Cook Proud to Take Charge at Portman Road For First Time as Blues Host Imps
Monday, 8th Mar 2021 14:54
New boss Paul Cook says taking charge of the Blues at Portman Road for the first time when Lincoln City visit on Tuesday will be a proud moment.
Cook admits it won’t be quite as he would have wished with no fans set to be present with the Portman Road atmosphere one he has always admired.
“It's something that as you drive down as a manager [you think about]. The clichés are old, aren't they? These stadiums, Portman Road, the old Upton Park, for example, historically they've been such great venues in English football.
“So for me to manage a game at one of the grounds with such a good tradition will be great.
“I long for fans to be back, I think the game without the fans is far, far removed from what we all love, but we know what sport is giving us all at the minute, it's given the nation such a life, and it's great credit that we've managed to keep it going.
“Hopefully, looking forward now, I think everyone can look forward with the optimism that we can all be back in the stadium supporting our team soon.”
Asked how it will feel to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Sir Alf Ramsey, Sir Bobby Robson and Joe Royle, who Cook knows well having worked with him at Wigan, he said: “Absolutely unbelievable. I really will be proud, but I'll be all the more proud if we can get a result.”
Turning to Lincoln, who are third, 10 points ahead of the eight-placed Blues, Cook says he has been very impressed with the job Michael Appleton has done this season.
“Excellent,” he said. “You know, when you watch teams and you look at teams and they say teams reflect the manager with how they play and the style of play, I think Lincoln are representing Lincoln and Michael in a really good way.
“They are very bright, you can see they are very well coached, they have really good patterns of play and they've certainly got good players, so we know we're in for a difficult game tomorrow night, we really are.
“But it's about what we can offer. With great respect to Lincoln, and we respect every team we play, but Lincoln must fear us tomorrow night.
“It’s at Portman Road, it's our home ground, and we must make Portman Road a fortress for Ipswich Town, not a place where teams like coming to play.”
Following the 3-1 defeat at Gillingham, the Blues are 12 points from the top two with 15 left to play. Is it imperative that Town beat Lincoln to stand a chance of still making the automatic promotion places?
“Again in football, something feels so far away when you get a bad result and it gets a lot closer when you get a good one,” Cook said.
“The reality is I want to see us play a lot better than we did on Saturday. I want to see the level of performances go up.
“I believe as a manager that when you're playing well, the results will follow. For us, I think we've hiccupped our way through a couple of games.
“I think on Saturday, it was just a culmination of everything that can go wrong in a game and going forward to Tuesday we want to be a lot better and we'll take whatever the result brings.”
Asked about former Norwich man Connor McGrandles, who is currently impressing for the Imps, Cook said he wouldn’t talk specifically about players from other teams.
“I won’t be commenting on any of the opposition players, it’s not my place,” he said. “I’ve got enough with my own players. I’ll certainly let Michael Appleton talk about his.
“I think for me it’s about concentrating on Ipswich Town, on how good we can play and how good we can be tomorrow night.”
Cook has said he will make changes to his team for Tuesday’s game and someone will be involved who wasn’t in the 18 at Gillingham.
While it’s difficult to second-guess a new manager, that may be on-loan Wolves right-back Luke Matheson, who could come into the side with skipper Luke Chambers reverting to his preferred role at centre-half.
That would probably see Toto Nsiala drop to the bench, a little unfortunately if that is the case after some solid recent performances, with fellow centre-half James Wilson having been the outstanding member of the backline in recent weeks. Tomas Holy is likely to continue in goal and Myles Kenlock at left-back.
In midfield, Cook could start Flynn Downes in one of the two deeper midfield roles alongside either Andre Dozzell or Teddy Bishop, although the latter could be in line for the number 10 position if the new Blues boss opts to rest Troy Parrott having briefly moved there on Saturday.
Out wide, Gwion Edwards could be in with a shout of a first start since his return from his recent knock, perhaps on the right with Keanan Bennetts rested, with Josh Harrop maybe continuing on the left with Luke Thomas another wing option. James Norwood again seems set to be the lone out-and-out striker.
The Imps will be without 13-goal top scorer Jorge Grant, who appears set to miss the rest of the season with ankle ligament damage.
Winger Harry Anderson and midfielder Max Sanders will also miss the trip due to thigh and hamstring problems respectively.
The Imps beat Crewe 3-0 at Sincil Bank on Saturday but that victory was only their second in their last seven league games.
Town just have the edge historically having won seven games between the teams (six in the league) with four (two) ending in draws and six (five) won by the Imps.
At Sincil Bank in October, Grant’s 77th minute penalty saw Lincoln City to a 1-0 victory over 10-man Town and to the top of the table.
Grant netted his sixth goal of the season from the spot after Nsiala had upended Brennan Johnson.
Late on, Jon Nolan was dismissed for a wild challenge on Anderson, while Blues boss Paul Lambert was also red-carded after the whistle for remonstrating with the referee.
The teams last met at Portman Road in January last year when Luke Woolfenden’s first Town goal a minute before half-time saw the Blues to a 1-0 home win and back to the top of League One.
The central defender nodded Luke Garbutt’s free-kick from the right into the net off keeper Josh Vickers to secure a deserved three points for the Blues.
Town defender Wilson will be facing his old club, the defender having previously spoken about having had a tough time with the Imps.
Blues midfielder Nolan was with Lincoln between June 2013 and January 2016, making 64 starts and 11 sub appearances.
Town keeper-coach Jimmy Walker was with Lincoln in the same role prior to his stint with Sunderland before joining the Blues.
Former Blues loanee Tayo Edun, who joined the Imps from Fulham in January 2020, made four starts and three sub appearances for Town in the first half of 2018/19, netting a debut goal in the opening day win against Blackburn Rovers.
Lincoln midfielder Brennan Johnson, who is on loan from Nottingham Forest, is the son of 1990s Blues striker David.
Imps assistant manager David Kerslake was with the Blues as a player between August 1997 and March 1998. The right-back made three starts and six sub appearances.
Tuesday’s referee is James Oldham from Derbyshire, who has shown 66 yellow cards and three red in 25 games so far this season.
Coincidentally, Oldham’s only previous Town match was the 5-3 defeat at Sincil Bank in December 2019 in which he booked Dozzell, Gwion Edwards, Freddie Sears and two home players.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Matheson, Ward, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Wilson, Nsiala, McGuinness, Woolfenden, Dozzell, Downes, Judge, Huws, Harrop, Bishop, Edwards, Lankester, Thomas, Sears, Parrott, Norwood, Jackson, Drinan.
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