McCarthy: Worst Home Game of the Season and Worst Performance
Saturday, 10th Feb 2018 18:35
Boss Mick McCarthy admitted the Blues’ dismal goalless draw with table-propping Burton Albion was “probably the worst game” at Portman Road this season and was his side’s “worst performance”.
Town never looked like getting more than a point out of what had been billed as a must-win match against the division’s bottom club, who claimed their first ever point against the Blues.
“It was [as frustrating as it gets for a manager],” he said. “Probably the worst game here all season and our worst performance when I consider how we played and won games earlier in the season. It was tough.
“Everybody is asking me why that was and I say maybe the opposition had a bit of a bearing on that as well because I thought they played well.”
He added: “I think it’s always a combination of both [how we play and the opposition]. I’m not going to blame any one thing but I would imagine [Burton manager] Nigel [Clough] has come in here and said he thought his team played well and they acquitted themselves well.
"I think you have to give some credit to them, but we were disappointing, it was a poor performance by us.”
After a poor first half, McCarthy was pleased with the way his team started the second period but felt they were unable to maintain that improvement.
“We started [the second half] well, but we didn’t get anything from it and it then fell into that malaise again unfortunately,” he admitted.
McCarthy was disappointed that the Blues were unable to build on last week’s 2-0 win at Sunderland.
“Of course. At the end of it though, you just make sure you don’t get beaten. We didn’t play well at all. It was a tough game, they’ve made it really hard for us today.”
The Blues boss had praise for keeper Bartosz Bialkowski, who made two crucial second-half saves: “He’s great, isn’t he? He’s a good goalkeeper.”
McCarthy was also pleased with Mustapha Carayol, who made his Town debut from the bench: “Very much, I thought he played well when he came on, Muzzy.”
The home crowd - the lowest for a league game in almost 20 years - made their feelings regarding McCarthy and his style of football clear on a number of occasions, as they have so often over the last year or so.
“I tell you every week, the only thing I can affect that with is if the team plays well and we win,” McCarthy said when quizzed on the fans’ reaction. “I’ll continue to try and do that.”
Should the players take some responsibility having failed to win a game which they went into as firm favourites?
“That’s the problem, isn’t it, 'firm favourites'?” he reflected. “That doesn’t do us any favours at all.
“We got two goals last week at Sunderland and we could sit in and catch them on the break and make sure it was tough for them to play against us. I thought they did that to us today, certainly in the second half.
“I’m more than cool to get stick for the team performance. There are times when some of the decisions we make with the ball or some of the final passes [aren’t what they should be], but they’re my players, so my responsibility. I’m cool with it. If it takes it off them I’ve no problem.”
McCarthy has often praised his side for their never-say-die spirit and keeping going even when things aren’t going well and says this afternoon's display was no different.
“And they did today, they kept going and a less together and committed bunch of lads could have got beaten in that game,” he added. “And I still go back to it, I don’t see Burton as being [whipping boys].
“I just see the players they’ve got on the pitch, they’ve got a lot of Championship players. And I would imagine they thrived on the fact that we were firm favourites today and there’ll be some suggestion that we took them lightly or we didn’t do it, which if anybody does questions my professionalism and that of the players.
“We didn’t, we haven’t played well and they’ve done well. It’s a combination of both unfortunately.”
McCarthy, who arrived unusually late for his post-match press conference, wouldn’t discuss what he said to his players after the match.
“I wouldn’t tell you,” he said. “That’s my private business. I wouldn’t allow cameras in the dressing room ever, unless we’d won the league and they come and see us popping the corks or we’ve qualified for a World Cup when we let them in, I think that was nice for posterity for them. Other than that, I wouldn’t. It’s private what I do and how I do it.”
Burton boss Nigel Clough was in no doubt his team deserved t win: “Of course, it’s two points dropped. The performance deserved three points. The performance at Aston Villa [when they lost 3-2] deserved something last week.
“To play as well as we have done in two games and only get one point is very harsh on us.”
Despite only picking up just a point and remaining bottom, the draw ended a run of five defeats on the trot in all competitions and Clough says his side is moving in the right direction.
“Of course, from where we come from from the Reading game 10 days ago,” he reflected. ”We keep harking back to it and how bad we were, and we were, to put in two performances like that away from home gives us a lot of encouragement, but only one point.
“But it’s nice to break the run of defeats and nice to keep a clean sheet that we thoroughly deserved today.”
Clough says Darren Bent might have taken his opportunity had he been playing more regularly.
“It’s his second game in eight months, nine months, so you can’t be too harsh on him,” he added. “But if that goes in I think we win the game. But there were numerous other situations as well today.”
Regarding Kyle McFadzean’s late header which Bialkowski saved superbly, Clough said: “I’m not sure if it came off him or the defender. But it certainly ricocheted and it was a brilliant save.
“Ultimately that’s what’s stopped us as much as chances, I think that save was a magnificent save.”
He added: “We tried to make positive substitutions to try and win the game and tried to win it right up until the last minute with the freekick. We couldn’t have done any more today apart from score.”
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