Cook Aiming to Maintain Unbeaten Home Record as Blues Host Fleetwood in Final Game
Friday, 7th May 2021 14:59
Manager Paul Cook is looking to maintain his unbeaten home record as Blues boss when the Blues host Fleetwood Town in Sunday’s otherwise meaningless final game of the season.
Although Town’s results have been disappointing overall since Cook took charge on March 2nd, the Blues are yet to lose at Portman Road under his management, winning two and drawing three of his five games on home turf.
“I was going to mention that, none of you lot were going to mention that!” Cook laughed at his pre-match press conference.
“I’ve told our new owners to keep me at home and we’ll get a new manager in away. Now we’ve cracked it, haven’t we? Now we’ve smashed it!
“I’m delighted with that. As a manager, I enjoy little things like that. While I’m very conscious of my record both at Ipswich and everywhere else, our home should be a fortress.
“I’m delighted and that’s something I’ll be looking to make sure we cement on Sunday.”
Cook believes strong home form will be vital next season as the Blues go about securing promotion from League One at the third time of asking.
“They used to say, win your home games and draw away and you get promoted,” he said. “That used to be an old saying.
“For us, it’s just a case of let’s finish the season as well as we can, let’s conduct ourselves as properly as we can as a football club, because that’s important, especially with those players that are leaving that have played for the club, and let’s see what the future can bring, hopefully in a positive way.”
Cook has been much happier with the last two performances - the 2-1 win at Swindon and then the 0-0 draw at Shrewsbury - and feels the side has played more like one of his teams in those games.
“One hundred per cent,” he said “I regret not sticking to what I should have stuck to, I tried to change, but you only make decisions because you think they’re right.
“I’ve enjoyed watching us play in the last two games. We certainly should have won more convincingly at Swindon and, with the greatest respect, I thought we should have won the game quite comfortably the other night. We controlled it for long periods and we missed good chances.
“So, going forward, I think the key for the players is that those moments in games are huge and you’ve got to have players on the pitch who take those moments, the moments of scoring goals.
“Our lads don’t feel that energy from scoring, from scoring again. The goals-for column has just been horrendous hasn’t it, for whatever reason, I include my own coaching in that, my own mythology in that.
“But the reality is that over 45 going into 46 games we haven’t scored enough goals and if you don’t score goals, you’ll find it very hard to be successful.”
Town have scored the third-fewest goals in League One, 43, with only 23rd-placed Northampton and rock-bottom Bristol Rovers, both 40, having found the net less frequently. Fleetwood have scored the fourth-fewest, 48.
Asked how he motivates a team for a game which has little riding on it, Cook said: “I don’t. I don’t try, and I haven’t tried to motivate them really for the last two games, if I’m being truthful.
“It’s been a lot more speaking about personal professionalism, personal pride, representing a club of our stature and managing a club of our stature.
“Going forward, whether it’s here or somewhere else, if people are watching you play, we want to see qualities in footballers that we’ve probably not shown.
“So I don’t see the sense in trying to motivate players that may not be here, that maybe will be here, I’m looking for them to motivate me, if the truth be known.”
Cook has a lot of time for Fleetwood boss Simon Grayson: “Simon has an outstanding CV, Simon has been very successful wherever he’s been, he’s a good guy.
“He’s in there with David Dunn and Fleetwood under Joey [Barton] last year got in the play-offs, which was a fantastic achievement.
“Obviously, for whatever reason, Fleetwood changed their manager. Simon has gone in with David and they’ve done really well, probably gave us a tough night at Fleetwood if the truth be known when they beat us quite comfortably 2-0.
“I’m sure Simon has got his own situations that he’s looking at for next year, so with the greatest respect to Fleetwood, I don’t have much interest in them.
“I’m just focused on Ipswich Town seeing the season out properly and trying to put a performance in on Sunday that wins us the game, and then the biggest thing of all moving forward from Monday onwards.”
If all goes to plan, in a year’s time Town fans will have something to celebrate on the final day of the 2021/22 season whereas Sunday’s game is essentially meaningless for both clubs.
“Listen, it’s not pointless what I say now because I think our fans just want to see action,” Cook said.
“There are two doors at a football club, one that leaves and one that comes in and the most important thing at any club is that the in door is better than the out door. Watch this space. That’s all we can say, isn’t it?”
Town go into the match ninth, which is now the highest they can finish. A defeat could see them drop as low as 14th if the five sides directly below them all win and there is a four-goal turnaround in Crewe Alexandra’s favour.
The Blues have drawn 0-0 in six of their last 10 games, while the 2-1 win at Swindon last weekend is the only match in which Town have scored in their last eight.
Cook is likely to pick much the same team as drew at Shrewsbury, although will be forced into one change with Kane Vincent-Young unavailable due to his shoulder injury.
Dai Cornell again seems set to start in goal with skipper Luke Chambers appearing likely to come in at right-back in what may be his last appearance for the club with his contract up in the summer.
If he does start, the 35-year-old will be making his 395th start for the Blues in addition to one appearance from the bench.
Myles Kenlock is expected to continue at left-back with Luke Woolfenden and Mark McGuinness, whose loan will be up after the weekend, the centre-halves.
Andre Dozzell and Flynn Downes will be in the centre of midfield with Gwion Edwards, another of those whose contract us up in the summer, on the left and Armando Dobra on the right.
Teddy Bishop could return for Troy Parrott, another loanee whose time with the club will end after Sunday, in the role behind lone out-and-out striker James Norwood.
Veteran midfielder Cole Skuse, Toto Nsiala, Freddie Sears, Kayden Jackson, Tristan Nydam and Aaron Drinan are among those who are out of contract in the summer who could be on the bench, while Keanan Bennetts and Josh Harrop, whose loans will be coming to an end, may also probably be among the subs.
Fleetwood are 15th and could go above Crewe above them if they beat the Blues, while they’re three points and several goals better off than Burton in 16th.
Cod Army boss Grayson wants his side to end on a positive note and is looking forward to next season, new players and the return of fans.
“They have shown a really good attitude in the games over the last few weeks and we want the same again next weekend at Ipswich,” Grayson told the Fleetwood Weekly News.
“Next time we’re at Highbury, I’m sure there will be new players here, hopefully we’ll have supporters back and we can have a really successful season.”
Reflecting on Town, he added: “They were probably one of the favourites for the division at the start of the season, it’s not turned out how they wanted it to.
“They’ve had a change of ownership and a change of management. Reading Paul Cook’s reports over the last few weeks, I don’t think he’s been overly impressed with the players that have been performing – or not performing.
“They have some talented players, you only have to look down the squad, and we’ve got to make sure that we go about our jobs.
“We beat them at Highbury not long ago and we want to do the double over them. If we do that, then it’s a bit of a feather in our cap.
“That’s just another stat really, it was early on in Paul’s reign and he’s changed things around since then and it’s the last game of the season where there is nothing really riding on it.
“We certainly know it’s a team that has underachieved but they have quality in the group that can hurt you.”
The teams’ meetings in 2019/20 were the first in their histories with each game ending in an away win, while the Cod Army were victorious in this season’s match between the teams at Highbury in March in Town manager Paul Cook’s fourth fixture in charge of the Blues.
Former Town loanee Callum Connolly and Ged Garner were on target as Fleetwood deservedly won 2-0.
Connolly nodded the opener in the ninth minute and Garner added the second with a low shot on 57 with Town, who are down to seventh, never looking like they would get anything from the game.
In March last year in the previous meeting at Portman Road, sub Ched Evans’s goal five minutes before half-time saw Fleetwood to a 1-0 victory over dismal Town.
The Blues were woeful in the first half but improved a little after the break but still rarely looked like equalising on a bleak and fractious night.
Blues right-back Janoi Donacien is on loan with the Cod Army but is ineligible against his parent club. The 27-year-old has made 16 starts and three sub appearances since making the move in January.
Ex-Town loanee Connolly is on loan at Fleetwood from Everton having rejoined them in the summer having spent the second half of last season at Highbury.
Saturday’s referee is John Busby from Oxfordshire, who has shown 88 yellow cards and six red in 33 games so far this season. The Blues have a 100 per cent record when he has been in control.
His last Town match was the 2-0 home victory over Blackpool in February in which he yellow-carded Kenlock, Luke Matheson and two Tangerines.
The scoreline was also 2-0 to Town when he was previously in charge of Town when Rochdale were at Portman Road in September last year when he booked Jon Nolan and two visiting players.
Prior to that he refereed the 2-1 win at Tranmere in January 2020 when he showed yellow cards to Emyr Huws and Will Norris as well as three home players.
Busby was also in the man in the middle for the Blues’ 2-0 defeat to Rotherham at Portman Road in October 2019 when he booked Edwards and three Millers.
Squad from: Cornell, Holy, Chambers, Nsiala, Woolfenden, McGuinness, Dozzell, Skuse, Nydam, Bishop, Downes, Harrop, Edwards, Bennetts, Sears, Dobra, Norwood, Jackson, Parrott, Hawkins, Drinan.
Photo: Matchday Images
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