McCarthy relieved his tactical substitution worked after 1-0 win at Preston
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Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy felt his team finally got what they deserved with a 1-0 win at Preston North End this afternoon.
Flying winger Mustapha Carayol terrorised the home defence on his full debut and, after missing an early sitter, opened the scoring in the 21st minute with a cool finish. The Blues could and should have been three or four ahead at the break given Martyn Waghorn saw a good chance blocked and Dominic Iorfa hit the bar.
Preston boss Alex Neil was forced into a tactical double substitution in the 37th minute. McCarthy, in turn, subbed Carayol at the break and replaced him with Luke Hyam. A scrappy second half followed and Town defended superbly to end the play-off chasing Lilywhites’ seven-game unbeaten run.
“I think that’s the culmination of a really good week of performances,” said McCarthy. “At Norwich we should have had three points (1-1 last Sunday), I think we got done by a dodgy old decision in midweek against Cardiff (1-0 home loss) and today we’ve played well and got what we deserved.
“We should have been more than one up at half-time. We caused them a problem and forced them to change things, just as we caused Cardiff problems on Wednesday and forced them to change a few things.
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“Then second half it was different. That’s the Championship, it’s required. I’ve never been anywhere yet where it’s not been tough and you have to stand up to a bit of pressure and defend well. It never looked like they would score to be honest.”
Carayol had been a late withdrawal from the starting line-up in midweek due to sickness and diarrhoea. Asked if the impressive January recruit had been subbed at the break through necessity, McCarthy explained: “I was delighted getting Muzzy and he’s shown today what he is capable of. I never thought for one minute he’d play the whole game having had sickness and diarrhoea in the week though.
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“I think we’d have got another 15 minutes out of him, but he’d run his race. They had stuck (Josh) Harrop on him midfield, so it was a tactical one as much as a physical one.
“No he didn’t want to come off, but I said to him ‘Muzzy how are you?’ and he said ‘I’m okay’. It wasn’t a ‘I’m brilliant gaffer, don’t take me off’. He used the wrong terminology to me. He was coming off anyway.”
Asked why he introduced an extra battling midfielder in Hyam rather than Bersant Celina or Grant Ward as a like-for-like substitution, the Blues boss said: “I knew doing that we might lose a bit of the threat we had up front, but we were 1-0 up and I didn’t want them to get (Josh) Harrop on the ball in behind their front players.
“It was just tactical and thankfully it worked, because when it doesn’t work then people would have questioned why I didn’t put another fast one up front.
“I could see the second half coming, I could just see ‘1-0 up and you messed it up’ chants coming. Anyway, it didn’t. We defended really well.”
With a 3-4-3 system deployed for the second game running, Tottenham loanee Cameron Carter-Vickers and Adam Webster both impressed either side of skipper Luke Chambers in a back three.
“The lads have adapted well to this system,” said McCarthy. “It does give us height at the back to deal with corners and free-kicks and it also gives me licence to play whatever I want up front. We’ve looked more mobile and more of a threat with a front three.
“Cameron played in a back three at Sheffield United (on loan earlier in the season) and Chambo organises them well. If I play three at the back then Adam (Webster) is in the team, but if I don’t then Cameron Carter-Vickers deserves to play because he’s been excellent.
“It made me laugh when he was shepherding the ball out by the corner and their lad tried to push him. That’s like trying to push a pick-up truck!”
With Town leapfrogging back above Norwich and closing the gap to the play-off places to six points, does McCarthy think a top-six finish could still be achievable?
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I wrote that one off. What are we, six points behind now? I thought it was over, but I didn’t say we’d stop fighting for it.
“I think Preston only lost one league game since we beat them (at Portman Road in early November), so it’s a good win today.”