Sears plays important role in Sunderland win after starting week unhappy with McCarthy
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Mick McCarthy hailed the professionalism of Freddie Sears after the striker started the week unhappy but ended it by playing an important role in Ipswich Town’s 2-0 win at struggling Sunderland this afternoon.
The striker’s confidence visibly drained during a run of 29 games, spanning 292 days and 1,134 minutes on the pitch without finding the net as he generally toiled out-of-position on the wing.
He started this week playing for the club’s Under-23s at Playford Road, scoring in a 5-0 victory against Millwall, then was handed his first senior start since Boxing Day.
The 28-year-old’s wait for a first team goal goes on, but he more than played his part in today’s highly-professional and much-needed away victory that was secured through a strike from Joe Garner (35) and an own goal from Adam Matthews (45).
Indeed, Sears was mobbed by delighted team-mates after the killer second as many thought he had got the last touch in the six-yard box.
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“We are trying to give it to Freddie but apparently the ‘special goals panel’ say it’s an own goal,” said McCarthy with a smile. “Nevertheless he was there and trying to put it in.
“That (the celebrations) just shows the level of team spirit in our squad and the camaraderie that’s there. They are a great bunch, they are fantastic lads and it was nice to see that.”
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He continued: “Freddie played in the 23s this week. I didn’t phone him on the Sunday to tell him he was playing because I didn’t want to piss his Sunday and his Monday off! I thought I’ll wait and tell him Monday morning when he comes in for training! I did piss him off, I have to be honest. He wasn’t happy, but he then went ‘alright’ and went and played properly.
“I can hear people saying ‘they should do it properly’, but you’ve all seen 23 games and how that’s not always the case with first-teamers. But Webbo (Adam Webster) did it properly, Luke Hyam did and so did Freddie. That’s testimony to them that. It means they can then go and play like they did today because they do things properly.”
Reflecting on his side’s victory, only their second in nine games, McCarthy said: “We had to weather a real storm for 20 minutes – it might have been longer, it felt longer.
“I thought they were excellent without putting the ball in the net for 20 minutes. I had to change it a bit and put Skusey on their 53 (Ovie Ejaria) to stop him having a field day and put Waggy (Martyn Waghorn) and Callum (Connolly) on the other two. I was trying to leave the front three up, it wasn’t working, so I had to drop them back in and be a bit more solid. When we did that I thought we frustrated them, they couldn’t play through us and we started to break on them and got into the game.
“Joe (Garner) got an absolutely magnificent goal, it’s a fabulous goal. Then the players who came into the team (Grant Ward and Sears) combined for the second. I thought those two guys were great.
“They (Sunderland) had a lot of the ball second half, but I don’t think Bart (Bialkowski) has had to make too many saves to be honest.”
Asked if the timing of the second goal was crucial, McCarthy said: “I cold see Chris (Coleman)’s reaction to it. He probably had a plan in his head of what to do, he could rally the troops because they’d done alright, but that was a killer blow for all of them.”
With his former employers very much staring down the barrel of a second successive relegation, McCarthy said: “I have got no sympathy for anybody I play against. That’s whether it’s Barnsley, Millwall... I wouldn’t have to give Manchester City any sympathy would I?! We’re all professionals and we all want to win. I’m sad to see the plight that the club is in, but I know how hard it is to turn things around when it’s that way. It’s like trying to turn an oil tanker with a canoe paddle.”
Asked about Garner’s goal celebration, which saw the striker sprint 50 yards towards the bench before ignoring everyone to take a drink from a water bottle, McCarthy quipped: “I never, ever thought he was coming to me – don’t worry! I don’t get caught in that trap putting my hands out and them running past! No, he said he needed a drink. So did I given my last one was New Year’s Eve! I might have one tonight.”
When a reporter started to ask him about his team selection, McCarthy interjected: “Just write it was good! I’ve just been asked why id didn’t play Santy (Bersant Ceina). Well Freddie and Wardy gave us pace and thrust. They are players who can run off Joe and stretch teams. And it was fresh legs in the team.”
On Ward, who was very impressive, the Blues boss added: “We saw on his debut what a talented individual he was when he come son and scores his hat-trick. He’s been a really good player for us. It’s great to see him back (after a groin injury) because he certainly gives us something different others can’t.”