Cook: Games Are Never Meaningless For Players
Monday, 3rd May 2021 16:58
Town travel to Shrewsbury on Tuesday night for their final away game of the season with manager Paul Cook insisting it’s not a meaningless fixture, despite both teams' season being over from a competitive perspective
The 10-placed Blues’ play-off push fell away during April, while the Shrews, who are 17th, are no longer in danger of dropping into League Two.
However, Cook says there will still be something in the game - and similarly also Sunday's final game at home to Fleetwood - for those taking part.
"It's never meaningless for players, for James Norwood, who has got two today,” Cook said following Saturday’s 2-1 win at Swindon.
“If he keeps his fitness, can he get another couple of goals? For the team, can we put back-to-back wins together?
"I think everyone knows [there’s going to be change in the summer], as we’ve said, we keep saying the same messages in media meetings and stuff. We keep speaking about the future when we’ve got the present to deal with, and we’ve got to deal with that present well.
“We want to go to Shrewsbury and play better than we did at Swindon and win a game of football.”
It’s widely expected that a significant number of the squad will move on in the summer and some of those anticipating their Portman Road departures may be wanting to impress any watching scouts. However, Cook says no one has yet been told their fate.
“There have been no decisions been made outwardly, so our players would have no idea what we're thinking at the minute,” he continued.
“The reality is you're playing for Ipswich Town Football Club and that should be a marker that in every game you play in that you represent the club properly.”
Cook said prior to the Swindon match that he wasn’t particularly concerned about the opposition. Asked whether the same would be the case with the Shrews, he says not concentrating too much on the opposition is his usual approach.
“I've never been great for oppositions,” he reflected. “I respect every team we play, everyone watches each other now and the match analysis in games is huge.
“We’ve got a team on the pitch and when I like to think of a team I call them a ‘well-oiled machine’. And when you’re a well-oiled machine, you’re good to go. We’re a long, long way from that, but we’re certainly starting to work towards it.”
Shrewsbury boss Steve Cotterill was at his first game in four months as the Shropshire side lost 3-2 at home to Oxford on Saturday having spent more than 60 days in hospital, some of that period in intensive care, with Covid pneumonia.
The 56-year-old watched the weekend match from the directors’ box at the back of Montgomery Waters Meadow’s Roland Wycherley Stand and that will again be his vantage point on Tuesday.
“I know Steve, I’m absolutely delighted for him,” Cook said. “He’s obviously been through a very, very turbulent time.
“And I'm sure he's had people rallying around him, he’s a really good football guy, he loves his football, he’s been successful in sport.
“And like everyone who has suffered from coronavirus and families who have suffered, we send all our best wishes to him, his family and to everyone else out there. It will certainly be great to see him.”
Cook will probably stick pretty much to the team which won their first game in seven at Swindon with Dai Cornell in goal and a back four of, from the right, Kane Vincent-Young, Luke Woolfenden, Mark McGuinness and Myles Kenlock.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell will partner Flynn Downes with Teddy Bishop ahead of them and Gwion Edwards on the left and Armando Dobra on the right. James Norwood will be looking to take his season’s tally into double figures up front.
For Shrewsbury, who have won only one of their last seven, losing five, including their last four at home, right wing-back Josh Daniels (calf) and midfielder Sean Goss (hamstring) could return to the squad having recovered from their injuries.
Shrews first-team coach David Longwell says Town are a mixed bag from a number of angles at present.
“We will look at the footage and try to get an idea of how they like to play,” he told his club’s official website.
“We will try to see what has changed and try to get some idea about how they're going to play. We will identify their key threats and look at the areas we can exploit. We do that for every game and we will be doing that going into this fixture.
“We are always preparing exactly the same for each game, it doesn't matter who the opposition is or who the manager is, we make sure we look at the detail to help the players going into the game.
“Ipswich play a mixture of football. They can go longer but they have some really good players in there, we have seen that from the clips that have been put together. They aren't on the best of runs but they still have some talented players.
“It will be a hard game for us. We did well at the weekend but ran out of steam at the end. Hopefully we can go into the next fixture with confidence to get a result.”
Tuesday’s match was originally set to take place in February but was called off by referee Lee Swabey an hour before its scheduled start due to a frozen pitch.
An inspection took place at around 1.50pm with the decision to postpone made soon afterwards. Sections of the pitch had proved a concern once the covers were taken off two hours before the game was due to take place and, with the temperature below freezing and snow falling, the situation wasn’t expected to improve.
Historically, the Blues have had much the better of matches between the two sides, winning 14 games (11 in the league), losing three (one) and drawing nine (six).
Town were last beaten by the Shrews in an old Second Division game at Gay Meadow in January 1987 when Bobby Ferguson’s side were defeated 2-1.
At Portman Road in November last year, sub Jack Lankester netted a winner seven minutes into injury time to see the Blues to a fortunate 2-1 comeback victory over Shrewsbury.
Oliver Norburn’s fourth-minute penalty - the first goal conceded by Town at home in the league this season - had given the Shrews a 1-0 half-time lead with the Blues very much under par.
The game appeared to going nowhere until Ethan Ebanks-Landell’s bizarre 75th minute own goal, before Lankester’s close-range header grabbed an undeserved three points for Town.
Last season’s fixture at Montgomery Waters Meadow wasn't played due to the season's suspension.
Town’s only game at Shrewsbury’s current home was a Carling Cup first round tie in August 2009 under Roy Keane’s management.
The Blues won only their second ever penalty shoot-out and their first in 18 years as they eventually defeated the Shrews 4-2 on penalties - Jon Walters, Connor Wickham, Alan Quinn and Ed Upson netting Town’s spot-kicks - the game having ended 3-3 with Wickham (2) and Quinn having been on target.
The match would prove to be shoot-out hero keeper Shane Supple’s final ever match before his retirement aged 22.
Jon Nolan and Toto Nsiala followed their former Shrews manager Paul Hurst, his assistant Chris Doig and other members of his staff to Portman Road in the summer of 2018 having been part of the side which had reached the League One play-offs the previous season.
Nolan moved to the Shrews in June 2017 and made 55 starts in his one season there, scoring 10 goals.
Nsiala signed in January 2017 and made 79 starts in his 18 months with the Shrews, scoring four times.
Former Blues loan centre-half Matthew Pennington joined Shrewsbury on loan from Everton in January. Pennington, 26, made 31 starts and scored one goal while with the Blues during the 2018/19 campaign.
Striker Jason Cummings was interesting Town back in 2018 when a Nottingham Forest player on loan at Rangers.
Tuesday’s referee is Lee Swabey, the man who postponed the first staging of the game. The Devon-based official has shown 63 yellow cards and no red in 28 games so far this season.
Swabey’s last Town game which took place was the 3-0 home defeat to Hull City in November in which he booked only Kayden Jackson.
His was also in charge of the 1-0 victory over Lincoln at Portman Road in February last year in which he yellow-carded Woolfenden, Downes, Emyr Huw and two Imps.
His only other Blues game was another 1-0 win, away against the MK Dons in September 2019 in which he again booked Downes, Emyr Huws and one home player.
Squad from: Cornell, Holy, Vincent-Young, Chambers, Ward, Nsiala, Woolfenden, McGuinness, Dozzell, Skuse, Nydam, Bishop, Downes, Harrop, Edwards, Bennetts, Sears, Dobra, Norwood, Jackson, Parrott, Hawkins, Drinan.
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