Skuse celebrates his 200th Town game with another 7/10 display... and that will make McCarthy very happy
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Cole Skuse’s 200th Ipswich Town appearance may not go down as one of his best, but it did provide a perfect snapshot of why the experienced campaigner has been so highly valued by Mick McCarthy.
The 2-1 victory at Sheffield Wednesday saw Skuse become the first and so far only McCarthy signing to reach his double century, with departed Christophe Berra (186) and Bartosz Bialkowski (137 not out) the next two on that list, and the 31-year-old was his usual calming influence in the middle of midfield.
While praising the 31-year-old’s impact ahead of last night’s game, McCarthy insisted the reliability of a player ‘who puts in a seven-out-of-10 display each and every week’ was the attribute he appreciates most. And that’s exactly what he got at Hillsborough.
Skuse patrolled the gap between the midfield and defensive lines, picking up on loose balls and ensuring his body was in the right place to halt home attacks.
He was hit and miss with his passing, summed up by one superb, fizzing first-half ball which found his man being following by another attempt which flew out of play and a handful of loose passes, but he generally kept things moving well in midfield.
Skuse’s attributes make him the perfect member of a midfield three, with that system deployed at Hillsborough, but to really see the best of Skuse that three would need to include more creativity than Wednesday partners Callum Connolly and Luke Hyam are able to offer.
McCarthy entered the season with designs on pairing Skuse with Emyr Huws and Tom Adeyemi, which would have allowed the former Bristol City man to play the mopping up role he does so well without the creative responsibility. But injury has meant the triumvirate has never take the field together.
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The win at Hillsborough saw Skuse playing alongside two players whose game revolves around winning the ball and laying it off in a combative midfield engine room, which only served to highlight the lack of forward drive that ensures Skuse’s role splits supporters.
There is no doubting McCarthy’s opinion of the Bristolian, though, with his display in Sheffield once again showing why the safe pair of hands has been one of McCarthy’s most trusted lieutenants.
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He has been a near ever-present during his five years at the club and figures to continue in that role for some time to come after signing a new deal until 2020 – while McCarthy is around at least.