Another low attendance milestone but improved display lifts tension between McCarthy and fans... for now at least
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
There was a sense a toxic atmosphere awaited manager Mick McCarthy as the Blues faced Cardiff following the weekend’s events at Norwich.
The dramatic draw at Carrow Road was largely overshadowed by a debate regarding McCarthy’s choice and direction of words following Luke Chambers’ goal, increasing the tension between a manager and fanbase whose relationship was already strained.
His team selection for the clash with Cardiff, which included five changes and rare starts for Luke Hyam and Freddie Sears, raised many an eyebrow pre-match, but what followed served to somewhat thaw the ice which has formed between touchline and terrace – for a game at least.
Kenneth Zohore’s goal on 66 minutes condemned the Blues to defeat, but slipping behind did not spark any unrest in the stands and did not produce the anti-McCarthy chants that many feared an away win might.
There were boos at the final whistle, but those seemed more out of habit than anger.
Any lingering tension was temporarily defused by periods of slick, passing football played mainly on the floor, and although it was far from perfect and the Blues became more direct in the second half, the 13,205 inside Portman Road largely appreciated what they saw.
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The attendance was the lowest in the best part of two decades, dating back to the 3-0 victory over Bradford in September 1998 and usurping the recent drab draw with Burton on that front, but many of those who opted to stay away may be disappointed they did.
Let’s not get carried away, though. This display certainly will not heal all the wounds which threaten to overshadow the rest of what could be McCarthy’s final three months in charge, but it is a welcome break.
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With neither a promotion push or relegation battle on the horizon between now and the end of the season, it’s going to take performances better than this on a consistent basis to change the tide of opinion and bring the fans back, but this was a start.
A defeat, but much improved against a side chasing automatic promotion.