It was a contrasting weekend for the two Irish managers dreaming of pitting their wits against the Premier League elite next season.
Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich dropped to eighth in the Championship after a 2-1 defeat to Bristol City while Chris Hughton’s Brighton continued their recent renaissance with a 3-2 win over Bolton.
McCarthy’s men have enjoyed a difficult start to 2016, losing to League Two outfit Portsmouth in the FA Cup and winning just two of their seven Championship games.
They remain within three points of a play-off spot but need to arrest their slide quickly.
McCarthy understands why the natives are restless.
He said: “We have been hit hard by injuries in midfield, which is not an excuse. I expect us to be challenging at the top of the table and can understand the fans’ frustration. I’m frustrated and agitated myself.”
He did, however, take some consolation from the performance of Kevin Foley on his debut.
“Kevin Foley did well. He did even better when he went into midfield. He had a great performance,” McCarthy said.
For his part, January addition Foley was frustrated his side conceded two almost identical goals from corners but was delighted to be back playing football.
He said: “It was good to get back out there, but that doesn’t matter because we’ve come here looking to get some points on the board and that didn’t happen.
“It was my first proper game for about eight months and I’ve trained for about three or four weeks consecutively now so hopefully I can try to keep myself in the team.”
McCarthy’s challenge is similar to that faced by Hughton recently. A 21-game unbeaten start was ended by Middlesbrough just before Christmas and Brighton lost three of their next league four games.
However, Saturday’s win over Bolton was the Seagulls’ fourth in succession and lifted them to within three points of top spot. Paradise is again within reach.
On the pitch, it was a quiet weekend for the Championship’s Irish contingent with Joe Mason the sole goalscorer. However, his effort was merely a consolation as Wolves lost 2-1 at home to Preston.
In League One, Paddy Madden edged a step closer to his goals target for the season as his 17th of the campaign secured a 1-0 victory over Southend United.
Madden said: “Fingers crossed I can reach my target of 20 goals. That was my target at the start of the season, and I really want to get to 20. I didn’t get a lot of chances in the box but when the one came in the first half I took it.”
In League Two, a James Collins brace helped leaders Northampton to a 4-0 win at Leyton Orient, Seamus Conneely was among the scorers as Accrington Stanley beat Crawley Town 4-1 while Ryan Sweeney netted as Wimbledon defeated Luton by the same score.
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