Match preview: Birmingham City v Ipswich Town – ‘Eight games to audition for the new man’

PUBLISHED: 06:00 31 March 2018

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy has told his players he will not allow them to down tools after the announcement of his summer departure. Photo: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy has told his players he will not allow them to down tools after the announcement of his summer departure. Photo: Steve Waller

© Copyright Stephen Waller

Ipswich Town take on relegation-battling Birmingham City at St Andrew’s this afternoon (3pm ko). STUART WATSON previews the action.

Jonas Knudsen is looking to seal his place in Denmark's World Cup squad this summer after winning his third cap last weekend. Photo: Steve WallerJonas Knudsen is looking to seal his place in Denmark's World Cup squad this summer after winning his third cap last weekend. Photo: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy says there is no way his players are going to down tools over the final eight games of the campaign.

The Blues announced on Thursday that McCarthy would be leaving the club when his contract expires at the end of the season following five-and-a-half years in charge.

Today’s game at relegation-battling Birmingham will quickly be followed by the Easter Monday visit of an in-form Millwall side who have won seven of their last eight matches. Then comes meetings with Brentford (a), Barnsley (h), Nottingham Forest (a), Aston Villa (h), Reading (a) and Middlesbrough (h).

MORE: Who next? Names in the frame to replace McCarthy

“The lads have trained and I said ‘I’m still going to be barking at you so don’t think we can all down tools’,” said McCarthy.

“Jonas Knudsen and Bartosz (Bialkowski) want to get in the squads for the World Cup. And we have some young lads in the squad looking to make an impression.

“The older pros like your Chambos, your Skuseys and Waggy are great lads. It might get to them a little bit (the announcement of his departure) but I think they will get back at it. If they want to show their disappointment to anybody then do it by playing well and seeing if we can get in that top 10.”

He added: “We are going back to the scene of the first crime, my first game, at Birmingham (a 1-0 win in 2012) and the irony is I’m announcing I’m finishing now and going back to Birmingham.

Cole Skuse is one of Mick McCarthy's long-term stalwarts. The midfielder had made it clear he wanted the Blues boss to stay on beyond this season. Photo: Steve WallerCole Skuse is one of Mick McCarthy's long-term stalwarts. The midfielder had made it clear he wanted the Blues boss to stay on beyond this season. Photo: Steve Waller

“We have some winnable games but they (Birmingham) are scrapping for their lives after a great result last time out (a 3-0 victory over Hull).

MORE: McCarthy on forcing the issue with Evans, his Blues legacy and ‘numbskull’ critics – read the full transcript

“Then Millwall are coming here and that will be a great game on Easter Monday because I would think they would bring a lot of fans given they’ve been flying. We have some good games and ones we have to compete in.”

Captain Luke Chambers said: “It won’t be difficult to focus on our last eight games. The gaffer wants us to finish as high as we can because he’s a winner and he doesn’t want to take his foot off the gas. He’s made no secret of the fact that he wants to finish above those guys up the road.

“I’m sure (owner) Marcus Evans will already be looking for the next manager and the candidates will be at our games. The lads are going to have to do all they can to make sure they are in the new man’s plans for next season.”

He added: “A few people have mentioned the lads potentially downing tools but that would be totally ridiculous. We want to give everything for the manager because he’s given everything to us.

“And at the end of the day you’re playing for your future because the new manager will come in and decide who he wants to keep for next season. It’s a strange situation to have eight games left as an audition.”

Garry Monk is relegation-battling Birmingham City's third permanent manager of the season following Harry Redknapp and Steve Cotterill. Photo: PAGarry Monk is relegation-battling Birmingham City's third permanent manager of the season following Harry Redknapp and Steve Cotterill. Photo: PA

MORE: Love him or loathe him, McCarthy did it his way

Opposition lowdown

Manager: Garry Monk (March ‘18: W1 D0 L2)

Last five finishes: 19th, 10th, 10th, 21st, 12th (all Championship)

Current form: WLLLL LLLDW

Average league attendance: 20,521

Last game: W 3-0 Hull (h)

Home league record: W7 D2 L10 F14 A21

Top-scorers: Gallagher, Adams (7)

Most assists: Maghoma (4)

Most league starts: Stockdale, Dean (28)

Margins of victory 17/18: 1 (x6), 2 (x3), 3+ (x2)

Margins of defeat 17/18: 1 (x11), 2 (x10), 3+ (x3)

MORE: Season ticket prices for 2018/19 – everything you need to know

Stat attack

4 – Games without a win at Birmingham (D2 L2)

11 – Points taken from last six away games

6 – Birmingham have had six bosses in six years: Clark, Rowett, Zola, Redknapp, Cotterill and Monk

Last meeting

Ipswich Town 1 Birmingham City 0

Date: Saturday, August 5, 2017

Town opened the season with a win courtesy of a debut goal from summer signing Joe Garner. He timed his run to perfection to side-foot home five minutes after the restart. Andre Dozzell’s season was cruelly finished before it had barely begun due to a cruciate knee injury.

Ipswich Town team news

• Mustapha Carayol (groin), Trsitan Nydam (knock) and Dominic Iorfa (thigh) could come back into contention following injuries.

• Dean Gerken (hip), Emyr Huws (knee), Tom Adeyemi (groin), Andre Dozzell (knee), Teddy Bishop (hamstring), David McGoldrick (groin) and Joe Garner (shoulder/skull/knee) are all ruled out for the season.

• Young strikers Ben Morris and Aaron Drinan are again likely to be part of the squad.

• Midfielder Stephen Gleeson could feature against the club that cancelled his contract in January.

Birmingham City team news

• The Midlands side’s performances have improved since Garry Monk was appointed at the start of March, boosting hopes of survival.

• The ex-Middlesbrough boss has switched to a 4-4-2 system, partnering Che Adams with Lukas Jutkiewicz up front.

• Jota and Jacques Maghoma offer the width, with Craig Gardner and Maikel Kieftenbeld sitting in midfield.

• Left-back Jonathan Grounds is fit again after injury. That could see Maxime Colin return to his favoured right-back role.

• Former Town loanee David Stockdale is in goal.

Opposition key man

Jota – The skilful Spandiard scored twice in a vital 3-0 home win against Hull prior to the international break. Ex-Brentford man provides the creative spark drifting inside off the right flank.

Odds

Birmingham City (5/4)

Draw (23/10)

Ipswich Town (31/10)

Referee

Roger East (Wiltshire)

Games: 23, Yellows: 77, Reds: 3

Stu’s prediction

Birmingham 1 Ipswich 0

Birmingham have a new manager lift under Monk and are fighting for their lives. That may just edge Town players’ desire to show their support of outgoing boss McCarthy.

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