Cook: We've Got to Make Sure It's Us Writing a Success Story
Thursday, 1st Apr 2021 14:32
Town boss Paul Cook wants his players and staff to write a success story in the final 10 games of the season, starting tomorrow when they host second-bottom Bristol Rovers at Portman Road (KO 3pm).
The Blues go into the match having won only one of their six games under Cook’s management, however, that was in one of only two home matches, the 1-0 victory over Plymouth last month. The Blues drew Cook’s other Portman Road fixture 1-1 with Lincoln City.
Town go into their Easter fixtures against the bottom two - a trip to rock bottom Rochdale follows on Monday - three points off the play-offs following Wednesday’s matches, three points adrift of sixth-placed Gillingham but with games in hand on six of the sides currently above them, including three on the Gills.
Quizzed on importance of the two Easter games to Town’s play-off hopes and whether he needs all six points, Cook says he’s very much taking the traditional one-game-at-a-time approach.
“Again, it’s three points out of three for me,” he said. “You know how I work, with the next game obviously being the most important one.
“Like I said to the staff, we had a meeting this morning, you’ve all seen the big success stories. When I was Portsmouth manager we won League Two and that goes down in history.
“People will never see that we were top of League Two for 20 minutes. Twenty minutes, the last 20 minutes of the season. So there’s a story out there for everyone. We’ve got to make sure it can be us.”
Cook has said before that most League One sides tend to raise their games against the division’s bigger clubs, the Blues, Sunderland and Portsmouth.
Asked what his players can do to combat that, the Blues manager said: “Again, you go back into recruitment. With the greatest respect, we have to recruit players knowing those scenarios are there.
“When we’re in League One, we’re a massive scalp. When we’re in the Championship, we’re playing on an equal playing field, it’s the same for big clubs everywhere.
“That’s life for everyone. Sunderland have had it for years, Pompey get it all the time. You are a big scalp when you travel north to Fleetwood and to Accrington and even to Wigan.
“You look at Fleetwood, they lose 2-0 at home to Swindon after beating Ipswich. Wigan lost 1-0 to Gillingham. Most teams’ next performance after playing Ipswich is a bad one because they give that much.
“Our players have to know that, managers know that, our staff know that. That’s why we have to run more, we have to work harder, we have to be the better team on the pitch every week, and that’s the challenge.”
Cook says he knows Joey Barton, who took over as Rovers boss in February, very well with the former England midfielder having spent time observing him working at his previous club.
“I’ve followed Joey’s career, Joey came in and watched training at Wigan on numerous occasions when he was learning about the management and the coaching side,” he said.
“I’ve got to say I thought he did a fantastic job at Fleetwood. To get Fleetwood into the play-offs where they got done by a sucker-punch in the first leg where the game got away from them [they lost 4-1 at home to Wycombe and had two players sent off].
“And there were spells in the second leg at Wycombe [which ended 2-2] where I thought they were going to get the scoreline back.
“For whatever reason, Fleetwood and Joey decided to part company. I think in the long term that will be a massive benefit to Bristol Rovers. He’s a very passionate guy about his football and he loves football.
“It’ll be a really tough game for us tomorrow, so I look forward to seeing Joey like I do with most managers. It’s always nice when you know them personally.
“I wish him well, and he knows I’m always on the phone for him if he ever needs anything, but there will be no love between the two of us tomorrow at three o’clock. We’re both passionate guys about our teams.”
Despite the disappointing 0-0 draw away at Wigan last week, Cook has said he doesn’t tend to make wholesale changes, nevertheless it’s likely he will make tweaks to his side having hinted at a formation change and also revealed one or two players have injury problems, among them Kane Vincent-Young who was replaced at half-time at the DW Stadium with a hamstring problem.
Tomas Holy will probably continue in goal but with Vincent-Young appearing very unlikely to be involved.
With Luke Matheson also having been injured, skipper Luke Chambers could return to right-back with Mark McGuinness or Luke Woolfenden joining Toto Nsiala at the heart of the defence. Stephen Ward will probably again be at left-back.
Two of Andre Dozzell, Teddy Bishop and Cole Skuse will be at the centre of what's likely to be a four-man midfield with Alan Judge and Gwion Edwards probably in the wide roles, with Kayden Jackson and James Norwood forming a front two for the first time from the start under Cook.
Troy Parrott is set to be back on the bench having missed last week's game as he was away with the Republic of Ireland.
Asked whether he believes the same team can play in both Easter matches, Cook said: “If we win, they can. If we get beaten, they can’t! It’s not hard, is it?”
Rovers will be without defender Alfie Kilgour due to an ankle injury, while another defender Josh Grant is also expected to miss out having had a setback in training earlier in the week.
Pirates manager Joey Barton, whose side go into the game without a win in five and having lost their last four, believes Cook is the man to return Town to the Championship.
“I know Cooky really well,” Barton, who has been linked with the vacant manager’s job at Championship Preston, told Bristol Live.
“Obviously a fellow Liverpudlian and we’ve touched base quite a lot as the season’s progressed, with him being out of work, and even last year we played them at Wigan just before we went back into the play-off semi-final because we were struggling for games with the coronavirus pandemic raging on and football shut down.
“Great guy, a good football guy and I’m pretty sure he will get Ipswich back to where they need to get to, which is certainly at least the Championship based on the size of the club, but again he’s coming in late to the party and trying to get the best out of players recruited by somebody else.
“They haven’t had a fantastic start. They’ve won one of those opening six games. In the same period we’ve both been at the club, we’ve managed to pick up seven points and they’ve picked up five, so it’s maybe not an Ipswich Town side firing on all cylinders.
“But it’s still an Ipswich Town side and a side managed by Paul Cook and we’ll have to be at our best to get anything out of the game at Portman Road.
“We’ve played some of the form teams in my first 10 games here and we’ve got to give an account of ourselves similar to the effort levels of Sunderland on Saturday, but with a bit more quality and care if an opportunity presents itself.”
Historically, the clubs are well matched but with Rovers having won more often in league competition. The Pirates have won 15 (15 in the league) games between the clubs, nine (seven) have been draws with with Town victorious on 15 (nine) occasions.
Away from home in League One this season, Bristol Rovers have won only three, drawn five and lost 11.
Since Barton took over as the club's third manager this season, following Ben Garner and Paul Tisdale, the Pirates have won two, drawn one and lost seven.
In September at the Memorial Stadium, an own goal by Max Ehmer and Jon Nolan’s second of the season saw Town to a 2-0 victory over Rovers and to the top of the early season League One table.
The Blues had to wait until the 80th minute for Rovers skipper Ehmer to nod sub Jack Lankester’s cross into his own net with Nolan adding the second nine minutes later.
The teams also met in the Carabao Cup at Portman Road earlier the same month when Sears scored twice and Chambers once as the Blues ran out comfortable 3-0 victors.
Last time at Portman Road, in December 2019 in League One, Rovers recorded their first victory at Ipswich since Boxing Day 1958 as the Blues were beaten 2-1 by the 10-man Pirates, their third league defeat of the 2019/20 season.
Tyler Smith and Tom Nichols gave the visitors a 2-0 lead before Norwood pulled one back in the 37th minute and the Blues were unable to find a second even after visitors’ skipper Ollie Clarke was dismissed for a two bookable offences on 77.
Rovers midfielder Ed Upson was a Blues academy player and famously scored the winning goal in Town’s 2005 FA Youth Cup triumph while a 15-year-old schoolboy. Upson made two League Cup sub appearances for the Blues before being released in 2010
Town midfielder Cole Skuse was with Rovers as a schoolboy, while first-team coach Matt Gill was a Gas player between June 2011 and May 2014.
Friday’s referee is Stephen Martin from Staffordshire, who has shown 57 yellow cards and three red in 26 games so far this season.
Martin’s most recent Town match was the 2-2 home draw with Blackpool in November 2019 in which he booked two of the visitors and no Blues.
Before that he was in charge of the 4-0 defeat at Preston in April 2019 in which he yellow-carded only Myles Kenlock.
He also refereed the 3-2 home defeat to Millwall on New Year’s Day the same year in which he booked just Lions sub Steve Morison.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 0-0 home draw with Bolton in September 2018 in which he red-carded Trotters’ defender Marc Wilson and booked Tayo Edun and Trevoh Chalobah.
He also refereed the 2-2 draw with Millwall at Portman Road in April 2018 in which he booked Mustapha Carayol, Jordan Spence, Stephen Gleeson and Martyn Waghorn and no Lions.
Previously he was in control of the 1-1 draw at Barnsley in March 2017 when Skuse was shown the game’s only yellow card.
Two months earlier he had been in charge of the 1-1 draw at Preston in which he booked two home players and no Blues.
Martin also refereed the 1-0 defeat at Leeds in September 2016, in which he booked only Christophe Berra and Kevin Bru, and the 2-0 defeat at Brentford the previous month in which he yellow-carded Adam Webster.
Martin also officiated in the 1-0 home defeat to Rotherham in March that year, in which he booked Jonas Knudsen and one Miller, as well as the 2-1 home victory over Fulham on the opening day of 2014/15 in which he cautioned Berra, Tyrone Mings and Luke Hyam.
Martin refereed the 2-0 home victory over Brighton in September 2013, when he booked only one visiting player, and the 2-1 loss at Bristol City in the January of that year, in which he showed a single yellow card to one of the home side.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Chambers (c), Kenlock, Ward, Nsiala, Woolfenden, McGuinness, Dozzell, Skuse, Judge, Harrop, Bishop, Edwards, Lankester, Bennetts, Sears, Norwood, Jackson, Parrott, Hawkins, Drinan.
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