Don’t judge Ipswich Town’s back-up men on FA Cup defeat at Portsmouth, says Mick McCarthy

Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor at Fratton Park last night

Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor at Fratton Park last night

Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy says it would be unfair of supporters to dismiss the club’s back-up players as not being good enough solely off the back of Tuesday night’s FA Cup defeat at League Two side Portsmouth.

With tomorrow’s Championship clash at top-six rivals Birmingham City in mind, the Blues boss left his entire first-choice starting XI back in Suffolk for the midweek trip to the south coast.

And a team which had precious little match sharpness or experience of playing alongside each other was comfortably beaten 2-1 by a slick Pompey outfit who were very much on the same wavelength.

Clearly fuming, McCarthy said afterwards that none of his players had given him a selection headache, but he has since cooled down and is now taking the blame himself.

“I was angry,” he said. “I tell you what I was angry about. I was angry because I think some of those players are better than what they showed.

“We were playing a good team and you’ve got to give them credit, but the lads beneath the first team are better than that.”

With the likes of Josh Emmanuel, Myles Kenlock, Paul Digby and Pior Malarczyk having endured a difficult evening at Fratton Park, McCarthy continued: “To judge individuals on that game would be unfair. I’d cite Josh Emmanuel as an example. When he started at Brentford on the opening day of the season, and he had experienced players alongside him in the form of Luke Chambers and Tommy, he was fine.

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“It’s a different ball game when all the young’uns are put in together at the same time though.

“Individually I’m not going to be giving out too much to them. Maybe I made too many changes? Maybe I’ve got more faith in them then they’ve got in themselves? I don’t know.”

He continued: “I’m now asked ‘does this mean that you need fresh blood? No. It’s just emphasised to me how good my first team is. That group of 18 senior hard-nosed professionals are so important to the club.

“The younger ones could step in if eight or nine of the first-teamers were playing around them.

“And the likes of Tabby (Jay Tabb), Luke Hyam, Brett (Pitman), Reg (Luke Varney) and Ainsley (Maitland-Niles) – we know they can all play in the team.

“It was tough on the young’uns being put into that scenario, I’ll take the rap for that, but I’ve got no regrets. It was a decision I had to make in the best interests of the club.”

He added: “I didn’t particularly like doing what I did, I’d like to just be able to play my strongest team for 46 games and all the cup games, but they’d all end up injured because it’s a hell of a season.

“I tell you what I wouldn’t want. I wouldn’t want to be 15th, with no chance of going up but having a good cup run.

“I love the FA Cup. I went to all the games as a kid, I’d love to be in a final, I’d love to win it, but we’ve got a real opportunity to get promoted and we’ve got to do our level best to get in that top six.

“Has doing what I did put more pressure on us this weekend? It’s put more pressure on me, I don’t know about the boys. It’s me that gets the pressure for changing the team, not them. They had no say in that whatsoever. They’d have all happily played, but I made the decision that they needed a rest.”

On Birmingham, who won 3-0 at Derby last weekend to move to within two points of seventh-placed Town, McCarthy said: “One of the reports I’ve got says ‘really good away team’. They can soak up the pressure and they’ve got threats on the break.

“That will be interesting if we play like that as well. We don’t set up to play that way, but we’re comfortable if we have to. We’ve got our threats in Freddie (Sears) and Ryan (Fraser). We’re a good away side and I think Birmingham will be conscious of our threat.”

Gary Rowett took over a Birmingham team that was 21st in the table towards the end of October last season and guided them to an impressive 10th-place finish.

“I met him for the first time recently and I liked him instantly,” said McCarthy. “I think his team are like mine and I think I’m giving him a compliment by saying that.

“He’s very similar. He’s pragmatic about the way they play. They’ve got some talented players, but first and foremost they are hard to beat. He seems to get the best out of his players and I have the utmost respect for him.

“We drew 1-1 against them here and I wouldn’t be unhappy with the same. We go there looking to win, but every away point is precious.”

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