MANAGERS’ REACTION, MAN-OF-THE-MATCH POLL & GALLERY: Mick McCarthy insists Wigan are favourites for sixth-spot after Ipswich Town close the gap on the play-off places with a 1-0 home win over Birmingham

Sky Bet Championship,
Ipswich Town v Birmingham City - Portman Road, Ipswich - 1 Mar 2014.

Sky Bet Championship, Ipswich Town v Birmingham City - Portman Road, Ipswich - 1 Mar 2014. Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy. PHOTO: Ashley Pickering - Credit: Ashley Pickering

Ipswich v Birmingham: Blues boss Mick McCarthy believes Wigan are the firm favourites to claim sixth-spot in the Championship table after his own side closed the gap on the play-off places to four points with a 1-0 home win over Birmingham.

With the top five in the Championship beginning to pull clear of the pack, a host of teams are now battling for the final play-off spot.

Wigan’s 4-1 win at Nottingham Forest saw them replace Reading in sixth spot this afternoon, with ninth-place Ipswich four points behind. Wigan, Brighton (8th), Blackburn (10th) and Leeds (12th) all have a game-in-hand.

Asked how he viewed his team’s top six chances with 13 games to go, McCarthy replied: “We’ve got Wigan coming up and they are best placed to get it. They are clear of us and have a really good squad with plenty of Premier League players still in their squad after coming down.

“The first five places are out the question for us, but we’re still in there scrapping away for sixth-spot.”

Town’s 1-0 win over Birmingham was their third home victory in four matches and made it four clean sheets in a row at Portman Road.

Daryl Murphy netted the 38th minute winner, but it was livewire striker Paul Taylor who was the star man and he was given a standing ovation when substituted two minutes before the end.

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The Liverpudlian hadn’t been due to make his third league start of the season either, only coming into the side on the morning of the game after new loan signing Jonny Williams reported a niggle.

“When Jonny Williams got injured there’s two ways of looking at it,” said McCarthy. “My view was ‘well, it’s an opportunity for somebody else’ and Tayls got the nod. I thought he played well.

“Jonny went off training yesterday. He played on Monday night (in a 2-1 win for Crystal Palace’s Under-21s at Portman Road) and didn’t know he was coming here so he trained again on Tuesday and Wednesday, then of course he comes to us on what would have been his day off but he’s not going to turn around on his first day and say ‘it’s my day off’. So he trained again on Thursday and Friday and it may have been a little bit too much.

“He’s just got a tight glute, which is his rear, at the top of his hamstring. It wasn’t worth risking him.”

Asked if he felt victory was deserved today, McCarthy said: “I’d say so, just. I don’t think we dominated Birmingham by any stretch of the imagination. We had some decent chances in the second half.

“It’s an important win because it comes at the start of a really tough period in terms of the amount of games we’ve got (seven in March) and the quality of opposition we’ve got to face. Away games against Middlesbrough and Yeovil in the same week will be tough because we’re geographically challenged.”

Birmingham boss Lee Clark – whose side have won seven times on their travels in the league this season – said: “Defensively we were quite solid, but we didn’t do enough when we had possession of the ball. Our lack of quality in possession of the ball made that result happen today.

“Lee Novak had a great chance and he’s been putting them in, but unfortunately today he put it over the bar. When you have a chance like that way from home when you’re not creating lost it can cost you.

“The word was ‘toothless’ really. We had to work extremely hard against a big, physical Ipswich team who play the game really well. They’ve got good players in the vital areas. You have to stand up to that and I thought my players did. They did the ugly side of things, but what we did on the ball wasn’t enough to warrant anything from the game.”

– See Monday’s EADT and Ipswich Star for match comment and more reaction.

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