Bring back the reserve league, says Mick McCarthy

Ipswich Town v Preston North End.
FA Cup Third Round.
Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy.

Ipswich Town v Preston North End. FA Cup Third Round. Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy. - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy believes the lack of a proper reserve league contributed to several of his fringe players putting in disappointing displays in Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with Preston North End in the FA Cup.

The Blues boss made seven changes to his starting XI, handing the likes of Scott Loach, Tyrone Mings, Anthony Wordsworth, Jay Tabb, Carlos Edwards and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake rare opportunities.

The latter six had just nine combined first team starts to their names over the previous four months and the midfielders in the aforementioned list looked particularly ring-rusty in what McCarthy labelled ‘our poorest performance of the season’.

It really shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise given the opportunity to maintain match sharpness has been greatly reduced by the new rules this season which state that clubs can play a maximum of three overage outfield players in the Professional Under-21 Development League.

“Don’t start me on Under-21 games,” said McCarthy, who said after the match that he took full responsibility for picking too many players that were not ‘match hardened’.

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“That’s just nonsense. It should still be a reserve league in my opinion, we should be able to give all our fringe players regular games.

“Me saying that will probably upset somebody – I hope it does. I hope they write to me so we can discuss it. That would be great. I’ll tell them all the reasons.

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“You can only play three over-age players (in the U21 League), so most of your fringe players can’t get games. And it doesn’t matter how much training you do, you can’t replicate what games give you.”

Ipswich’s unbeaten streak may have been extended to nine matches with what was their fourth 1-1 draw in five matches, but they will now have to make a 500-mile round trip to Lancashire next Tuesday for the replay. Win and they will face <insert>.

“I didn’t pick the team I picked to lose – we just weren’t good enough to win it unfortunately,” said McCarthy. “Now we have to make the long trip up there with our good away record (unbeaten in eight).” Asked if he will use the match as another opportunity to give his fringe players a match, he said: “Let’s see. I’ll have a look at QPR first (at home on Saturday). I’ll give it my whole consideration after that.”

He added: “I said that to the lads afterwards ‘we’re sixth in the table, we’re nine unbeaten now, so that’s pretty good going’. We’ve made some great progress, it was a bit of a dip today, but well come back – we’ll be fine.”

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