|Portsmouth 0 v 4 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Tuesday, 19th October 2021 Kick-off 19:45
Cook: Once the Sunshine Starts It Doesn’t Stop and We’ve Got to Make That Happen
Monday, 18th Oct 2021 11:54
Town boss Paul Cook returns to his old club Portsmouth as the Blues look to bounce back from Saturday’s disappointment at Cambridge.
The Blues looked well on their way to a third win in three games in all competitions - and back-to-back league victories for the first time - at the Abbey Stadium at 2-0 but as so often this season allowed their opposition back into the match and in the end the U’s deserved to claim a point which at one stage had appeared hugely unlikely.
Town have now failed to claim victory having gone ahead in the league on six occasions this season, allowing 15 points to slip through their grasp.
Cook was asked whether the return to Fratton Park is a game he particularly looks forward to given his history with the Hampshire club.
“Yes and no,” he reflected. “I’m just fully focused on Ipswich Town. My time at Portsmouth has now passed, Portsmouth have got their own issues and what they're going through, and that's for Danny and Nicky [Cowley] to sort out.
“I just look forward to preparing the team for our next game because, as we've all alluded to, we all just want to climb this league.
“You can't climb it as quickly as you want sometimes, we all scream and desperately want to get in the play-offs and when we're in the play-offs, can we get in the top two? And unfortunately it's not going to happen in a game or two.
“What we've got to have is consistency and you'll get consistency from me, and you'll get my consistent messages to the players.
“I think Ipswich fans have been consistent, haven't they? Because they'll have felt we've had to endure a little bit of hardship over a period of time but, as I keep saying, once the sunshine starts shining it doesn't stop and we've got to make that happen.
“So, going back to Portsmouth, it’s just the next league game in my league campaign this year and I just want to desperately win the game.”
But while trying to treat it as just another game, he knows Fratton Park will be lively on the night.
“They’re all tough games,” he added. “Fratton Park under the lights is an amazing experience for any player, coach or manager. The atmosphere down there will be electric.
“Your next challenge is your biggest one. Portsmouth is no bigger than Cambridge on Saturday and then Fleetwood after that. Getting three points is what we all crave.
“We will pick the team that we feel will be correct for the game. Make no illusions, it’ll be a tough game. Portsmouth will be a massive challenge and we’ve got to meet that challenge head on.”
Portsmouth brought in 14 signings in the summer and after 12 games they find themselves in similar territory to the Blues having taken 15 points, one more than Town, to sit in 12th, three places higher than the Blues.
While Town struggled to get going in their early games, Pompey had a positive opening few weeks, winning their first three fixtures but subsequently fell away alarmingly and have won just one of their last nine in League One, a somewhat out-of-context 4-0 home victory over fourth-placed Sunderland.
The win against the Black Cats was followed up by a 2-0 Papa John's Trophy loss at home to Sutton United and then Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Rotherham at the New York Stadium.
Asked whether manager Danny Cowley is the man to turn things around at Fratton Park, Cook says that like at Town and other clubs, it’s still early days given the number of fixtures played.
“Danny is no different to myself and about another 25 in the country – to turn what round?
“He's played 12 games. What do you want him to turn round? I really struggle with the way the media and the questions go. You've actually answered your question [by talking about] the changes they've had, but then ‘Is he the man to turn it around?’.
So, I'll let Danny and [his brother and assistant] Nicky sort Portsmouth out, and I'll just concentrate on Ipswich.”
He added: “I've got no opinion on Portsmouth and Danny's problems or issues or what they are going through, that's their business. My business is Ipswich Town, and we've spoken about my problems, and we can move on.”
As is his usual habit at pre-match press conferences, Cook was tight-lipped about player availability, including whether Lee Evans and Joe Pigott will be involved.
Evans missed Saturday’s game at Cambridge as his wife was being induced, while Pigott’s father died on the morning of the match.
“Again we're just keeping our cards close to our chest,” he said. “It's one of these things and we don't want you not to be in the know, of course we don't, but obviously, for our team selection, we want to keep things as private as we can.”
The fitness of Christian Walton (adductor), Hayden Coulson (thigh) and Tom Carroll (hip flexor) are unclear going into the match, although speaking prior to the Shrewsbury game Cook indicated that the keeper and the left-back could be back in contention by now.
If fit, Walton could come into Cook’s thinking to return in goal, otherwise Vaclav Hladky will continue.
Similarly, Coulson could be in the manager’s thoughts for a return at left-back if the on-loan Middlesbrough man is over his injury. Again, if not, Matt Penney would keep his place.
Cook suggested on Friday that there could be some element of rotation about his teams as the Blues went into three games in eight days.
There may also be some thought of changes after Town conceded two goals on the road for the fourth time in their five League One away games this season.
Cook is likely to stick with George Edmundson and Cameron Burgess at the heart of the defence with Janoi Donacien at right-back.
In central midfield, Evans will probably return for Idris El Mizouni alongside skipper Sam Morsy.
Cook could look at changes in the three behind lone striker Macauley Bonne, who would appear certain to keep his place in the team.
Bersant Celina could start in the central role with Kyle Edwards perhaps on the left. Sone Aluko netted twice at Cambridge from the right and presumably did enough to keep Wes Burns on the bench, assuming the Nigerian is considered fit enough for two games in four days.
For Portsmouth, former Town striker Ellis Harrison will miss out with an ankle injury and centre-half Paul Downing will be absent with a hamstring problem.
Skipper Clark Robertson (hip), Liam Vincent (shin) and Jayden Reid (knee) all remain unavailable but Ronan Curtis is back from a suspension having already reached five bookings.
Pompey boss Cowley believes the Blues were worthy of taking more points from their recent fixtures.
“Paul Cook probably has the envy of the rest of the league in terms of finances and who he’s been able to sign,” he told the Portsmouth News.
“They’ve signed a really powerful League One team and they have quality in every position so we need to find the solution to that.
“What we’ve all seen is that even with signings they’ve made, the finances, and the quality and depth of their squad, they’ve still found League One difficult this season.
“I watched them live against Shrewsbury and they were very good that day. They were worthy winners in that match and certainly in recent matches they’ve picked up and I think they deserve more points than they’ve accumulated in terms of their dominance in certain games.
“We understand the challenge of tonight, but we love to play at Fratton Park particularly under the lights. We’re looking forward to the supporters getting behind us and helping us.”
Historically, the Blues have won 19 games between the two clubs (18 in the league, one in the League Cup), 12 have been draws (11 in the league) and Pompey have won 16 (12 in the league).
Town are without a win in their last six against Pompey, losing the last five. Town last won at Fratton Park in February 2012 when Paul Jewell’s side recorded a 1-0 win with Michael Chopra netting the goal.
In March, Cook’s first return to Fratton Park ended in defeat after Portsmouth came from a goal down to beat the Blues 2-1.
James Norwood netted his seventh goal of the season to give Town the lead on 32 but Pompey skipper Tom Naylor headed a leveller four minutes before the break and then Marcus Harness grabbed the winner in the 72nd minute.
In December last year, 2,000 Blues fans made a disappointing return to Portman Road as two first-half Ryan Williams goals saw Portsmouth to a comfortable 2-0 victory over the Blues.
Williams, who hadn’t scored previously during 2020/21, gave his side the lead on 29 and added the second a minute before the break and Pompey could well have extended their lead in a second half in which they struck the woodwork twice.
The teams also met at Portman Road in the FA Cup first round a month earlier when Sean Raggett scored a controversial 111th minute winner for Portsmouth in a 3-2 after-extra-time victory.
Pompey scored two goals in two minutes via Curtis and Naylor in the 11th and 13th minutes before Jon Nolan pulled a goal back for the Blues two minutes before half-time.
Then, after Town had been denied a clear penalty for a foul on ex-Pompey frontman Oli Hawkins, sub Norwood made it 2-2 on 66 before Raggett won it for the visitors in the second half of extra-time when he stabbed home from close range following a free-kick but having very evidently strayed offside.
Cook was manager of Pompey between May 2015 and May 2017 and took them to the League Two title in 2016/17 before departing for Wigan.
In addition to Cook, new Blues first-team coach Gary Roberts was with Pompey as a player under the current Town manager between June 2015 and August 2017 making 64 starts and 16 sub appearances, scoring 20 goals.
Keeper-coach John Keeley at Fratton Park from 2007 to 2013, initially working in the academy, then again from 2016 until this summer.
Conor Chaplin joined Pompey as a six-year-old and progressed through their youth ranks into the first team before leaving to join Coventry in January 2019. The forward made 36 starts and 86 sub appearances, scoring 25 times.
Portsmouth striker Harrison left the Blues for Fratton Park in June 2019 after a year at Town, in which the former Bristol Rovers man scored once in nine starts and seven sub appearances, for a fee of £450,000.
Winger Michael Jacobs came close to joining Town in the summer but, having passed a medical and with personal terms agreed, the Blues pulled the plug and opted to sign Kyle Edwards instead.
Pompey midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe spent 2013/14 on loan at Town from Manchester United, making 24 starts and five sub appearances without scoring.
Tuesday’s referee is Josh Smith from Bedfordshire, who has shown 41 yellow cards and two red in 12 games so far this season.
Smith’s most recent Town match was the 2-2 home draw with the MK Dons in August in which he booked Kane Vincent-Young, Luke Woolfenden and one visiting player.
Prior to that, his only previous Town match was the 2-1 EFL Trophy defeat away at Exeter in January 2020 in which he again booked Woolfenden, as well as Toto Nsiala, Will Keane and one Grecian.
Squad from: Holy, Hladky, Walton, Donacien, Vincent-Young, Penney, Coulson, Edmundson, Burgess, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Morsy, Evans, Harper, El Mizouni, Fraser, Burns, Chaplin, Celina, Aluko, Edwards, Bonne, Pigott, Barry, Norwood, Jackson.
Photo: Matchday Images
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