McCarthy: Win Was Culmination of Week of Good Performances
Saturday, 24th Feb 2018 18:37
Town boss Mick McCarthy felt the Blues’ impressive away win against Preston was a culmination of a week of good performances.
The Blues were denied a 1-0 derby victory at Norwich by a last-gasp equaliser last Sunday before losing 1-0 to second-placed Cardiff in a tight game at Portman Road on Wednesday.
“I think that’s the culmination of a really good week of performances at Norwich and certainly against Cardiff, and today I think we’ve got what we deserved, we got three points,” McCarthy said. “We should have been more than one up at half-time.”
Town could have been three or four goals in front at the break against a Preston side which normally gives away few chances.
However, after goalscorer and man of the first half Mustapha Carayol was subbed for Luke Hyam at half-time the Blues showed different qualities after the break as they saw out the second half very comfortably to claim the three points.
“It’s the Championship and it’s required,” McCarthy added. “I’ve never been anywhere yet where being tough and able to withstand a bit of pressure has not been needed.”
Town were always a threat on the counter-attack in the first half with full debutant Carayol the star performer.
“I was delighted getting Muzzy and I think he’s shown today what he’s capable of, although I never thought for one minute he’d play the whole game having had diarrhoea and sickness in the week,” the Blues boss continued.
“I think we would have got another 15 minutes out of him, but he’d run his race and they’d changed it before half-time, stuck Harrop on in the midfield. It was a tactical one as much as a physical one.”
Did Carayol want to be replaced at half-time? “He didn’t want to come off but I thought he’d run his race. I said to him, ‘Muzzy, how are you?’ and he said, ‘I’m OK’ and OK’s not, ‘I’m brilliant, gaffer, don’t take me off’.
“So I said to him, he used the wrong terminology to me, and he was coming off anyway.”
Explaining his decision to put on the more defensive Hyam rather than another attacking player, he said: “I knew doing that we might lose a bit of the threat that we had up front but we were 1-0 up and I wasn’t going to allow them to get Harrop on the ball in behind their front players and them cause us [problems]. Just tactical and it worked.
“Thankfully it worked because when it doesn’t work we get grief for not putting a fast one on up front.”
Preston manager Alex Neil swapped his full-backs and then made a double tactical substitution seven minutes before the break to try to counteract the Blues’ threat on the break.
“I don’t need them to do that to convince me I’m doing things right,” McCarthy continued. “Maybe we caused them a problem. I thought we caused Cardiff a problem on Wednesday, they were changing things.
“The lads have played well, I think it’s a credit to them, they’ve adapted to the way we’ve played and played well in that system.”
He added: “We had a different front three today and they’ve all worked really hard. I thought Muzzy was outstanding and we should have had more. We had two really good chances and then Dominic hit the cross bar.
“I could see the second half coming, I could just see, ‘1-0 up and messed it up’ coming. Anyway, it didn’t, we defended really well.”
He admitted repeating conceding the late goal at Norwich did prey on his mind towards the end: “I wasn’t fearing it, I didn’t want it to happen again because it has a really devastating effect if it happens again.
“But it never looked like it, to be honest. They had a header and the lads said the ball was out, but I didn’t see whether it was, and that was about it. I don’t think they had anything on our goal at all, not really. Corners and freekicks in the first half, they were good at that.”
McCarthy was pleased with his back three: “They’ve been very good. Cameron Carter-Vickers played it at Sheffield United and Chambo organises them really well.
“It’s been three good performances. We should have had three points at Norwich and I think we were done by a dodgy old decision in midweek and today we’ve played well and won.”
The Blues manager is delighted to see Adam Webster playing regularly again after the injury problems which have hampered him during both his seasons at Portman Road but says the former Pompey man is behind Carter-Vickers in the pecking order.
“If I play three at the back Adam’s in the team, if not Cameron Carter-Vickers has been excellent and deserves to be playing,” he said.
“It does give us height at the back that we can then deal with corners and freekicks against anybody and then it gives me a licence to play whatever I want up front, we can be a bit quicker, a bit more mobile and more of a threat.”
McCarthy has been impressed by Carter-Vickers’s physical strength, specifically citing one second-half incident.
“I was laughing when he was trying to usher the ball out in the far corner and the lad, whoever it was, tried to push him,” he said. “It was like trying to push a pick-up truck. He’s a big, powerful man.”
The result was only Preston’s second defeat in the league since they were beaten in Suffolk in November, the Blues recording their second double of the campaign and their first against Preston since since 1965/66.
“I think they’ve lost one since we beat them at Portman Road,” McCarthy reflected. “They’ve been excellent, but we’ve played well today, we deserved to win that today.”
Does the win mean Town are back in the play-off hunt? “No, I don’t think so. I wrote that one off. What are we, six points behind now? I did say I think it was over, but I didn’t say we’d stop fighting for it.”
Preston boss Alex Neil felt his team never really got into gear throughout the 90 minutes.
"I don't think we played anywhere near the levels we can, it was flat and we never got going," he said.
"Probably that was down to how much we have demanded of the players, how our games have ended up panning out - we have had three really tough fixtures with Brentford, Wolves and Aston Villa.
"We took a lot out of ourselves in those three games, for two of them we played with 10 men for 20 minutes and then 35 minutes."
He added: "I tried a few things to get them going, I was really dissatisfied at half-time as you could imagine.
"To be fair you could see the players were disappointed, they wanted to play well today but they didn't have the energy.
"I probably changed systems more today than I had ever done as a manager which to be honest that is not something I'm not overly comfortable with and don't do generally.
"I believe that if you set up a way of playing, you should be good enough to play that way and beat them.
"But it didn't think we were going to create anything, I had to do something to spark something into the team and if I'm being honest it didn't work."
Regarding his 38th-minute double tactical switch, he explained: "We got a warning with Carayol down that left-hand side, he should have scored on two different occasions and I could see the goal coming.
"Calum Woods made an error for the goal and he didn't look he was up to the speed of the game really.
"Likewise with Callum Robinson at the top end of the pitch, he looked fatigued as well and a yard off things.
"I thought we needed some fresh blood in the team but being honest, it didn't make any difference."
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