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Preston North End 0 v 1 Ipswich Town
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 24th February 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Town Out to Inflict Rare Defeat on Play-Off-Chasing Preston
Friday, 23rd Feb 2018 13:12

Town face Preston at Deepdale on Saturday looking to inflict a rare defeat on the Lilywhites, who are very much play-off contenders despite having one of the division’s smallest budgets.

The Lancastrians are currently ninth only three points off the play-offs having lost just once in their last 17 Championship games, a 3-2 home reverse to Middlesbrough on New Year's Day.

Blues boss Mick McCarthy, whose own team appears out of top-six contention in 14th, nine points from the play-off places, says his Preston counterpart Alex Neil has done well since taking charge in July, building on the work done by previous boss Simon Grayson prior to his departure for what turned out to be a brief spell at Sunderland.

“He’s done a really good job having taken over from his predecessor, who left him a club in good shape, I think,” he said.

“Simon didn’t leave because he was struggling and got the sack and had to go somewhere else and [Neil] had to come in and reconstruct a team and change it around.

“He inherited a really solid base and I think he’s added to that and, yes, he’s having a very good season.

“TC was at the game on Tuesday night at Villa [which ended 1-1] and said they were very good and we know it’ll be a tough game.”

McCarthy says there are similarities between the clubs with both among the division's have-nots, although Town's wage bill is likely to be significantly higher than the Lilywhites' while still low in the overall context of the Championship.

“I think so, and they are punching above their weight at the moment," McCarthy said.

“They’ve done very well but, as I said, Simon had done well beforehand and he’s just changed it slightly, he’s brought other players in and definitely, they’re are punching above their weight.”

Town are unbeaten in their last three on the road, a 1-1 draw at Bolton was followed by the 2-0 win at Sunderland and then last week’s 1-1 draw at Norwich, which McCarthy admits didn’t feel particularly like a positive result at the time.

“Yes, felt like a defeat but it was a draw,” he said. “We’ve been alright. Our performances, everybody’s screaming from the rooftops when we played Burton [at home] and we didn’t win, but apart from that I think we’ve been playing well enough.”

McCarthy, whose preferred formation throughout his career has been 4-4-2, has lined his side up in a 4-2-3-1 system for most of this season before switching to 3-5-2 at Norwich and then 4-3-3 against Cardiff in midweek.

“My job is to get results and if I think that 4-4-2 is not going to get one, then it’s pointless me doing it, just being a silly, belligerent old man doing what I want to do and not doing what’s right for the club or for the team,” he reflected.

“So, I very often do it to play a particular set-up, and it’s worked. Thankfully I’m a bit more flexible than just having a belligerent mind thinking this is the way it happens and there’s no Plan B. Well, there’s got to be, because we’re not the best team in the league.”

McCarthy was pleased with the way his system worked on Wednesday even if the Blues ultimately ended up losing 1-0 to Cardiff via Kenneth Zohore’s second-half goal which struck his hand.

“It worked well, it worked very well,” he said. “I know we didn’t score, however, but for a bit of a bonkers decision we wouldn’t have conceded one either.”

Why haven’t Town been as much of a goal threat recently as they were earlier in the season when they were among the division’s top scorers? “I can’t say it’s any one thing. We’ve had attacking teams on the pitch, I’ve tried to pick that sort of a team and play that way.

“I don’t know, maybe it’s that time of the season. There’s times in a season when you concede goals and there are times when you’ll have clean sheets, there’s times when you score goals.

“If I knew the reason for it, I’d be far wealthier than I am because I’d pack it in and write a book.”

Martyn Waghorn, joint-top scorer alongside his former Rangers team-mate Joe Garner on 10, is without a goal in 14 matches and McCarthy says he’ll be desperate for a goal, even if he is still contributing in other ways.

“Waggy’s been different class and his assists from corners and freekicks [have been vital],” he said. “He’s been excellent all season, but he’ll be wanting a goal for himself.”

Bartosz Bialkowski will continue in goal and McCarthy may be tempted to return to his 4-2-3-1 with Preston usually taking the same approach.

If that is the case, Jordan Spence or Dominic Iorfa will be at right-back with Jonas Knudsen on the left with McCarthy having to make a decision on whether Adam Webster or Cameron Carter-Vickers play alongside skipper Luke Chambers at the centre of the defence.

Cole Skuse and Callum Connolly are again likely to be the two deeper midfield players with Bersant Celina, Waghorn and Grant Ward behind former Preston frontman Joe Garner if he is over his knee injury.

If not, Waghorn is likely to move to the lone out-and-out striker’s role with Freddie Sears the third man behind him.

McCarthy has confirmed that with David McGoldrick out injured for the rest of the season and Muzzy Carayol a doubt having been ill, young strikers Aaron Drinan and Ben Morris will both travel and take a place on the bench.

Drinan, a January signing from Waterford, is yet to feature for the Town first team, while Morris’s only senior game for the Blues was the Carabao Cup tie at Crystal Palace in August.

Preston will be without suspended defender Darnell Fisher but midfielder John Welsh is back from a ban.

Tom Clarke, Daniel Johnson and Paul Gallagher all missed the draw at Villa and will be assessed ahead of Saturday’s match.

Winger Tom Barkhuizen is another doubt having been subbed with a knock at Villa Park, while striker Sean Maguire is not yet ready to return from a hamstring problem.

Lilywhites boss Neil says the next few matches will be vital to his team’s top-six push.

"These next four or five fixtures are going to dictate whether we are in with a shout or if we’re just flirting with the play-offs,” he told Preston’s official site.

"The fans are going to have to play their part as much as the players are. We’re just going to try and get together and make a real push and try to get ourselves into those positions, or certainly put ourselves in a good position with the remaining games coming up.”

Neil felt their performance in the 3-0 defeat at Portman Road in November was one of his side’s poorer displays.

"That game in particular we didn’t play anywhere near as well as I think we can,” he added.

“That game, to be honest, it was that long ago, we’ve got more important things that we want the three points for rather than just getting one over Ipswich.

"We want to get ourselves up into the play-off positions, we’ve come through a difficult run of games and we’re hoping now that we can go and get some three points together against our next opponents; that should hopefully set us up.

"It will be a really tough test, Ipswich are a really good side, I thought they were unfortunate in the game that they played Norwich the other day.

"It’s going to be a tough test for us but we want to make sure we play a lot better than we did down there.”

Regarding Blues boss McCarthy, he said: "He’s done it for years. Although we were rivals, I got on pretty well with Mick when I was at Norwich.

“It’d be a tough match, Mick's teams are always the same, they will be fully committed, they’ll be up in your face, they’ll make it difficult.

“We’ve got to more than match that and hope we can play well enough on the day to win the game.”

He added: ”We know this is a great opportunity for us, with 13 games remaining we’re three points outside the play-offs, we’re coming through a really tough run of fixtures and we have some of the bigger teams to play at home. We know that this is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often.

"I certainly think the club has worked its way to this point over the past five or six years and now we’re the ones tasked with going and trying to take advantage of that.

"Ipswich will be as hard a game as Aston Villa if not harder, for different reasons. So we now it’s going to be a tough match, when you’re at home, when you’re against a team you’re above in the league; the expectations shifts from the fans and from everybody.

"We’ve got to have the mental capacity to cope with that and still go and deliver a good performance and get a result.”

Preston midfielder Ben Pringle, who is currently on loan at Oldham, joined the Lilywhites from Fulham in the summer of 2016 having been on loan with the Blues towards the end of the previous season, scoring two goals in nine starts and one sub appearance.

Blues striker Garner scored 57 goals in 128 starts and 23 sub appearances for Preston between January 2013 and August 2016.

He was a member of the Lilywhites side which won promotion to the Championship via the League One play-offs in 2014/15, a season in which he scored 27 goals.

Preston have just had the better of the Blues historically, winning 13 games (11 in the league) between the sides while Town have been victorious on 12 (11) occasions and 10 (nine) matches have ended in draws.

At Portman Road in November, goals from Waghorn, McGoldrick and Celina saw the Blues to a 3-0 home victory over North End.

Waghorn curled home a freekick in first-half injury time, McGoldrick headed the second four minutes after the break and Celina sealed what in the end was a very comfortable Town victory with a superb strike on 64.

The teams last met at Deepdale in January last year when former PNE striker Jordan Hugill, who was a Town target at the time, netted an 89th minute equaliser as the game ended 1-1, Tom Lawrence having given the visitors a first-half lead with another brilliant strike.

Saturday’s referee is Scott Duncan, who has shown 78 yellow cards and seven red in 28 games so far this season.

Duncan’s last Town match was the 1-0 win at Derby in November in which he booked Chambers, Webster and Flynn Downes as well as three Rams.

Before that he took control of the 1-1 home draw with Brentford in March last year in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.

Prior to that Duncan was in charge of the 3-0 away win at Charlton in November 2015 in which he booked two Addicks and no Blues.

The Northumberland-based official, who shares a name with a former Town manager, also took control of the Blues in the 4-1 after-extra-time win at Doncaster in the Capital One Cup in August of the same year in which he booked Myles Kenlock and two home players.

He was also the man in the middle of the 1-1 home draw with Brentford the previous season and the November 2013 1-0 victory over Charlton at The Valley.

Squad from: Bialkowski, M Crowe, Spence, Iorfa, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Carter-Vickers, Webster, Skuse, Connolly, Hyam, Bru, Gleeson, Nydam, Ward, Celina, Carayol, Waghorn, Garner, Sears, Drinan, Morris.

Photo: TWTD

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blythburgh_blue added 13:34 - Feb 23
No F*cking chance, Mick

Swn97 added 13:54 - Feb 23
There’s a chance. In fact it’s probably not a bad bet. McCarthy will set us up to stop them playing and stifle the game, as he always does. Then, if his plan works, there is always the chance that we will nick one, from a set piece or a fortunate breakaway. Nobody (home or away) will enjoy the game and nobody will leave the game feeling as though they were entertained. But none of that matters, because all that really matters is the result. Apparently?

I will have a small bet on us to win 1-0. It’s the only way I can force myself to pay attention anymore.

OldClactonBlue added 13:55 - Feb 23
Since Preston spend about the same as we do on players this should be an even playing field! So why is it that they are Promotion chasers?

SamWhiteUK added 14:01 - Feb 23
Love that first line, Phil. A subtle dig?

therein61 added 15:26 - Feb 23
There's more chance of him dropping his darling 4 & 8 than that happening.

terryf added 15:38 - Feb 23
He says he doesn't know why we are not scoring goals. It's pretty obvious Mick.
Early season we were scoring goals from very few chances being created and now we aren't.
If he persists with very little creativity in midfield, inevitably on percentage we are unlikely to score many goals. Why does he always have to play two holding players irrespective of the opposition? More creativity in midfield equals more goals and more entertainment. It's not rocket science Mick!

midastouch added 16:49 - Feb 23
Hard to praise Alex Neil given his time at Norwich but I'm reluctantly going to do so. He's doing a great job so far on a small budget. It just shows you don't necessarily need an embarrassment of riches to compete, Burnly went up on a limited budget after all and haven't been back down since. When Alex Neil was at Norwich he often got criticised for being too attack minded which ironically is the complete opposite of Mick who is often criticised for being too defensive. Alex Neil always used to look so miserable though when doing an interview. Hopefully having escaped Naaaaridge and being at Preston has cheered him up a bit!

dirtydingusmagee added 16:50 - Feb 23
who dreams up these heading captions ?

dirtydingusmagee added 17:00 - Feb 23
lol I thought Swn had seen the light, but its Swn97 NOT Swn 98, oh well never mind .

dukey44 added 18:37 - Feb 23
Hahahaha so where’s all these mick followers saying we need money invested? I’m sorry but Preston prove it only takes a manager who likes to play football and not lots of money haha their squads not worth millions either!!! Micks followers you are muppets like the Irish manager we have haha

philwhelansdegree added 19:32 - Feb 23
Therein61: why would he want to drop 4 or 8? Two of our best players this season imo

heathen66 added 20:56 - Feb 23
I am sorry, was this really Mick McCarthy ???
“My job is to get results and if I think that 4-4-2 is not going to get one, then it’s pointless me doing it, just being a silly, belligerent old man doing what I want to do and not doing what’s right for the club or for the team
That has not worried you in the last 5 years

Thankfully I’m a bit more flexible than just having a belligerent mind thinking this is the way it happens and there’s no Plan B. Well, there’s got to be,
Well not in the last 5 years

McCarthy was pleased with the way his system worked on Wednesday even if the Blues ultimately ended up losing 1-0 to Cardiff ...It worked very well
How ??? 2 shots on target and lost 1-0 !!!

We’ve had attacking teams on the pitch, I’ve tried to pick that sort of a team and play that way.
Really, so why the ironic cheers when we finally had a shot on goal against bottom clun Burton.
Playing 5 defenders and 2/3 holding CMs is not attacking and nor will the selection tomorrow with again the 2/3 holding CMs.

Please do not take us for idiots
Unless you really do believe this yourself, and if this is the case then we are in a worse situation than I thought

bobble added 21:28 - Feb 23

dirtydingusmagee added 21:56 - Feb 23
ive got a feeling about this game , I rather fancy it will be a draw 6-6 , mmmmmeeeerrrrrr

Karlosfandangal added 22:08 - Feb 23
Another straight to the point interview from Mick........I know most twtd followers knock him but a spade is a spade with Mick.

O and by the way dunkey44i I am one of those muppets ha ha

norfolkbluey added 22:17 - Feb 23
Alex Neil is obviously doing a great job at Preston with little or no money. If only that were true with MM. Why not? Possibly because MM is known as Dino! Locked in the past and only knows how to defend, a true centre half.

NoelTheDub added 22:47 - Feb 23
Mick your plan B is going 1 0 down and bringing on a full back for a full back a holding MF for the same and a striker for the one youve just taken feckin off.You cod fans with your 3 at the back its bloody 5 defenders your so called wing backs are glorified full backs that cant do a wing back roll because on the odd occasion they cross the half way line they are not good enough to create anything they are at best ordinary fullbacks thats why you play them before players that can create something.Your reason to leave Waghorn on the bench midweek was crazey and expecting Freddie to battle it out against two huge CBs of Cardiff beggers belief you clearly do your own thing but its not working.

tractorboybig added 07:20 - Feb 24
In this photo he is looking at the pigs flying across the rear of the room??

massivemole added 07:52 - Feb 24
Defend defend defend defend, take off striker,put on holding midfielder, defend defend defend, score from set peice 0-1. #simples.

prebsa added 08:16 - Feb 24
Won’t stand a chance. We will set up to defend and walk away with a draw. Then mick will say how they are a top side with real quality and we did well to hold them and stop them from scoring.

Perhaps it’s time for a Hull like protest ... if there is enough fans left to start one from the ‘small minortity’

We need Mick and Marcus gone!

jas0999 added 08:43 - Feb 24
Law of averages says they will lose again soon. Let’s hope it’s today.

shakytown added 10:09 - Feb 24
Be warned Preston fans as it ain't going to be pretty. 90+ mins of mind numbing bowel rupturing C..P

PJewellisaGod added 10:11 - Feb 24
I'd say there is a chance for the same reasons as SWn97 has said. Backs-to-the-wall tactics is not something PNE will be used to and could upset their flow. Game has 1-0 or 0-0 written all over it though.

blackcat added 11:19 - Feb 24
WOW, so best case scenario is an ultra boring game with a possible stolen goal to win it!
And this sums up how bad it's got..
And why would you make this journey just to be told to F off which is again more likely followed by a very long journey home depressed at being smashes by a team that wants to play and Wants to win

1RWR added 11:42 - Feb 24
It's strange how one's mind wanders! Remember when we were struck with injuries early season, he called upon the likes of Emmanuel-Kenlock-Dozzell-Nydam-Downes all of whom did the club proud. I know Dozzell got injured, a few went on loan.......then the 'old school' came back from injury. I thought the youngsters did well, & I for one, would have kept with Josh & Myles for a few more games. I thought we played better then than now! This season is gone, roll on next season with a new manager..........pleeeeeeease!

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