|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
McCarthy: It's a Huge Game
Friday, 9th Feb 2018 20:55
Town boss Mick McCarthy is under no illusions that Saturday’s home match against bottom-of-the-table Burton Albion is a “huge game” for the Blues as they look to get themselves back in the play-off picture.
Having won 2-0 at Sunderland last weekend, the Blues will be looking to record back-to-back victories for the first time since the wins at Derby and at home to Nottingham Forest at the end of November and start of December.
That first ever victory at the Stadium of Light saw Town stay 12th, still eight points off the top six.
“It’s a huge game,” McCarthy admitted. “The players are aware of that, in fact in the dressing room at Sunderland afterwards when I was chatting to the players, it was great to get the three points but I think the comment was that the 'only way we make this any effing good' is by beating Burton next Saturday.
“That was last Saturday. I think that was Chambo at the end of it. So, while you were all enjoying it, it really is feet right back on the ground straight away.
“And it is. The only way that result becomes really important and really pertinent is if we can back it up with a win.”
He added: “We can’t do anything about anybody else’s results, only look after our own. It’s not going to be easy on Saturday, Burton will be scrapping away as usual and they’ve been in this position.
“They’ll not panic, they’ll keep doing what they do, they’ll try and win games. If we can win, who knows, the rest of them around us might not win and we might be five points off the play-offs.”
McCarthy says his Brewers opposite number Nigel Clough has done a terrific job, helping them to safety last season when it appeared they would go down following the Blues' 2-1 win at the Pirelli Stadium.
“The place was so down at the end of the game when we’d beaten them and I think everybody thought they were going down,” he recalled. “But he kept them up and that was a great achievement last year.
“And that’s why I think they’ll be one of the favourites to stay up just because they’ve been there. They’ll not panic, they’ll just keep doing what they do.”
But Burton have found things tougher during this campaign - they have lost their last five in all competitions - and aren’t the only club to have suffered with ‘second season syndrome’ following a promotion.
“Let’s talk about my next club, Barnsley, they’re having it as well,’ McCarthy joked. “Consider them, we were talking about how difficult it is for teams that come up.
“I think they come up, they’re a bit of a surprise, they come up with momentum. If you look at Wolves when they came back up, and they’d got more resources than Burton and Barnsley had, they finished seventh just behind us.
“I think the following season they certainly weren’t as good. They come up and I think they’re a bit of a shock to teams, I think they come up with a bit of impetus and momentum and they almost play at a different level for a while.
“Sheffield United came up and they were top of the league. They’ve had a brilliant season. We’re three points behind them and we’ve been whatever you think.
“Barnsley have lost a lot of players, so it’s hard to keep going out and getting better players than them on free transfers.
“And it’s the same as Nigel at Burton. He’s always getting them in, nicking one on loan, getting a free transfer in. It’s tough keeping doing that and for teams who have come up, even tougher still.”
McCarthy does his own share of ‘nicking’ players having recruited Cameron Carter-Vickers on loan from Spurs during the transfer window and free transfer Mustapha Carayol From Nottingham Forest on deadline day.
“I think he’s been excellent,” he said regarding the USA international defender. “I thought his first game he was playing against Gary Madine, who’s a big old lump and has just gone for £6 million. I thought he did well in the game but just played himself in.
“I think the next games he’s played he’s been very good and I thought on Saturday at Sunderland he was excellent.
“His training’s been good and he’s had to be because I’ve got one of my own that is fit [Adam Webster]. But he and Chambo have been excellent so Webbo’s had to be on the bench.”
McCarthy confirmed that he is under no obligation to Spurs to pick Carter-Vickers while he is at the club.
Regarding Carayol, he added: “He’s been fine, I’ve been delighted with him. Very impressed. Sometimes you look at players, you’ve watched them when they’ve played against you and you’ve been impressed enough with them so you think you’ll try and sign them or get them on loan and they come in and you’re not quite sure.
“But he’s been the opposite. The other way, they come in and you go, ‘Wow!’ and he’s exactly that, I’ve been very impressed with him. He’s very skilful, he’s quick, he works hard and he’s out of contract, he’s looking for a deal in the summer. I like players like that.”
Having picked what most saw as a ‘horses for courses’ team at Sunderland, McCarthy hinted that he could make further switches of personnel on Saturday.
“I made a couple of changes and they worked but that doesn’t mean to say it’s going to be the same this week,” he said.
“If you change it everybody goes, ‘Why did you change that because they won?’. If you don’t change it, it’s just the same.
“That’s always the case every week, but I thought we played well and I thought the two lads who came in, Freddie and Wardy, and played very well. But there were some good players that were sat on the bench on Saturday.”
He added: “It’s great to have a few more decisions to make. But it’s not Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday in terms of just having to change people and fresh legs.
“I thought the lads were very good on Saturday but you never know, there might be a couple of changes.”
Bartosz Bialkowski is certain to be in goal with Jordan Spence and Jonas Knudsen the full-backs.
Carter-Vickers again looks set to get the nod ahead of Webster alongside skipper Luke Chambers at the heart of the defence, while Cole Skuse and Callum Connolly will be the central midfielders.
Bersant Celina is likely to come into the team for Freddie Sears on the left with Grant Ward on the right and Martyn Waghorn in the middle of the trio behind lone striker Joe Garner. Carayol will hope to make his Blues debut from the bench.
If he is involved, Sears will be hoping history repeats itself against the Brewers.
Last season the 28-year-old ended a 38-game goal drought when he netted in the Blues’ 2-0 victory over Nigel Clough’s side at Portman Road and he will be looking to bring his current goalless run, which reached the 30-match mark at Sunderland, to a close on Saturday.
Burton manager Nigel Clough says his side are due some good fortune in their games against the Blues.
“We deserve a bit of luck against them,” he told the Brewers official site. “We have played them three times now. We deserved to lose at home last season but away the performance was excellent and we created a load of chances.
“And at home this season Mick McCarthy said they didn’t deserve to get anything out of the game but they won it with a freekick in the 90th minute. We are due something against them.”
Reflecting on Town, he added: “They are very streetwise and have good Championship players. They know their jobs and are very efficient at what they do.
“They are playing with a bit more freedom as they are probably safe but aren’t going to make the top six. They are more relaxed than the last couple of seasons which makes them more dangerous.
“If you can say anybody can win against anyone and lose to anyone in the Championship Ipswich sum it up more than anybody. They can win anywhere so we just hope they have an off day.”
Former Town striker Darren Bent remains a doubt for Saturday’s match, the 34-year-old having joined Burton on loan from Derby during the transfer window.
Bent missed the 3-2 defeat at Aston Villa at the weekend due to a knock sustained on his Brewers debut, the 3-1 home loss to Reading at the end of January.
Burton are set to be without defender Tom Flanagan, who is out for up to a month with a calf injury sustained against Villa.
On-loan Leeds midfielder Luke Murphy (gashed leg) and defender Ben Turner (ankle) are both doubts ahead of Saturday.
However, midfielder Martin Samuelsen, who is on loan from West Ham, is over a bout of flu and defender Damien McCrory is closing in on a return to fitness after a knee problem.
Town and the Brewers have only met three times in competitive matches, all in the Championship in the last two seasons, with Town currently having a 100 per cent record in matches between the teams.
At the Pirelli Stadium in October, Bersant Celina came off the bench to curl home a brilliant 89th minute freekick and complete a Blues comeback as they came from behind to beat Burton Albion 2-1.
Ben Turner put the Brewers deservedly in front before Waghorn equalised prior to Celina's late stunner.
In April last year, in Town’s first ever competitive fixture at the Pirelli Stadium, ex-Blue Luke Varney netted an own goal and Sears his sixth of the season as the Blues again beat Burton Albion 2-1.
After a first-half in which Myles Kenlock had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside, Burton sub Varney nodded a corner past his own keeper on 52 and Sears added a second in the 79th minute, before the Brewers pulled a goal back via a Akins penalty four minutes from time.
Town withstood some late pressure to claim the three points and all but confirm their Championship status.
In the inaugural competitive match between the sides at Portman Road in October last year, skipper Chambers and Sears were on target as Town ended a five-game goalless and winless run with a 2-0 victory over Burton.
Chambers headed in a Sears cross in the 15th minute and Sears ended his goal drought two minutes from the end to seal Town’s first October victory under McCarthy’s management.
No member of the current Town squad has played for Burton, but striker Varney joined the Brewers in January last year with his short-term Blues contract having come to an end.
Bent joined Burton on loan from Derby in January. The former England striker came through the academy ranks at Playford Road and went on to make 116 starts and 25 sub appearances for the first team, scoring 55 goals, between 2001 and 2005 before moving on to then-Premier League Charlton.
Former Town loan keeper Stephen Bywater joined the Brewers from Doncaster in January 2016. The 36-year-old made 17 appearances for the Blues in a half-season spell in 2008.
Winger Lloyd Dyer, 35, moved to the Pirelli Stadium in the summer of 2016 after a spell with Burnley at the end of the previous season having turned down a contract with Town in February 2016 following a successful trial.
Saturday is Town’s annual game where Prostate Cancer UK, the official charity partner of the EFL, will be raising money and awareness.
This weekend referee is David Webb from Lancashire, who has shown 65 yellow cards and two red in 28 games so far this season.
Webb’s most recent Town match was the 1-1 draw at Leeds in January 2014 in which he booked only Cole Skuse and awarded the home side a penalty, which Ross McCormack converted, after Luke Chambers fouled future Blues outcast Cameron Stewart.
He also took charge of the 1-1 draw at Bolton in October 2013 when he booked one player from each side.
More notable was his previous game involving the Blues, the 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest in March of the same year when he red-carded two Town players, Lee Martin and Richard Stearman, and showed five yellow cards to Tricky Trees.
Webb’s only Town matches prior to that were the 1-0 victory over Derby at Portman Road in December 2011 - when he booked no Blues and two Rams - and the 2-0 victory at home to Scunthorpe in March of the same year when he yellow-carded Martin, Gareth McAuley, Grant Leadbitter and one visiting player.
Squad from: Bialkowski, M Crowe, Spence, Iorfa, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Carter-Vickers, Webster, Skuse, Connolly, Hyam, Bru, Gleeson, Ward, Celina, Carayol, Waghorn, Garner, Sears, Drinan.
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