‘We are the underdogs’ – Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy will field young team against League Two Portsmouth in FA Cup replay

Town manager Mick McCarthy vocal on the touchline during the Ipswich Town v Preston North End (Championship) football...

Town manager Mick McCarthy vocal on the touchline during the Ipswich Town v Preston North End (Championship) football match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 16 January 2016. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy insists his Championship high-fliers will be the underdogs when they take on League Two outfit Portsmouth in an FA Cup third round replay at Fratton Park tonight.

A Blues team full of ring-rusty fringe players was highly fortunate to secure a 2-2 draw when the two teams met at Portman Road just 10 days ago – and tonight McCarthy will name an even weaker line-up as he once again puts knock-out football right at the bottom of his priorities.

Claiming that a week which included an impressive win against Leeds and battling draw against Preston had ‘taken its toll’ on several of his key men, the Town boss revealed yesterday that it is a young squad which has travelled to the south coast.

With Saturday’s trip to top-six rivals Birmingham very much in mind, inexperienced young players such as Josh Emmanuel, Myles Kenlock, Paul Digby, Kyle Hammond, Adam McDonnell and Joe Robinson could all be involved this evening.

Portsmouth – who have already been made slight favourites by some bookies – are likely to be at near full-strength given that, due to a weekend postponement, they haven’t played since their trip to Suffolk.

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“Strangely enough, we’ll be the underdogs, in a slight way, because they were better than us up here, no question about that,” said McCarthy, who hasn’t won an FA Cup game since he took charge of Town in 2012.

“I’m not trying to play mind games – I don’t do that, I’m not bright enough, and Cooky (Portsmouth boss Paul Cook) is not daft enough to fall for it either. I don’t do all that.

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“They were excellent here though and they will expect to beat us now. In terms of the mentality of the players I think maybe we are underdogs. I know if I was their manager or one of their players, I’d be thinking ‘we’re going to slap Ipswich’.”

With a home tie against Premier League side Bournemouth the dubious prize up for grabs, McCarthy continued: “We’ve got a few bumps and bruises after a tough week and I’m not going to risk anyone. It’s an opportunity for a few young’uns to shine. Let’s see how they cope.

“Portsmouth are at home, they are a fantastic crowd down there and their fans will be baying for blood. I need one or two of my less experienced players to step up and play well.

“I’m not saying to them ‘give me a problem’, because they’re not going to play on Saturday, but they can give me a nice surprise where I think ‘wow, I know he’ll be alright if I ever need him to step in’.

“And do you know what, thinking further ahead to next season and beyond, they’ll have given themselves a better chance of staying at this club.

“The ones that handle it, revel in it and enjoy it will probably come through and be players for my first team at some stage in the future. If there are some who are kowtowed and shrink away from it then it means it’s less likely that they will make it.”

– See today’s EADT and Ipswich Star for match preview. Follow @Stuart_Watson on Twitter for live match updates.

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