Reaction: Mick McCarthy knows Ipswich Town are very much in a relegation scrap
Ipswich Town’s 60-year stay in the top two tiers of English football is very much in danger following this afternoon’s 3-1 loss at Cardiff City – and manager Mick McCarthy knows it.
The Blues have claimed just 14 points from a possible 42 this calendar year and slipped to 17th in the Championship standings – the gap to the drop zone now only five points with eight games to play.
It looks like there are seven teams all battling to avoid finishing 22nd and, of those seven sides, Ipswich have worryingly claimed the least amount of wins over the last 10 matches.
There is now a fortnight to dwell on things, due to an international break, followed by high-pressure home games against Birmingham City (18th) and Wigan Athletic (23rd).
“We’re in a relegation scrap, I’ve never denied that,” said McCarthy. “I’ve been asked that in press conferences all the time and I’ve always said I’m looking over my shoulder at the teams behind me, not in front of me. I’ve not shied away from that, ever.
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“We can’t afford to play like that because there is always someone that slithers into the bottom three and always somebody that scraps their way out.
“It’s funny, when you’re trying to scrap your way out it’s amazing how much fight you have in you. When you are going the other way it can be quite the opposite.”
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He added: “We all need to regroup over this break because the next two games are huge games, Birmingham and Wigan at home. We certainly need to compete better and play better than we have.”
Asked if it was a good or a bad time for a break, the Blues boss replied: “It doesn’t matter does it? We’ll find out when we come back against Birmingham whether it’s a good time for a break. It’s important that when we do come back that everybody is in it together and we make it a real tough place for people to come at Portman Road.
“They are huge games for us, massive games.”
When it was put to him that a significant number of supporters are frustrated, unhappy and that the dissenting voices are becoming louder, a deflated-looking McCarthy said: “Do I look happy? I’m not happy with it at all. And I’m not happy that people aren’t happy with me or the players or the club. I fully understand the dissenting voices. We’ve just got to make sure we stay in this league.”
Following a poor January, Town produced some positive displays at the start of February but have regressed in the last few weeks. How frustrating is that?
“Yes, it is frustrating,” said McCarthy. “It’s more than frustrating, it’s bloody annoying.”
What is the reason behind the downturn in form?
“It is difficult to put my finger on it because we were playing particularly well with the 3-5-2,” he replied. “It wasn’t great last week (1-1 at Barnsley) and it certainly wasn’t today.”
Will his players get time off over the next fortnight?
“Yes,” said McCarthy. “There’s no point bringing them in and hammering them. We need to be fresh and full of running when Birmingham arrive.”
Reflecting on today’s game, he said: “Well-beaten we were. I thought we were poor and they were good. We weren’t anywhere near what our standards have been.
“All three of their goals were poor. We’ve not defended for any of them. We’ve not got organised for the set-piece, which is really disappointing given we’d spoken about that. They won’t score an easier equaliser that’s for sure.
“For the second we just didn’t win the first ball, didn’t win the second ball and it ends up in the back of our net. It was really poor form us, poor defending.”
On his decision to switch to a 4-4-2 system at half-time, he explained: “Because it wasn’t working what we were doing (wing-backs). I think our back three defenders were being occupied by one striker, but it didn’t work the other way around either. I don’t think it was down to the system change though. To think we can’t play a back four is ridiculous.”