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‘We’ve been playing well enough’ – McCarthy ready for Town to face Preston side ‘punching above their weight’

PUBLISHED: 06:00 24 February 2018

Joe Garner, pictured battling with Norwich's Jamal Lewis last Sunday, should return to the Town team at former club Preston this afternoon after sitting out the midweek loss to Cardiff with a sore knee. Photo: Pagepix

Joe Garner, pictured battling with Norwich's Jamal Lewis last Sunday, should return to the Town team at former club Preston this afternoon after sitting out the midweek loss to Cardiff with a sore knee. Photo: Pagepix

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Ipswich Town take on Preston North End in a Championship match at Deepdale this afternoon. STUART WATSON previews the action.

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy believes his team are playing better than recent results suggest heading into this afternoon’s Championship clash at Preston North End.

The Blues have claimed just 10 points from their last 10 games to slide to 14th in the table.

They did, however, come within seconds of winning at rivals Norwich City last weekend following an impressive first-half display, then looked the better side in Wednesday night’s 1-0 home loss to Cardiff – key refereeing decisions going against them in both boxes.

“We’ve been alright,” said McCarthy. “Everybody was screaming from the rooftops about our performance against Burton (0-0 home draw) but, apart from that, we’ve been playing well enough.”

Luke Chambers consoles Bersant Celina after the Blues' 1-0 home loss to Cardiff on Wednesday night. Photo: Steve Waller.Luke Chambers consoles Bersant Celina after the Blues' 1-0 home loss to Cardiff on Wednesday night. Photo: Steve Waller.

Town topped the Championship scoring charts earlier in the campaign but were leaking plenty too. Now their defence has tightened up somewhat, but the goals have dried up too (seven in the last 12 games across all competitions).

“I can’t say it’s any one thing,” said McCarthy, when asked why that was the case. “We’ve had attacking teams on the pitch, we’ve tried to pick that sort of team and play that way – maybe it’s that time of the season.

“Some of the injuries, I’m sure, have come through the fact we’ve not used that many players.”

“We have times when we concede goals, times when we have clean sheets and times when we score goals. If I knew the reason for it I’d be far wealthier than I am because I’d pack it all in and write a book!”

Preston, meanwhile, have lost just once in the league since a 3-0 defeat Portman Road back at the start of November. Alex Neil’s men are just three points adrift of the play-off places.

“He’s done a very good job after his predecessor (Simon Grayson) left him in good shape,” said McCarthy. “It’s not as if Simon left because he was struggling and he got the sack and Alex had to come in and reconstruct a team and change it around. He inherited a real solid base which I think he’s added to and is now having a very good season.

“TC (assistant Terry Connor) was at their game on Tuesday night against Villa (1-1 away draw) and they were very good so we know it’s going to be a tough game. They are definitely punching above their weight.”

Martyn Waghorn, who hasn't scored in 13 starts, was used as a substitute in midweek. Photo: PagepixMartyn Waghorn, who hasn't scored in 13 starts, was used as a substitute in midweek. Photo: Pagepix

Opposition lowdown

Nickname: Lilywhites

Manager: Alex Neil (July ‘17: P35 W13 D15 L8)

Ground: Deepdale

Average league attendance: 13,953

Last five finishes: 11th, 11th (both Championship), 3rd, 5th, 14th (all League One)

Current position: 9th

Home record: P16 W6 D7 L3 F19 A15

Preston's Tom Barkhuizen (third left) celebrates scoring in Tuesday night's 1-1 draw at Aston Villa. Photo: PAPreston's Tom Barkhuizen (third left) celebrates scoring in Tuesday night's 1-1 draw at Aston Villa. Photo: PA

Recent form (all comps): DDDWW LDDWL

Top-scorers: Hugill (8), Barkhuizen (7)

Most assists: Barkhuizen (6), Robinson (4)

Margins of victory: 1 (x9), 2 (x1), 3 (x2), 4 (x1)

Margins of defeat: 1 (x6), 2 (x1), 3 (x1)

Stat attack

1 - League loss in 17 matches for Preston (W7 D9)

2 – Wins in 11 games for Town (D4 L5)

• Preston have drawn more league games (15) than anyone else in the Football League

Ipswich Town team news

• Joe Garner – who scored 57 goals in three-and-a-half years for Preston – returns to Deepdale for the first time since departing in 2016. The Blues striker sat out Wednesday’s 1-0 home defeat to Cardiff with a sore knee. He returned to training yesterday with Mick McCarthy confirming he will start if fit.

• Martyn Waghorn, without a goal in 13 starts, could return to the team after dropping to the bench in midweek.

• Luke Hyam made his first league start in 20 months on Wednesday. He impressed but may not be risked for a second game in four days.

• David McGoldrick (groin) is the latest player to be ruled out for the season following on from Emyr Huws, Andre Dozzell (both knee) and Teddy Bishop (hamstring).

• McCarthy says there is still no time frame on a return to action for Tom Adeyemi (hamstring).

Preston North End team news

• Offensive duo Louis Moult (Motherwell) and Billy Bodin (Bristol Rovers) were recruited in January, with eight-goal top-scorer Jordan Hugill sold to West Ham for £8m+.

• Right-back Darnell Fisher is suspended and could be replaced by Calum Woods.

• Veteran midfielder John Welsh is available again following a ban.

Last meeting

Ipswich Town 3 Preston NE 0

Date: Saturday, November 4, 2017

Martyn Waghorn curled home a free-kick right at the end of a forgettable, stop-start first-half. David McGoldrick’s thumping header doubled the lead less than five minutes after the restart, with Bersant Celina hammering home an excellent third in the 64th minute.

Opposition key man

Ben Pearson

The former Manchester United youth teamer, now 23, is Preston’s midfield engine. Tackles, intercepts and treats ball with care. Hot-headed, he is the division’s most-booked player (12).

Odds

Preston North End (10/13)

Draw (27/10)

Ipswich Town (19/4)

Referee

Scott Duncan (Northumberland)

Games: 28, Yellows: 78, Reds: 7

Stuart’s prediction

Preston NE 1 Ipswich Town 1

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