Reaction: McCarthy answers questions on soft goal conceded and lack of creativity following 1-0 loss at Cardiff

Bartosz Bialkowski is disappointed to have been beaten by Bruno Ecuele Manga's first half near post

Bartosz Bialkowski is disappointed to have been beaten by Bruno Ecuele Manga's first half near post header

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy admitted his team now need to beat Blackburn and Rotherham at home next week if they are to keep their Championship play-off hopes alive following a lacklustre and scruffy 1-0 loss at top-six rivals Cardiff City this afternoon.

Defender Bruno Manga scored with an unmarked header following a 19th minute corner and the Bluebirds sat on that lead in what was a poor spectacle in south Wales. Ipswich had no answer and their lack of creativity was telling as, even with four strikers on the field in the second half, they never really looked like scoring.

Town remain eighth in the table but are now four points adrift of sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday. They have a game in hand on many of the teams around them, but recent form – the Blues having ridden their luck in the wins against Huddersfield and Nottingham Forest and been outplayed in the draw at Bolton – doesn’t bode well heading into back-to-back home games against Blackburn (Tuesday) and Rotherham (Saturday).

“I’m frustrated because I don’t think there’s anything in the game apart from one corner kick that they will see as well-worked, which I would if we’d scored it, but he shouldn’t get a free header in our box,” rued McCarthy. “Losing the ball in the middle of the pitch didn’t do us any favours either. Apart from that there’s not been a great deal in it though.”

Asked if the two team’s midweek exploits had contributed to a flat and forgettable affair, McCarthy replied: “Possibly. They had a home game and hadn’t been anywhere though, they haven’t been on a bus for 11 hours. The whole atmosphere was flat and early on I’m ready to settle for a horrible, scruffy, turgid game away from home that we might be able to nick with a free-kick or a corner. Unfortunately it turned out the opposite way.”

Even when substitutes Brett Pitman and Luke Varney joined Daryl Murphy and Freddie Sears up front, Ipswich – who had Cole Skuse and Luke Hyam in midfield – created few goalscoring chances. Was the lack of creative players telling today?

“Possibly,” replied McCarthy. “Maybe the fact that they sat in their half in the second half didn’t leave a lot of room for any creativity. It probably ended up being too many long balls and they got their heads on them rather than we did. They dealt with it really well.”

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With Ipswich having conceded from a corner, just like they did twice at Bristol City recently, is that a concern?

“I’m concerned by any goals we concede,” said McCarthy. “And we’ve conceded too many this season.”

Pressed on the issue, he said: “They are a problem if you don’t mark. Against Bristol City they were good deliveries and good movement and they are difficult to defend. I’m not convinced that was the case today. He got a free header.”

McCarthy is often quick to say we shouldn’t forget to praise the opposition if they have played well. Asked if he felt Cardiff had played well, he conceded: “I don’t think they were at their best, not at all. All they did was stick it in behind us and turn us around. They got free-kicks and corners from it and caused us problems from them, but they didn’t have loads of chances.

“We haven’t troubled the goalkeeper enough, we have not done enough to win it, but I think we should have defended the corner better though and got a nil-nil draw.”

Looking at the week ahead, he added: “We’ve had no time to dwell on anything recently, we’ve just been travelling around the country and playing football.

“We’ve got two homes games now and we need to win them to get back in the mix. It won’t be easy though because Blackburn are scraping away for their lives and Rotherham have come from 3-0 down today to draw with Derby. There are no mugs in this league. We’ll have to play well.”

– See Monday’s EADT and Ipswich Star for the verdict of chief football writer Stuart Watson.

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