Blues Host Wimbledon Aiming to Avenge Defeat and End Goal Drought
Friday, 23rd Apr 2021 13:28
Town host AFC Wimbledon on Saturday looking to avenge their recent 3-0 defeat at Plough Lane and aiming to finally end their 529-minute goal drought but with their season already effectively over.
The Blues are 11th, five points off the top six with four matches left to play and now have little or no chance of making the play-off barring a miraculous series of results.
Despite a disappointing record in his opening month and a half at Town - played 12, won two, drawn five, lost five - the Blues are unbeaten at home under Cook with both his victories - the 1-0 defeat of Plymouth and the 2-1 success against Bristol Rovers - having been on home turf where his side have also drawn twice.
Town scored their most recent goal in the 11th minute of that win against the Pirates on April 2nd, the now departed Alan Judge the man to find the net.
The Blues were comprehensively beaten by the Dons at Plough Lane, having been 2-0 behind and reduced to 10 men before the game was half an hour old and then conceded a third late on.
That win was the second in a run of four on the trot for Wimbledon, who as a result have climbed 19th, five points clear of the drop zone with only four of their games remaining as opposed to Wigan and Northampton directly below them who have only three to play.
Blues boss Cook didn’t want to get into discussing the Dons’ form at his pre-match press conference, preferring to concentrate on his own side.
“I have no concerns with AFC Wimbledon,” he said. “I've got no concerns with other clubs. Good luck to them. They're doing well and they're on a great run. I just don't have any interest in them.
“We’ve trained hard this week, we've got on the grass. As a staff, if you take pain or disappointment well and don't do something about it, the reality is you'll keep getting pain and disappointment.
“I don't like getting beat and I don't like getting beat 3-0. We came away from Charlton [where they drew 0-0] with a mild aspect of ‘OK, it was a fair result and we're getting better’, and then we get flattened again [at Northampton, also 3-0].
“We can't keep getting flattened, it's not correct. Myself and personnel must look at that, and you're going to do something about it we'll see at three o'clock tomorrow.”
He says that although there’s nothing left in the campaign from a competitive perspective, the Blues need to finish the season positively for their fans.
“For our supporters we need to show a strong mindset,” he told iFollow Ipswich. "We give goals away easily and don't score, and we have some moments in games but let them get away from us. It's a fragile culture.
“When we experience any disappointment it makes us go the wrong way, rather than facing up to it.
“But the next game is always an opportunity. The sun should be shining and we're playing at our stadium. Players shouldn't really need motivating in those circumstances.
“The motivation should come from the pride you feel wearing the shirt, and the disappointment when you get hurt. I expect a good reaction tomorrow. Of course we want to finish the season strongly, that's the aim.”
Cook may consider taking a look at Dai Cornell in goal, although wouldn’t comment when asked whether the Welshman, who is yet to feature since the change of management, might come into his thoughts at his pre-match press conference. Otherwise, Tomas Holy will continue.
At the back, Kane Vincent-Young seems certain to be at right-back, while Myles Kenlock could return at left-back for Stephen Ward, who has played the last two matches.
At the centre of the defence, Cook could look to recall skipper Luke Chambers, probably for Mark McGuinness, while Toto Nsiala could also potentially return for Luke Woolfenden assuming the former Shrewsbury centre-half is over the thigh problem which put him out of the ahead of last week’s game at Charlton.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell has been praised by Cook for his last two performances and will almost certainly continue alongside Flynn Downes.
In the wide roles, the Blues manager seems set to stick with Gwion Edwards on one flank but may prefer Armando Dobra to Keanan Bennetts on the other.
Teddy Bishop missed Tuesday’s game due to a minor illness but has shaken that off and could return to the role between the midfield and the striker.
James Norwood would play as the lone striker if he was fit but the former Tranmere man appears unlikely to be ready having limped off at Charlton with a hamstring problem.
Kayden Jackson started at Northampton but Cook could look at another of his strikers with Oli Hawkins yet to start under his management and Troy Parrott and Aaron Drinan the other alternatives.
Josh Harrop will serve the third game of his three-match ban for his red card in the away match against the Dons.
In contrast to Town, Wimbledon have scored 14 times in their last four matches, while conceding three.
Midfielder Callum Reilly is a long-term absentee following a broken ankle, while Ethan Chislett, also a midfielder, is on his way back from an achilles injury but won’t be ready to face the Blues.
Until last season, Town and AFC Wimbledon had never met anywhere in a competitive or friendly fixture since the Dons’ formation in 2002. Each side has won one of the three games played since then with the other ending in a draw.
Eleven days ago the Dons comfortably beat the Blues 3-0 at Plough Lane with Will Nightingale, Jack Rudoni and Ryan Longman scoring the goals.
Nightingale headed in the opener on 21, Rudoni nodded home the second four minutes later, then in the 28th minute Town’s Josh Harrop was shown a straight red card for a late challenge.
Sub Longman added the third in the 86th minute to complete a thoroughly miserable evening for Town.
In the only game between the sides at Portman Road in August 2019, Jackson’s goal deep, deep in injury time saw the Blues come from behind to claim a dramatic 2-1 victory.
The Dons went ahead via Nesta Guinness-Walker in the 41st minute in a poor first period from Town.
But the Blues were much better in the second half, equalising through Norwood in the 81st minute before Jackson smashed in the late winner.
The Dons squad includes former Blues youngster Shane McLoughlin, who made one Championship sub appearance and one League Cup start for Town having come through the academy. The New York-born Irishman joined the Dons from the Blues in January 2018.
Keeper Sam Walker, who signed on loan from Reading in January, was a Portman Road season ticket holder as a child.
Saturday’s referee is Ollie Yates from Staffordshire, who has shown 91 yellow cards and three red in 28 games so far this season.
Yates's last Town game was the 2-1 win at Plymouth in December in which he dismissed Pilgrims winger Danny Mayor for two bookable offences and yellow-carded Cornell, Brett McGavin and two other home players.
His only other Town match was the 0-0 home draw with Doncaster Rovers in September 2019 in which he booked Downes and five of the visitors.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Vincent-Young, Chambers (c), Ward, Nsiala, Woolfenden, McGuinness, Dozzell, Skuse, Nydam, Bishop, Downes, Edwards, Bennetts, Sears, Dobra, Jackson, Parrott, Hawkins, Drinan.
Photo: Matchday Images
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