‘I hope the players ram my words down my throat’ – McCarthy previews Sheffield United visit
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Ipswich Town host Sheffield United in a Championship match this afternoon. STUART WATSON previews the action.
Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy hopes his players can prove he was wrong to rule out a late play-off push.
The Blues boss said a Championship top-six finish was beyond his team’s reach following a 1-1 draw at Norwich last month, but successive away wins against Preston and Sheffield Wednesday have cut the gap to seven points with a game-in-hand to come.
With 11 games to go, Town now host Sheffield United and Hull City in the space of four days at Portman Road.
“Of course it is a big opportunity,” said McCarthy. “But it would be easy for me to sit here and say ‘oh yes, if we win these next two games we will be right back in it’. It’s a big if, that, isn’t it?
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“I’m that right pragmatic manager with my feet on the ground and I know we aren’t going to go out there and beat them both just because we’ve just have two away wins.
“We’ll be trying damn hard to win because, with that game-in-hand, that would put us right back in the mix.
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“I hope the players ram my words down my throat. I didn’t say it with that intention though, I said it because I believed that it was unlikely we will get in the play-offs. And I still think it is – not because of us, but because the teams who are above us are good teams.
“If we finish in the top 10 I think that would be an achievement given the level of investment that has been in at other clubs.”
Asked if his team owed Sheffield United one following 1-0 defeats in both league and FA Cup earlier this campaign, McCarthy quipped: “We owe them two! I thought they started well up at Bramall Lane, but we got back into the game and could have got something out of it. And the FA Cup game there was nothing in it at all.
“Sheffield United got a doing at Fulham the other night (3-0), and there’s no embarrassment at that to be honest, but I know Chris Wilder and Alan Knill and they will want to respond because they need the response to get back in that top six if they’re going to get there.
“They’ve been there pretty much all season so they will be feeling pretty sore about that.
“It will be a tough game because they are a good side. I saw them at Reading recently and they pretty much have a bit of everything.”
Manager: Chris Wilder (May ‘16: P92 W52 D15 L25)
Last five finishes: 1st, 11th, 5th, 7th, 5th (all League One)
Current position: 9th
Form: LWLWL WLLWW
Last game: L 3-0 Fulham (a)
Most starts: O’Connell (35), Stevens & Basham (34)
Most assists: Duffy (8), Fleck (5)
Top-scorers: Clarke (15), Sharp (12)
Margins of victory: 1 (x13), 2 (x5), 3 (x2)
Margins of defeat: 1 (x11), 2 (x2), 3 (x3)
2 – Town goals scored in last seven home games
5 – Goals Town have conceded in their last nine matches
• Town probably need to average two points per game to stand any chance of finishing in the play-offs. The last time they did that was at the end of 2015.
Ipswich Town 0 Sheff Utd 1
Date: Saturday, January 6, 2018
Town exited the FA Cup at the first hurdle for the eighth successive year courtesy of Nathan Jones’ super strike (25).
A patchwork Town team of first team regulars and fringe players failed to produce a single shot on target.
Ipswich Town team news
• Cameron Carter-Vickers made 18 starts for Sheffield United in the first half of the season, but Blades boss Chris Wilder couldn’t guarantee him first-team football after Christmas so he was recalled by Tottenham and sent to Ipswich on loan.
• Mustapha Carayol could miss the next three games with the groin strain which forced him off in Tuesday night’s 2-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday.
• Striker Joe Garner continues to struggle with a sore knee. Freddie Sears and Bersant Celina are both options to partner Martyn Waghorn up top.
• Jonas Knudsen is a minor doubt with a tight hamstring. • David McGoldrick, Emyr Huws, Tom Adeyemi, Teddy Bishop and Andre Dozzell remain long-term absentees.
Sheffield United team news
• Top-scorer Leon Clarke is likely to return to the team after sitting out Tuesday night’s 3-0 defeat at Fulham with a tight hamstring. • Starlet David Brookes, who has had back/shoulder problems, is pushing for his first start since early December. • Striker James Wilson, signed on loan from Manchester United in January, should be available again following an ankle injury.
Key opposition man
Leon Clarke The journeyman striker, now 33, is in the form of his life. With 15 goals he is the Championship’s second-top scorer. Brings back memories of Daryl Murphy’s Indian summer of a season for Town in 2014/15.
Ipswich Town 11/5 Draw 12/5 Sheffield United 6/4
John Brooks (Leicestershire) Games: 39, Yellows: 120, Reds: 6
Town looking solid at the back and have a renewed goal threat. Blades not the team they were earlier in campaign.