Mick McCarthy is not one for mind-games or crude psychological ploys.
So when the Ipswich Town manager claimed that Sheffield United bear all the hallmarks of a team capable of challenging for promotion following their narrow but deserved victory over the visitors from Portman Road, his words carried weight.
“They’re a good side,” McCarthy said, after Chris Basham’s goal had propelled Chris Wilder’s side to their eighth win of the Championship season. “I think they’ll finish top six. I don’t see them falling away and they’ve got momentum. That’s a powerful thing and they’ve also got good players.”
McCarthy was his usual plain-speaking self after Saturday’s match at Bramall Lane; admitting the outcome made him “bloody angry” before apologising to one visiting journalist for his terse response to a “pretty stupid question”.
But the 58-year-old’s demeanour changed when probed on United’s credentials. McCarthy, whose team finished the afternoon 10th in the table, acknowledged the move which led to Basham’s effort was “really good” before praising the hosts’ mental resolve.
“It was a good goal from them but a bad one from our point of view,” he continued. “I thought we’d weathered a storm and had started to create good chances of our own. But we blinked and they didn’t. Which, in the end, turned-out to be the difference.”
Although McCarthy’s analysis was basically accurate - Martyn Waghorn striking the woodwork soon after Basham’s intervention before Leon Clarke followed suit for United - Wilder’s team were worthy victors. Ipswich defended well before the defender broke the deadlock but the hosts, who climb to third, were more enterprising and forthright throughout. Jack O’Connell twice went close before Basham pounced while Clarke lost his footing at the vital moment after being picked-out by John Lundstram. The former Oxford and Everton midfielder was partnering John Fleck due to Paul Coutts’ suspension although the latter will be eligible for selection when Reading travel to South Yorkshire this weekend.
“Sheffield United have a good way of playing, they all look to be working very hard for each other,” McCarthy said. “I had to change the way we were playing. They were having too much of the ball and we stemmed the tide.”