|Ipswich Town 2 v 5 Bolton Wanderers|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 11th September 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Blues Host Bolton Looking For First Win as Dust Settles on Recruitment Revolution
Friday, 10th Sep 2021 13:14
The dust has now settled on Town’s summer recruitment revolution and boss Paul Cook says the Blues, who host Bolton Wanderers tomorrow still looking for their first win of the campaign, probably needed that to happen before their season could properly get up and running.
Town made 19 senior signings over the course of the window with 30 contracted or loan players having departed on a permanent basis since Cook took charge in March.
In the midst of that period of flux, the Blues got their 2021/22 campaign got off to a disappointing start, drawing all three of their home League One matches 2-2 and losing both away games 2-1, while also exiting the Carabao Cup after a 1-0 defeat to Newport County at Portman Road. They currently sit in 21st place on three points.
“I think when you look back at the summer that we’ve had, and even latterly to the transfer window closing where we were still making three signings [Bersant Celina, Christian Walton and Sam Morsy], the reality is that the dust must settle on the club before we get up and running properly, it just has to.
“There’s nothing I can do with fitness levels, with everything else. We’re disappointed with where we are at at the minute, we would have expected to win more games, we thought we’d win more games, we’ve probably been in winning positions in every single game and haven’t seen that through. And that’s been our naivety.”
The postponement of last week’s game at Wycombe due to Chairboys international calls allowed Cook plenty of time to work with his squad on the training ground.
“The last two weeks, as you can imagine, the lads have worked extremely hard, really, really hard on the training ground, it’s repetitive messages,” he said.
“Tomorrow the likelihood is we’re going to have a couple of players on the pitch probably making their home debuts, which is great for our supporters, but it just shows you still the changes that are coming.
“Whilst we’re not looking for excuses, I’m not that type of manager and never have been and never will be, the brutal reality is that we are going to take a little bit of time to get up to speed.”
Regarding the start, Cook said: “I can only highlight to our supporters how disappointed I am with our points return at the minute, which I am, that’s 100 per cent a given. But I’m also very, very positive about the future.
“I watched training in the last few days, I’ve seen the intensity growing, I’ve seen the standard of training going very, very high, as you can imagine with the likes of Celina and Morsy coming into the group.
“But on the flipside that those lads can’t play, Kyle Edwards is out, one or two other lads won’t make the game tomorrow, which is a bit of a disappointment. These are all the disappointments we’re getting.
“We seem to make one step forward and one step back and one step forward and one step back.
“The reality is that time isn’t any manager’s friend or coach’s friend in football. Everyone knows how football is today but the reality is with the change we’ve had at the club, we are going to need a little bit of time to get up to speed.”
Bolton, who finished third in League Two last season in their only campaign in the fourth tier, are in 12th having won three, drawn two and lost one.
Cook has a lot of time for their manager Ian Evatt, who played for him during his time in charge at Chesterfield, having been impressed with the jobs he’s done with the Trotters, who he took charge of in July 2020, and also at his previous club Barrow.
“Ian’s done amazingly well,” he said. “I’ve said before, I don’t think the promotion at Barrow [from the National League to League Two] got the credit it deserved.
“Barrow’s a great football club but it’s a tough outpost, not just to win games from but to attract players to.
“Ian managed to win the league up there, albeit within Covid, but they were clear with a really good style of play and an identity, something which he’s carried into Bolton Wanderers, along with [assistant manager] Peter Atherton, they’ve added Sam Hird [as first-team coach], another lad who has played football for me in the past [also at Chesterfield].”
He added: “Great credit to Ian Evatt and Peter Atherton. All teams are well-coached now, the coaching courses that St George's put on for players and managers the studying of the games and the studying of the oppositions, there's no secrets anymore and sometimes it comes down to players, and we've got some good players and I back our players 100 per cent.”
Cook watched Bolton in Monday’s 0-0 League One draw with Burton Albion at the University of Bolton Stadium.
“I was at the game on Monday night and they were excellent, they were really excellent against Burton, really pleasing on the eye,” he said.
“The stadium had a great atmosphere, a lovely stadium, really strong support from Bolton fans.
“Bolton are certainly on the way back to where they want to be and I think they’ll be a challenge for every team this year in the division.”
When Cook refers to home debuts he is likely to be referring to debuts full stop with keeper Christian Walton and centre-half George Edmundson the most likely candidates.
Walton looks set to take over from Vaclav Hladky in goal with the Czech looking set to drop to the bench and Tomas Holy out of the squad.
Edmundson, who has been missing since signing from Rangers as he recovered from a hamstring problem, seems set to come in at centre-half alongside fellow new recruit Cameron Burgess with Luke Woolfenden also likely to be among the subs. Kane Vincent-Young and Hayden Coulson will continue as the full-backs.
In midfield, new signing Sam Morsy is unavailable due to the three-match league suspension which is a hangover from his time at Middlesbrough.
Cook has confirmed that Lee Evans will continue to wear the armband against the Trotters, but says no long-term decision has been made on the captaincy, and has a decision to make regarding the other central midfield role.
Rekeem Harper has started all Town’s league games so far but at his press conference Cook praised Tom Carroll for “two outstanding training weeks”, which could win the former Spurs man his first start for the Blues after two appearances from the bench.
Wes Burns looks set to continue on the right with Conor Chaplin, who has also been out with a hamstring problem, looking likely to be Edwards’s replacement on the left. Sone Aluko is another candidate.
Scott Fraser seems set to continue in the number 10 role, while Macauley Bonne, who has scored three times in his two home league games so far but missed the AFC Wimbledon match due to a tweaked hamstring, will probably return as the out-and-out striker.
Bolton will have central defender Will Aimson available to make his debut having recovered from a groin strain.
Midfielder Josh Sheehan will be back in the squad having missed Monday’s game against the Brewers as he was on international duty with Wales.
Forward Amadou Bakayoko (calf) and winger Xavier Amaechi (metatarsal) are both on the way back from injury but won’t be ready for Saturday.
Manager Evatt has little doubt his old boss Cook will bring success to the Blues given the squad he has assembled this summer, having brought in 20 players himself over the course of the Trotters' League Two promotion season.
“Recruitment is a key part of football because you are only as good as your players,” Evatt told the Manchester Evening News.
“What he has been able to do is recruit well at all the teams he has been at – and that is a skill in itself, it is credit to him. He gets teams and makes them gel quickly.
“I think he is a very good manager and I wish him all the best, with the exception of when he plays us, really.
“I’d have liked to have signed his 19 last summer! It does take time, people need that to implement brands and identities as we saw last season.
“Hopefully he will be given time and I am sure he will, and he’ll get them going.
“But for us it is about going down to Ipswich and coming back with three points.”
Historically, the Blues have the edge, having won 21 times (19 in the league), Bolton 13 (nine) and with 12 (11) games between the teams ending in draws.
Town are unbeaten in 13 against Bolton, winning eight and drawing five. Their last defeat was a 3-1 reverse in the FA Cup at Portman Road in January 2005.
The Trotters’ last league win against the Blues was the 4-1 victory in Lancashire towards the end of 2001/02 which all but confirmed Town’s relegation from the Premier League. Their last league win at Portman Road was earlier that season, a 2-1 victory in the November.
The teams last met at the University of Bolton Stadium in August 2019 with the Trotters in a period of crisis but with their takeover by current ownership Football Ventures only days away.
Town hit the top of League One after thrashing their very young side 5-0 with James Norwood and Kayden Jackson netting twice each and Gwion Edwards once.
Norwood’s 19th-minute penalty gave the Blues a half-time lead in a game they dominated from start to finish with Edwards adding the second on 50, Jackson scoring in the 60th and 64th minutes before the Town number 10 completed the scoring on 72.
That season’s Portman Road fixture was due to take place after the campaign was curtailed due to the pandemic.
The sides last faced one another on Suffolk soil in the Championship in September 2018 during Paul Hurst’s brief stint as boss when the Blues recorded their fifth successive home draw at the start of the season, a hard-fought 0-0 stalemate, despite the visitors having been a man down for 47 minutes.
The Trotters lost Marc Wilson to a red card on 34 after he hauled down Jackson but the Blues only created one serious chance - a Luke Chambers header brilliantly saved by Ben Alnwick - having been reduced to 10 men themselves late on when Jon Walters suffered an injury which ended his Town loan, and ultimately his career, with all three substitutions already having been made.
Saturday’s referee is former Premier League official Bobby Madley, who has shown 25 yellow cards and no red in six games so far this season.
West Yorkshire-based Madley left his top flight role in August 2018 after making and texting a video which made fun of a disabled person which was then made known to his employers.
He returned to refereeing in this country last year following a spell officiating in the lower leagues in Norway.
Madley’s most recent Town game was the 2-1 win at Accrington Stanley in March, the day Cook took charge as Blues boss with the new manager watching from the stands.
Madley booked James Wilson and three home players as well as showing Seamus Conneely a later-rescinded straight red card in the 16th minute for a foul on Troy Parrott in the penalty area. The resultant spot-kick taken by Norwood was saved.
Prior to that, he took control of the 0-0 draw at Oxford United in December last year in which he booked Andre Dozzell.
Before that he refereed the 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday in April 2016 in which he yellow-carded Luke Chambers, Kevin Bru, Brett Pitman and one Owl.
He was also in charge of the 1-1 draw at AFC Bournemouth in April 2015 in which he again booked Chambers and one home player.
Madley’s only other Blues match was the 1-0 home victory over Blackpool in February 2013 in which he cautioned only Guirane N’Daw.
Squad from: Walton, Hladky, Vincent-Young, Donacien, Penney, Coulson, Edmundson, Burgess, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Evans (c), Harper, Carroll, Fraser, Burns, Chaplin, Aluko, Pigott, Bonne, Barry, Jackson, Norwood.
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