Reaction: McCarthy hails his side’s defensive display after 1-1 FA Cup draw at Southampton

Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor marshal their team during the second half at Southampton

Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor marshal their team during the second half at Southampton

Southampton v Ipswich: Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy hailed his side’s defensive display after a mix-and-match line-up of first team regulars and fringe players battled their way to a 1-1 draw against full-strength Southampton, at St Mary’s, in the FA Cup third round.

With Saturday’s big second versus third Championship home clash with Derby County in mind, the Blues boss made six changes to his starting XI following the 3-0 home win over Charlton. Saints counterpart Ronald Koeman, whose side are fourth in the Premier League, made just two alterations to his team following their impressive 2-0 victory against Arsenal on New Year’s Day.

And yet it was the Blues who broke the deadlock, through Darren Ambrose’s fine 19th minute, before a mix-up between keeper Dean Gerken and defender Christophe Berra allowed Morgan Schneiderlin to equalise just after the half hour.

It was backs-to-the-wall stuff for the tiring visitors in the second half, but they held on to ensure their name will be in the hat for Monday night’s draw. The replay will take place under the lights at Portman Road on Wednesday, January 17.

“I thought we performed well,” said McCarthy. “There was a bit of a mix-up with the goal, but other than that we defended well. If ever there was a show of defiance and belligerence and how to defend properly that was today.

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“We had to sustain a fair bit of pressure with a few lads who needed games. I think there were a few that started to run on empty slightly towards the end, but I was pleased with the performance – certainly defensively, we were excellent.

“The goal we conceded was just one of them. It bounces high up between Christophe and Dean, he’s going towards his own goal Christophe and he can’t really chest it. He (Schneiderlin) sticks his leg out and took the opportunity. I can’t grumble because we defended really well.”

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On a replay that will fall between a home game against Derby and a trip to Millwall, the Blues boss joked: “I’ve just said to the lads ‘well done, that’s the last thing we really wanted!’ I said that tongue-in-cheek because I didn’t want to lose, that’s for sure. Why can’t you have a cup run as well? You get plenty of rest in between, I know it’s an extra game, but I want us to continue our run of good form.”

He continued: “I came down here and watched Arsenal play and Southampton were worthy winners. I think we’ve handled them well to be honest.

“We were under siege for about five or six minutes and I had to change our shape to 4-3-3 and stem the tide a bit. After that I thought we did well.

“My players have learnt how tough it is playing Premier League opposition and hopefully they have realised they can cope with it.”

With around 5,500 fans packing the away end, the biggest away support ever at St Mary’s, McCarthy said: “Fantastic weren’t they? I knew we had a big support coming. I was conscious of that with my team selection.

“I’ve got my two strikers who are doing really well in the Championship and they both played. I think they (the fans) were probably worrying they were going to see an understrength team and that wasn’t the case because all those lads who played are first team players.”

On Ambrose’s goal and subsequent run to the bench to celebrate, McCarthy said: “I said to Darren, you’re wide right, see if you can get in at the far post. TC (Terry Connor) has been working on his heading ever since he walked in the club. That’s why he came across and shook his hand I think.

“I don’t think he had too many good touches before that mind! He was having a tough time because Bertrand and Tadic have a good partnership down that side.

“It was great he scored. I can only imagine how much he enjoyed it being back at his boyhood club and doing it in the FA Cup. I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I’m sure he’s delighted.”

Saints boss Ronald Koeman – whose side will travel to Portman Road in between trips to Manchester United and Newcastle – said: “I don’t understand why you say congratulations? We have to play the replay and that wasn’t what I expect.

“Seriously, I was afraid for today’s game because we play a lot in the last few weeks. There was a lot of positive attention towards us after Chelsea and after Arsenal.

“My experience always is the next one is difficult. They (Ipswich) have an unbelievable spirit in the team and they had 5,000 fans supporting the team. I was afraid today and the final result shows why.

“We didn’t start well, we started sloppy. I was unhappy with the first 25 minutes, after that the reaction was very good, we made it 1-1 and I’m happy with the second half performance because we controlled the game. We were a little bit unlucky with some important decisions of the referee and the linesman – I’m talking about Shane (Long) in the box. But that’s football.”

He added: “We have to play the replay. Okay, we have to do it.

“We can’t make a lot of changes in the team. That was the strongest team we could play today. I didn’t want people to say ‘the manager is not taking it seriously’.

“Now we have to play three difficult away games in a week.”

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