Tommy Smith made central defensive selection decision easy, says Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy

PUBLISHED: 22:12 08 August 2016 | UPDATED: 22:12 08 August 2016

Tommy Smith in action at Shelbourne

Tommy Smith in action at Shelbourne

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Tommy Smith has received a ringing endorsement from manager Mick McCarthy, ahead of his chance to impress the Blues boss in tonight’s EFL Cup First Round clash with League Two side Stevenage.

The 26-year-old was the odd man out on Saturday as Christophe Berra was given the nod to partner new signing Adam Webster at the heart of the Blues’ defence, in the 4-2 Championship home victory over Barnsley.

McCarthy is keen to play Webster who is right-footed and balance his backline up by playing either Berra or Smith – both of whom are left-footed – alongside him.

Having signed a new three-year deal at Ipswich late last month, Smith is integral to manager McCarthy’s plans and the former Republic of Ireland boss said the New Zealand international took the decision on the chin, describing him as the “ultimate professional”.

McCarthy, who will play Smith alongside rookie defender Paul Digby tonight – two of seven changes he will make for the tie – said of his decision to choose Berra on Saturday: “It was almost a toss of the coin (decision).

“It was not quite that, but it was a tough call and one that I had to make.”

He added: “My conversation with Tommy was pretty easy because he accepted it and knows he will get his chance to play throughout the season. He is the ultimate pro who came in ready to play on Saturday and he will be ready to play against Stevenage.”

Meanwhile, Webster will sit out after making his debut against Barnsley at the weekend, and McCarthy is not short of options at the back now.

McCarthy explained: “I had told the lads that I would be playing the same back four as last season as I did not think that Adam Webster (injury) would make it (the opening game).

“Ultimately I think Adam will make a difference to us and he has impressed everyone since he has come in.

“But he has already seen a difference in the pace of the game at this level and how he played and he might not play every game.”

Smith and Digby will feature in a back four made up of regular full-backs Luke Chambers and Jonas Knudsen.

Elsewhere, Dean Gerken replaces Bartosz Bialkowski in goal, while Andre Dozzell and Jonathan Douglas will also start.

There will also be starts for two of Saturday’s debutants, hat-trick hero Grant Ward and Everton loanee, Conor Grant, both of whom began the game with the Reds on the bench.

Freddie Sears, who started Saturday’s game playing wide on the left, is likely to be given the opportunity to play in a more central striker role, with Brett Pitman (thigh) injured in training on Sunday and Daryl Murphy having been given a rest until tomorrow morning, following his exploits with Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016.

Tonight’s opponents, who include former Braintree Town centre-back Dean Wells, lost their opening League Two game of the season, 2-1 at home to Crewe, and were defeated by Ipswich at the same stage of this competition, 2-1 at Portman Road, last season.

In 2013, Stevenage defeated Town 2-0 in the first round.

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