Stuart says: Eight observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-0 win at Preston North End
PUBLISHED: 19:38 24 February 2018 | UPDATED: 19:55 24 February 2018
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Ipswich Town won 1-0 at Preston North End this afternoon courtesy of Mustapha Carayol’s first-half finish. STUART WATSON looks at the key talking points.
Three weeks ago, Mustapha Carayol’s bright half-hour cameo was the only real positive to take following a grim goalless home draw with Burton. The January deadline day signing was an unused substitute in last Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Norwich. He had been due to start against Cardiff on Wednesday night but was withdrawn late due to sickness and diarrhoea.
Blues fans – the 474 who had made the lengthy trip to Deepdale – got to see what he was all about today. And it was worth the wait.
The 29-year-old terrorised the home defence for the entirety of the first half with his blistering pace and close ball control. He missed a gilt-edged chance in the eighth minute having done all the hard work. A jinking run saw him sting the palms of the keeper and somehow he stabbed the follow-up attempt wide.
Undeterred he kept the Preston defence constantly back-peddling. He netted the opener in the 21st minute after nodding Cole Skuse’s hooked pass ahead of himself and coolly caressing the bouncing ball across the keeper and into the bottom corner on the angle.
His most exciting moment arrived just after the half-hour when he left three defenders in his wake with an incredible turn of speed.
Town should have been out of sight at the interval. In addition to Carayol’s early miss, Martyn Waghorn was denied by a last-ditch block in the six-yard box following Carayol’s aforementioned charge, while Dominic Iorfa rattled the crossbar after ghosting onto a deep Waghorn delivery.
Preston boss Alex Neil made the bold and unusual move of a double tactical substitution in the 37th minute. Right-back Calum Woods left the field in a daze having been run ragged, while ineffective forward Callum Robinson also got the hook. The back four was rejigged. It was the ultimate compliment to a Town team who had gone into a match worrying only about imposing their own game plan, not counteracting the opposition. That’s not always been the case.
Then McCarthy took off Carayol at the break and brought on battling midfielder Luke Hyam instead of going with a like-for-like replacement in Bersant Celina. Carayol hadn’t requested to come off and McCarthy revealed afterwards it was a tactical move. Instead of going for a killer second, he was looking to shut down the game. Thankfully it worked.
Town abandoned 3-4-3 and went to 5-3-2. The second half was turgid and scrappy. Preston were restricted exclusively to ambitious attempts from long-range. It wasn’t pretty, but the Blues got the job done.
McCarthy, as mentioned, started with the 3-4-3 system he had trialed for the first time in Wednesday night’s 1-0 home defeat to Cardiff.
It looks like it rather suits the personnel at his disposal. A back three enables him to get the fit-again Adam Webster as well as the in-form Cameron Carter-Vickers alongside captain Luke Chambers. Jonas Knudsen and Dominic Iorfa seem to relish the freedom of more advanced wide roles. Crucially, a front three then have the freedom to attack knowing there is more of an insurance policy behind them.
Cameron Carter-Vickers once again oozed class. He was calmness personified. He makes difficult things look easy. He sees the picture. He’s as strong as an ox. Might Town be able to get the 20-year-old on loan again from Tottenham next season? Possibly. He certainly won’t be for sale though. I see a Premier League player in waiting.
Frustration for Waggy
Martyn Waghorn has now started 14 games without scoring. To be fair, he’s grafted and contributed in a deep No.10 role for most of those games. However, restored to a more advanced position today, he spent most of the game getting caught offside. His frustration eventually boiled over and he was booked for throwing the ball away at the sight of the linesman’s flag being raised.
His whipped set-pieces, so dangerous not that long ago, often failed to beat the first man. It might be prudent for him to float a few in for the time being until the deliveries are fine-tuned.
Town have done the double on Preston. Those two wins (3-0 at Portman Road back at the start of November) bookend an impressive run for the Lilywhites which included just one defeat in 17 league games. Winning at Deepdale today, no matter how it came about, was no mean feat.
McCarthy wrote off his team’s top-six hopes after the draw at Carrow Road last weekend. Victory today not only sees Town leapfrog Norwich, but it also cuts the gap to six points. There are still 36 points to play for, but also seven teams to climb over too.
It will require an incredible run for the Blues to stand any sort of chance. A failure to string victories together over the past 18 months suggests that’s unlikely. Next up is the visit of lowly Hull City.
This was McCarthy’s 100th league win as Town boss. He has now been in charge of the Blues for more games (271) than any of his former clubs (W103 D76 L92).
He has revealed that he will speak to owner Marcus Evans about his future in the next ‘three to four weeks’.