamstring problem. Otherwise, McCarthy will probably bring Tristan Nydam in at left-back.
Adam Webster will be in the other central defensive role with Jordan Spence at right-back.
Stand-in skipper Cole Skuse is again likely to be joined by Callum Connolly in the two deep midfield roles with Emyr Huws ahead of them behind lone out-and-out striker Waghorn with Bersant Celina and Ward either side of the Welshman.
Forest boss Warburton says Town will be full of self-belief after the 1-0 win at Pride Park on Tuesday.
"They are a team high in confidence,” he said. “They had a great result at Derby, got the early goal and it reminded me very much of the Birmingham game we had recently. They got the goal and defended their goal fantastically well and showed a real resilience.
"We have no doubt about the quality they possess, and we know two players very well in Waghorn and Garner from our time at Rangers, but all over the park they have quality.
“They have a real team ethic and are well organised - any team managed by Mick will be supremely well organised. We know the challenge we face at Portman Road, it will be another tough encounter.
“He is an outstanding manager and we know what his team will bring. We know what to expect. They will have quality, desire and commitment – but we know there are no easy games in this division.”
Regarding Town’s two former Rangers strikers, he added: “They have got some goals between them. Waggy was one of our first signings, in our first few months at Rangers.
“We signed Joe later on and he is a player we got for a decent fee. He is a very aggressive, combative player but with no shortage of quality.
“Waggy has a great left foot and desire to go with that. They are enjoying their football and I am sure they are being well managed by Mick.
“They are two players in form and we are aware of them – but they have other players in their squad who can cause problems.”
Warburton will be looking for ex-Blues striker Murphy to find the net, as he did in his visit to Portman Road with Newcastle last season, although the Irishman eventually ended up on the losing side.
“It is a big game for him, but I am sure he has the experience to cope,” the Forest boss added.
“He is an experienced pro and he is going back to a club he had a really good time at. I know he always scored against Brentford for them, I certainly remember that.
“He is a good player, a proven professional and will go there and do a job for us. I am sure he will have friends there still, but he is a Forest player now and he will know that as well as anyone else.”
Midfielder Liam Bridcutt is back from a one-game ban, but Chris Cohen, Danny Fox (both knee) and Jack Hobbs (back) remain sidelined.
Blues captain Chambers joined Town on a Bosman free transfer after departing the City Ground in the summer of 2012 and was targeted by his old club on deadline day in January.
Chambers made 209 starts and 20 sub appearances for the Tricky Trees, scoring 21 goals, having joined them from Northampton in January 2007.
Currently injured striker David McGoldrick signed on loan from Forest in January 2013 before putting pen to paper on a permanent deal the following summer.
Having joined Forest from Southampton in June 2009, he scored nine goals in 36 starts and 39 games from the bench.
Fellow Blues frontman Garner was at the City Ground between July 2008 and August 2011, scoring 10 goals in 35 starts and 20 sub appearances.
Ex-Town striker Murphy joined Forest from Newcastle in the summer for £2 million and has scored seven goals for his new club so far.
Irish international Murphy, now 34, scored 67 goals in 207 starts and 18 substitute appearances for Town in three loan spells and a permanent stint - June 2013 and August 2016 - at Portman Road.
Presently out-of-favour Forest keeper Stephen Henderson was on loan with the Blues from West Ham twice in the 2012/13 season making 24 appearances. He moved to the City Ground last summer but has made only 14 starts and one sub appearance.
Historically, Forest very much have the upper hand, winning 36 of the games between the two sides (33 in the league), with 18 (17) ending in draws and Town winning 21 (20).
The teams last met at the City Ground - where Town are without a win since December 1999 - on the final day of last season when Forest saw themselves to Championship safety with a 3-0 victory over the Blues.
Britt Assombalonga put the home side in front via a 43rd minute penalty, skipper Chris Cohen made it 2-0 on 57 then, having missed a second spot-kick, Assombalonga added the third in the 69th minute.
In November last year at Portman Road, two Assombalonga goals, the first after 17 seconds, the fastest in the Championship during 2016/17, and the second in first-half injury time, saw Forest to a 2-0 victory over the Blues, their first away win of the season.
Town huffed and puffed as they looked for a way back into the game in the second half but never seriously threatened a resolute Forest backline.
Saturday’s referee is Darren Bond from Lancashire, who has shown 60 yellow cards and one red card in 18 games so far this season.
Bond was meant to referee the Sunderland game in September but was replaced at the last minute.
His most recent Town match was the 2-1 defeat at Birmingham in December last year in which he booked Blues skipper Chambers and Christophe Berra.
Before that he took control of the 2-2 home draw with Rotherham a couple of months earlier in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Prior to that he refereed the 0-0 draw at Middlesbrough in April of the same year in which he cautioned Luke Hyam and former Blues skipper Grant Leadbitter.
He also officiated in the 1-0 win at Huddersfield in February 2016 in which he yellow-carded Chambers, Brett Pitman and Ainsley Maitland-Niles as well as one home player.
He also refereed the dramatic last-gasp 1-0 victory at Charlton in November 2014 in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Two months before that he officiated in the 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday when he booked only two home players, while his only other match involving the Blues was the 2-2 draw at Barnsley in February of the same year in which he again showed no cards.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Spence, Iorfa, Knudsen, Kenlock, Webster, Woolfenden, Skuse, Connolly, Bru, Huws, Nydam, Bishop, Ward, Celina, Sears, Waghorn, Morris, Folami.
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