Town Face Tigers Looking to End Home Goalless Run
Monday, 12th Mar 2018 17:52
Town go into Tuesday’s rearranged home game against Hull City aiming to close the gap to the play-off places and looking to end a run of four matches at Portman Road without a goal.
The Blues, who last went four league games on their own turf without finding the net in November and December 1984, most recently scored at home through Bersant Celina in the 1-0 victory over Leeds in mid-January, so far their only goal at Portman Road in 2018. Going back further, they have netted only twice in their last eight in all competitions at home.
Speaking at his spiky pre-match press conference at lunchtime, manager Mick McCarthy admitted he doesn’t know why home goals have dried up at a time when the Blues, 12th, nine points off the play-offs with Tuesday's game in hand on sixth-placed Middlesbrough, are one of the in-form teams on their travels.
“As I said on Saturday, I’ve no idea, we’re doing all the same things,” he said. “Maybe Joe Garner not playing, maybe Waggy’s played loads of games, who knows?
“I don’t know. I can’t give you that answer, we’re doing it the same way as we’ve always been doing and we’ll keep trying to score.”
One thing which has changed in recent weeks has been the system the Blues have been utilising, McCarthy having switched from a 4-2-3-1 formation to 3-5-2.
Asked whether that has changed the balance of the side to make it less attacking and more defensive, he responded: “I’m using the players I’ve got pretty effectively. It might seem not at home, but that’s the way it is.”
Hull climbed to 18th, six points off the bottom three following their 4-3 victory over Norwich City at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday, a result McCarthy expects to give them a boost.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “I wasn’t too unhappy about it either, I have to be honest, except for the fact they’ll be cock-a-hoop.
“And they’ve got good players. Let me tell you, they’re not in the position they’re in due to a lack of talent, that’s for certain. For whatever reason it is and I don’t know.
“Nigel Adkins is a tried and tested Championship manager, he certainly got a performance from them on Saturday and I watched them against Sheffield United on the telly.
“He seems to be turning them around and they have got good players, so it’ll be a difficult game.”
The way they came from 3-1 down to defeat the Canaries showed a team spirit which McCarthy expects to see them escape the embarrassment of dropping from the Premier League to League One in successive seasons.
“I’d be surprised now after that result if they get dragged into the relegation zone,” he considered. “I think that will have galvanised them and they’ll pull away from that.”
The Town boss doesn’t think Adkins, who took charge in December after Leonid Slutsky’s sacking, has changed too much since becoming boss.
“I don’t think so, I’ve not watched all the games, we’ve seen a few of them when we’re doing our analysis and read the reports,” he said.
“Championship savvy, knowledge, how games are played, how you’re playing them, how you get results in them. I think that’s what Nigel will have brought, organisation. And he’s tried and tested, he’s been a good manager.”
Speaking after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Sheffield United, McCarthy said he dismissed taking a gung-ho approach to the match. But having failed to win that match is now the time to throw more caution to the wind?
“I think somewhere between the lines,” the Blues boss responded. “You all want to be tacticians telling me how we should be playing. I try and win the game, every single week, that’s what I do. Every week we play to win.”
If Town don’t make the top six, does finishing as high as possible mean much? “Yes, it does, to me. Personal pride to the players, absolutely. How many games we can win and not losing them, that as well.
“I always get reminded when I come in here if we’ve not won one or how many we’ve lost. Nobody’s asked me about an unbeaten run or being in a good bit of form. That’s strange that, I always find that a little bit peculiar.”
Does he understand fans’ disappointment with the manner of the performance in the goalless draw with the Blades at a time when the Blues needed to build on the back-to-back away wins at Preston and Sheffield Wednesday?
“Well, I say again, we’ve played exactly the same way as we did at Sheffield Wednesday and played really well and won,” he said.
“Sheffield United, who had lost 3-0 at Fulham on the Tuesday night, came and they were toughened up, certainly, and they’re a good side. So, we tried to win the game. But everybody else will want to try and pick the team, I get that.”
Town and Hull drew 2-2 at the KCOM Stadium earlier in the season with Jordan Spence netting an equaliser two minutes from the end.
“When you equalise in the 88th minute it’s a point gained,” McCarthy reflected. “We played well that day.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will be in goal with the Town boss again set to field a back three of Cameron Carter-Vickers, skipper Luke Chambers and Adam Webster.
Jordan Spence will start at right wing-back - Dominic Iorfa is out with the groin problem he suffered on Saturday - with Jonas Knudsen expected to return from Myles Kenlock on the left, the Danish international having recovered from the hamstring problem which saw him miss the Blades match.
McCarthy could recall Luke Hyam and Grant Ward in the centre of midfield for Callum Connolly and Stephen Gleeson with Cole Skuse set to continue in his usual holding role.
Up front, Martyn Waghorn could be joined by Freddie Sears, who impressed from the bench at Sheffield Wednesday a week ago but was an unused sub on Saturday.
Hull City boss Adkins says his side are by no means out of the woods despite victory at the weekend and the six-point gap to the bottom three.
“The pressure isn’t off us. We’ve got to get ourselves ready to go again,” he told the Hull Daily Mail.
“Listen, we’ve only won two games away from home in two years so we’ve got two matches coming up which are both tough games.
“I told the players to enjoy the moment on Saturday, reflect on the performance, but then to draw a line and get ready for the next challenge.
“It’s going to be tough down there. Mick McCarthy’s teams are always tough to beat. Can we go on and put in another good performance that gives us the opportunity to win a game of football?
“There’s no one getting carried away. They’ve enjoyed the feeling of winning and that camaraderie is important. We were asked questions as a group and the players responded in a great way.”
Striker Abel Hernandez, who netted two penalties in the victory over the Canaries, may only be on the bench this evening having only just returned from an achilles injury.
Keeper Allan McGregor is expected to return having missed the Norwich match, when he was replaced by ex-Canary David Marshall, due to a minor injury.
Historically, Hull just have the edge on the Blues having won 15 of the games between the teams (14 in the league), while Town have been victorious eight times (eight) and a further 11 (11) matches have been draws.
The Blues are without a win in 10 games against the Tigers in all competitions, the East Yorkshire side having won seven of them.
At the KCOM Stadium in November, Spence netted an 88th minute equaliser as Town and Hull drew 2-2, the Blues' first draw for 25 matches.
Town got off to the perfect start when David McGoldrick put them ahead in the sixth minute but the Tigers levelled through Jarrod Bowen on 34, then went in front via Nouha Dicko six minutes after the restart.
McGoldrick missed a penalty in the 75th minute but Spence’s third goal of the season grabbed Town their first draw of the season with two minutes remaining.
Prior to that, the teams last met in February 2016 at Portman Road with the visitors on their way to the Premier League via the play-offs.
Mohamed Diamé’s goal three minutes after the restart was enough to see Hull, who were then the division’s leaders, to a 1-0 victory.
Town went closest to scoring before the break when Daryl Murphy hit the post, but having gone in front the Tigers dominated the second half.
Blues 12-goal joint-top scorer Waghorn spent a month on loan with the Tigers early in the 2011/12 season, scoring once in five starts.
No one in the Hull squad has played for the Blues but ex-Town frontman Richard Naylor coaches the U18s at their academy.
Saturday’s referee is Jeremy Simpson from Lancashire, who has shown 143 yellow cards and six red in 34 games so far this season.
Simpson has only refereed two previous Town games in which he awarded a total of four penalties.
His most recent Blues match was the 1-0 defeat at Rotherham in which he awarded a seventh-minute spot-kick when Josh Emmanuel - now on loan with the Millers - bundled over Jon Taylor. Dean Gerken saved Danny Ward’s kick.
Loanee Toumani Diagouraga was the only Blues player booked in that fixture, along with two Rotherham players.
Simpson’s only Town match prior to that was the 2-1 defeat at Reading in September 2016 in which he notoriously awarded three penalties which led to the game’s three goals.
Danny Williams won the match with the third and spot-kick deep in second-half injury time, Knudsen having been adjudged to have hauled down Joey van den Berg at a corner.
In first-half injury time Ward had been harshly penalised for handball for the game’s first penalty and Garath McCleary put the Royals in front.
Brett Pitman fired home Town’s - also contentious - spot-kick five minutes after the break for a foul by Tyler Blackett.
Simpson also booked nine players in that game, five Royals and Knudsen, Chambers, Christophe Berra and Skuse.
Squad from: Bialkowski, M Crowe, Spence, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Carter-Vickers, Webster, Skuse, Connolly, Hyam, Bru, Gleeson, Nydam, Ward, Celina, Waghorn, Garner, Sears.
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