|Ipswich Town 1 v 2 West Ham United U21|
Papa John's Trophy
Tuesday, 14th September 2021 Kick-off 19:45
Cook: We're a Soft Touch That Gives Goals Away
Tuesday, 14th Sep 2021 23:10
Town boss Paul Cook admitted his still winless side are currently a soft touch following their 2-1 Papa John’s Trophy defeat to West Ham’s U21s.
Armstrong Okoflex’s 89th-minute penalty saw the young Irons to victory over a strong Town side, despite Cook having changed everyone aside from Kane Vincent-Young from Saturday’s defeat.
“We made 10 changes, Kane played after coming off on Saturday, we picked a team, no different to the Newport game at home, that we felt was strong enough to win,” Cook said.
“The brutal reality of it, is it bad luck at the minute? I’m not so sure it is bad luck, is there a softness about us that none of us in the stadium? One hundred per cent that’s true, and it’s something that we’ve got to eradicate.
“Newport got one goal [in the 1-0 Carabao Cup defeat], every other team that’s come here this year’s got two and Bolton got five.
“The reality at the minute is that we’re a soft touch that just gives goals away. We take the lead, we look OK and then we self-harm, and that’s something that’s got to stop, and it’s got to stop quickly.”
Asked how bothered he was about losing in the competition, a tournament he said previously is his lowest priority, Cook said: “I think by the team picked, we haven’t created any winning mentality or culture at the club as we speak. And we need to do it quickly.
“One hundred per cent, in our list of priorities, and we spoke at the EGM etc, this was bottom of our list, but the team we had tonight probably epitomises where we are as a club.
“That team should be winning that football match and unfortunately it hasn’t, and that’s a big disappointment for us all.”
Inevitably with the Blues having failed to win any of their first eight matches in all competitions, fans are becoming restless with some already calling for a change of boss.
“Pressure builds, that’s absolutely natural in football,” Cook said. “I’ve been around football long enough to know.
“Like I’ve just said to the players in the dressing room, I don’t mind telling you, ‘How long does the newness of us last?’
“It does last, whether you like it or not, it does last. Certainly doesn’t last much longer, that’s for sure, does it? It doesn’t last forever.”
The Blues manager expected better from the first eight matches: “One hundred per cent, without a shadow of a doubt. I’m as disappointed as the supporters. I watched the game at the sidelines. I don’t enjoy watching us play.
“Again, if you’re making changes, where will you get that consistency from? I get that. As a supporter shouted at me, ‘Stop changing the team’.
“But at the minute we’re probably searching for our best team, so until we find that formula the reality is Saturday’s team with injuries, lads coming back, one or two lads available, Bersant Celina’s available for Saturday.
“The reality is we’re an evolving team but none of us like the way we’re evolving, that’s for sure.”
Did he consider sticking with a similar team to one which he fielded at the weekend “There are all those debates. What you’ve got, and I don’t mind saying to you, a lot of these lads, [George] Edmundson’s been out for four or five weeks, would three games in a week be good for him? Would he break down? These are all the debates.
“And you get beat like we have done tonight, all your questions are valid, 100 per cent they’re valid. If we win the game tonight, everyone’s happy, we’ve got our first win and we move on.
“We’re all desperately disappointed, none more so than myself and the staff and we’ll just go away and work harder.”
Cook gave Samy Morsy his debut as skipper in midfield and young centre-half Albie Armin his senior debut.
“Samy Morsy’s had his debut tonight, which was great to familiarise himself with the stadium,” the Town manager continued.
“We’ve got to be better as a group of players. The time for us now, the newness is wearing thin, the reality is that our supporters have left the stadium again tonight for the sixth time this season really, really disappointed.
“As a manager, I hold my hand up, it’s not good enough and I’m not happy with what’s going on myself.”
Asked further about the fan who spoke to him on the way off, he said: “He didn’t want me changing the teams. And again, if you look at the teams picked and all the stuff that we’re doing, we’re trying our best to get minutes into players, we’re trying our best to get up to speed and I’d suggest to everyone, if you get beat 5-2 at home on Saturday, what is our best team?
“We were giving lads an opportunity to say ‘I should be playing’ as Ipswich fans go home tonight, how many of that XI have staked that claim? I’m not too sure too many have.”
The softness of the team was recurring theme in his post-match press conferences towards the end of last season and would have been something Cook was hoping would change given all the switches of personnel.
“I think we’ve just got to be a little bit careful when we’ve had the likes of Christian Walton’s debut Saturday, George Edmundson’s debut Saturday, Hayden Coulson’s been out for a long time with Covid. We have had issues around that,” Cook said.
“I think defensively we’ve got to give these lads a couple or three more games to get up and running but we are all aware that we must get up and running, we’re not stupid people.”
It was Tomas Holy’s error which led to West Ham’s winner but Cook wasn’t pointing any fingers.
“Just keep going, it’s football,” he said. “I’ll never come out and blame keepers and this, that and the other.
“Every goalie that’s been in goal this year has conceded goals at Portman Road for us, so it’s Tomas Holy conceding goals, Christian Walton has and so has Vas [Vaclav Hladky]. So around that we’ve all got to tidy up, every single one of us.”
Kayden Jackson limped off with what looked like an ankle injury in the second half but Cook didn’t know the extent of the problem following the match.
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “He just got a knock and he looked quite sharp and lively, to be fair to the kid, so that’s a disappointment for Kayden.”
West Ham U21s coach Dimitri Halajko was delighted with his team's display, particularly defensively.
“It was a really good performance,” he told hos club's official website. “I didn’t think we were at our best on the ball today, we felt we turned it over a bit.
“But when you’re not having the best day on the ball, what you’ve got to show is really good defensive determination and lots of grit to stay in the game and then chances will come your way.
“I think we did that brilliantly, the character we showed to stay in the game and to defend well, not give away any easy goals after the first two minutes.
“At the end, they get that little bit of luck and their reward for all the hard work they showed. It was a really mature performance in that sense.”
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