|Ipswich Town 0 v 1 Sheffield United|
Saturday, 6th January 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Town Host Blades Chasing First FA Cup Win Since 2010
Friday, 5th Jan 2018 17:24
Town host fellow Championship side Sheffield United in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday looking for their first win in the world’s oldest cup competition since 2010.
Current Blues boss Mick McCarthy is still to win an FA Cup tie since taking over at Town in November 2012 with the Blues’ last success in the tournament the 2-1 third round victory at Blackpool back in January 2010 during Roy Keane’s time in charge.
Last season Town were embarrassingly beaten 1-0 at the third round stage by then-Vanarama National League side Lincoln City in a replay at Sincil Bank after a 2-2 draw at Portman Road.
McCarthy admits it’s disappointing not to have had a run in the competition with the Blues: “Yes, it is. But I don’t think about it like that. I think I’ve had a pretty good time here, but we’ve lost games in the League Cup, FA Cup and in the league.
“I want to win the game, it’s just as simple as that and if we win that game I’d want to win the next game.
“And if we get a cup run going that would be great. And if we get a cup run going, we’ll definitely need some more players or some coming back from injury.”
Despite the lengthy injury list, he dismisses the suggestion that he sees the match as a hindrance.
“I want to win the game,” he insisted. “I’d be happy to win the game because we’d get another FA Cup tie then in quick succession and probably put a league game back which we might be able to get some reinforcements in for and some players fit, which would really help in terms of our league campaign.
“I never want to lose a game, despite whatever team I put out. I think Chris Wilder is making changes to his team.
“We’ve had a really tough schedule over the last two weeks, the four games that we’ve had. I’ve never gone into a game wanting to lose it ever.”
The Town boss, whose side are 12th in the Championship, five places and six points behind the Blades, believes the FA Cup, which the Blues won for the first and only time 40 years ago this season, is still special.
“I think it is,” he added. “I think when you see some of the ties, you’re looking at Liverpool and Everton tonight, Brighton are playing Crystal Palace. Those derby games have thrown a real bit of interest into the competition.
“But the competition has been diluted for the bigger teams because being in the Premier League gets you all the money.
“Being in the Championship and winning the FA Cup, it would be great and I’d love an FA Cup winner’s medal, of course I would, but the reality is I’d sooner by plying my trade in the Premier League and I’m not going to tell any lies about that.”
Whatever happens on Saturday afternoon, McCarthy admits he wants the tie done and dusted on the day.
“I don’t want a replay, and I would imagine Chris Wilder doesn’t either,” he said. “I seem to remember last year, we were 2-1 down [to Lincoln] and equalised in the last minute and we were all delighted and then we went up there and we got beated and played lousy, didn’t even turn up.
“We would have been better off getting beaten here. But I didn’t think that at the time when I’m desperate for us to score and that will be just the same tomorrow if it’s the same situation.”
McCarthy has confirmed that Crystal Palace target Bartosz Bialkowski will be in goal but has said he will make changes to his side while still fielding first-team players.
Jordan Spence is suspended following his red card at Fulham so Dominic Iorfa will start at right-back.
The Town boss may opt to give Jonas Knudsen a rest at left-back, which would see Myles Kenlock some into the XI.
However, there is little option at the centre of the defence and skipper Luke Chambers and Tommy Smith will continue with Adam Webster injured and youngsters Luke Woolfenden and Chris Smith on loan at Bromley and Chelmsford respectively.
McCarthy has also confirmed that Luke Hyam will make his first start since May 2016 having come on as a sub at Fulham and may well be partnered by Kevin Bru in the centre of midfield with Callum Connolly perhaps rested having played all but the final eight minutes of the Christmas fixtures.
Cole Skuse is unlikely to be risked with McCarthy having said the Bristolian’s ankle was swollen after Tuesday’s match.
Freddie Sears and Bersant Celina may play either on each flank in a 4-4-2 system or in the trio behind the lone out and out striker - probably Joe Garner - if McCarthy uses his 4-2-3-1 formation.
David McGoldrick could come in for Martyn Waghorn in the middle of that three or in a strike pairing alongside either the Town top scorer or Garner.
New striker Aaron Drinan, whose move from Waterford was confirmed on Thursday, will be on the bench and is likely to make his debut at some stage.
Blades boss Wilder says he will also make changes to his side with the big Steel City derby at home to Sheffield Wednesday next Friday.
“I do know there are some players that possibly need games, but I know the importance of next Friday to everybody,” Wilder told the Yorkshire Post.
“I am not going to shy away from that. Not just because it’s a local derby, but the position we are in in the league as well. League points are the priority, 100 per cent. We need to have half on eye on next Friday.
“I cannot take a risk with any of the injured ones, I might have to protect a couple of players.
“Jake Wright, Daniel Lafferty and Caolan Lavery are going to play, and a couple of others, and it will be a good opportunity for the younger boys.
“Regan Slater will be involved, possibly Rhys Norrington-Davies. “They are good young players, and we expect them to progress. It’s a great experience for them.”
Wilder says midfield duo John Lundstram and Mark Duffy will be rested due to minor knocks: “I think people recognise we are not going to take any risks with those two players at this stage of the season.
“We are going to change the team. There will be opportunities for players who have not played a lot of football in the first team recently. I did it last year at Bolton, but I still expect a decent performance.
“I am delighted we are coming into the FA Cup in January, rather than what it’s been like for the last six years in October/November. We want to progress.
“Whoever puts the red and white shirt on, with the badge on it, I expect 100 per cent from them.”
Striker Ched Evans is back in training after ankle surgery but won’t be ready for Saturday’s game, while promising fellow Wales international David Brooks also misses out due to glandular fever.
Midfielder Paul Coutts is out for the season having broken his leg. Young midfielder Ben Whiteman has been recalled from a loan spell with Doncaster Rovers but is cup-tied.
Town have had the better of the Blades over the years, winning 23 times (22 in the league), drawing 24 (21) and losing 20 (18) of the meetings between the sides.
At Bramall Lane in October, Chris Basham’s goal four minutes after half-time saw Sheffield United to a 1-0 victory over the Blues.
Waghorn went closest to scoring for the Blues with a shot against the bar shortly after the Blades’ goal, but the home side deserved their victory.
The teams last met at Portman Road in February 2011 with the Blades on the way down to League One.
Goals from Damien Delaney, David Norris and a stunning third from Connor Wickham saw the Blues to a 3-0 victory over the visitors, who were reduced to nine men.
Delaney put Town in front with a header in a very poor first half with Norris adding the second after the break.
Grant Leadbitter missed a penalty before Wickham brilliantly ran from his own half to seal the win, prior to Robert Kozluk and Lee Williamson receiving red cards within a minute during the closing stages.
Town and the South Yorkshiremen last met in the FA Cup in Sheffield at the fourth round stage in January 2003 when the home side won a classic 4-3.
The sides also faced one another in the fourth round in 1998 when they drew 1-1 at Portman Road and the Blades won the replay 1-0 at Bramall Lane.
Prior to that the teams clashed in their only previous third round tie at Portman Road in January 1974 when the Blues won 3-2.
The Sheffield United squad includes former Town loanee Richard Stearman, who moved to Bramall Lane from Fulham in the summer.
Stearman spent the second half of 2012/13 on loan with the Blues from Wolves, making 15 appearances.
Canadian-born striker Lavery, a former Northern Ireland U21 international, joined the Blades from Sheffield Wednesday in the summer of 2016.
Lavery, 25, signed for the Owls in the summer of 2012 having turned down a professional contract with the Blues during the previous season after coming through the Town academy.
If a replay is required it will take place at Bramall Lane in the week commencing Monday 15th January.
Adult ticket prices have been set at £10, senior citizens and under-23s seats £5 and under-19s £2.
The upper tiers of the Sir Bobby Robson and Sir Alf Ramsey stands and Blocks O, P, Q and R of the Co-Op Stand won’t be open for the tie.
Saturday’s referee is Select Group official Mike Jones from Chester, who has shown 58 yellow cards and one red in 16 games so far this season.
Jones’s most recent Town match was the 4-1 defeat at Middlesbrough in March 2015 in which he booked Tommy Smith, Teddy Bishop and four home players.
Prior to that he refereed the 1-0 Carling Cup quarter-final victory over West Brom at Portman Road in December 2010 when Grant Leadbitter who scored the Blues’ winning goal from the penalty spot after Carlos Edwards had been felled by Graham Dorrans.
Squad from: Bialkowski, M Crowe, Iorfa, Knudsen, Kenlock, Chambers (c), T Smith, Webber, Hyam, Bru, Skuse, Connolly, Celina, Sears, Waghorn, Garner, McGoldrick, Drinan, Morris, Folami.
Photos: TWTD/Action Images
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