|Ipswich Town 2 v 1 Crewe Alexandra|
SkyBet League One
Sunday, 28th November 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Cook Aiming For Three Wins in a Week, Starting With Crewe
Friday, 26th Nov 2021 11:46
Town boss Paul Cook is looking for his side to regain their momentum as they go into three home games in seven days, the first Sunday’s visit by League One bottom club Crewe Alexandra.
The Railwaymen’s trip to Portman Road is followed by the Papa John’s Trophy tie against Arsenal U21s and then next Saturday’s FA Cup second round game against League Two Barrow.
The fixtures give Cook’s side an opportunity to win three games on the trot for the first time since he took charge in March.
“We have a big game on Sunday, we have a cup game on Wednesday night and we’ve got a FA Cup game on the Saturday,” Cook said.
“We want to put three wins on the board for our fans that will have seen us win three times for the first time, [getting to the] third round of the FA Cup, the next round of the Papa John’s and a little bit higher in the league. That’s our job to try and sort that situation out.
“Hopefully, we win [the first] two and we all won’t sleep next Friday night because we might suspect what’s coming. But let’s try and win the first one on Sunday in a difficult game against Crewe.”
Asked about the Alex, who are currently at the foot of the division having taken only 12 points from 19 games and are five points from safety, Cook said: “Every club in the division is different and when you look at Crewe selling players again this summer and at the bottom end of the budgets, and yet [manager] Dave [Artell] has always done a great job.
“They always play a really good style of play, young lads with culture habits and trust. But they’ve reached a level probably at times now where the players are probably struggling to kick-on and climb up the league due to budgets, money and losing players.
“The manager’s done a magnificent job. Promotion [from League Two in 2019/20], consistently in League One, playing in a very, very good vein of form, they always score goals.
“They will come here on Sunday with no fear or fuss, no fear of the stadium and very much looking forward to making a big win for themselves.
“Dave’s a good guy, he’s got good coaching staff with him and they’ve got every chance going forward of getting out of that bottom four, four sure.”
Quizzed on whether the biggest dilemma he has at present is who he fields in the three behind striker Macauley Bonne, he said: “Not really. I think on Tuesday night we were without [Sone] Aluko and [Wes] Burns on our right side. We were without both lads at Plymouth too and sometimes we’re having to shuffle a little bit more.
“We didn’t want to play Santi [Bersant Celina] on the right if the truth be known. Sometimes we’re just having to shuffle a little bit.
“I think sometimes the perception of our squad is that everyone thinks we’ve got an abundance of options, but sometimes I don’t think we’ve had quite as many as people would think.
“Within that, we want to see performances like the performances we’ve had when we all enjoy them. We don’t want to see the performances we’ve had like when we all don’t enjoy them.
“And I think that sums up the Oldham game as a perfect example. We were probably at the height of our positivity, energy, feel-good factor and everything about it, a great third-round cup tie, but one which resulted in us having to travel up to Oldham to finish a game off.
“That should have been finished off at Portman Road and again culture, habits and trust, the three big words that I’ve always used at my football clubs, and sometimes to change players’ habits is not as easy as people think.
“To change the culture of clubs, albeit whatever people think that is, my culture is working hard and my culture is analysing games, coming in and then, most importantly, getting your supporters excited by how you play.
“Unfortunately for us on Tuesday night, we were the total opposite. And for that, like every other Ipswich fan in the stadium, I went home deflated.
“But my job is to make sure when the fans leave the stadium on Sunday they see the work we’ve put in to address a problem and to try and find our consistency.”
Is his side missing Burns, who has a hamstring problem? “Again, it’s not Wes, it’s not Sone and it’s not Santi. You can look back on our 19 league games now and within those 19 league games, the consistency is what we clamour for, it’s what we absolutely search for.
“It’s how we play and it’s our identity. It’s your habits and it’s your habits of what you do when you get in areas of the pitch. All of a sudden now we don’t cross the ball anywhere near as much as we have been doing. You can go on and on.
“I think when you become a Rotherham, you’re dead happy because you sit there knowing exactly what you get out of your team.
“Unfortunately for Ipswich fans at the minute, and we travel in such numbers with such great optimism, they don’t particularly know what they are going to get out of us at the minute, and that’s my job to sort out.”
Answering the oft-asked question regarding why the match is on Saturday at the recent fans' forum, Cook said: “I think it was to give us more time to recover from the Tuesday night game. I think it was just an option we took up, if I’m not mistaken.
“It was just something that we thought might be a little bit different, it gives us a little bit of extra recovery. Maybe just something a little bit different possibly for our supporters as well.”
Cook seems unlikely to make wholesale changes despite the performance against the Millers on Tuesday.
Christian Walton will continue in goal with Janoi Donacien set to stay at right-back and George Edmundson and Toto Nsiala the centre-halves.
Assuming Hayden Coulson is not yet ready to return from the knock he sustained at Wycombe, Cook will have to decide between Matt Penney and Bailey Clements at left-back, perhaps opting for the former Sheffield Wednesday man with the Blues youngster having played a lot of minutes in recent weeks having broken into the senior side regularly for the first time.
In midfield, skipper Sam Morsy and Lee Evans would appear likely to continue as the central pair, while Cook will probably look to bring Aluko back on the right after the Nigerian international missed Tuesday's match following the death of his father.
Scott Fraser seems likely to keep his place on the left with Kyle Edwards the other option, while Bersant Celina will probably get the nod ahead of Conor Chaplin for the number 10 role behind Macauley Bonne.
Crewe have won only one of their last 12 in the league - they defeated 20th-placed Gillingham 2-0 last Saturday - and only two in League One this season, both at home, the other having been a 2-0 success over Burton in September. On their travels in League One this season the Alex have drawn three and lost seven.
Crewe assistant manager Kenny Lunt says the Railwaymen need more of their players operating towards the top of their game.
“We need eight, nine, ten of our players to be playing at their levels,” he told his club's official website. “We cannot have three or four below par like they were on Tuesday night [when they lost 3-2 at AFC Wimbledon] because it makes it more difficult.
“It is trying to discover that consistency and making sure that you play well enough to keep the shirt.
“If you are not in the team you have to train well, play consistency well and put pressure on those ahead of you.
“We need more consistency from those who are playing and more of a challenge from those who are not.
“Players are at different levels of their development and there may be different reasons for their consistency levels dropping.
“A young player may be finding his way, others may find it difficult to play Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday.
“Zac [Williams] for instance was asked to step up to the first team and find his feet and now we have asked him to play three games in a week.
“There are a lot of factors but the more the players reach their own standards the better we will become.”
Overall, Town have won 11 matches between the teams (nine in the league), Crewe three (two) and with three (two) ending in draws.
The Blues have won the last five of the last six games between the teams and are unbeaten in eight against the Alex, who have been victorious only once in the last 13 games meetings, a 1-0 success at Gresty Road in August 2003.
The teams last met at Gresty Road in January when sub Aaron Drinan netted his first goal for the Blues as 10-man Town claimed a 1-1 draw.
Charlie Kirk gave the home side the lead on 59 but Drinan bundled home the leveller on 75, seven minutes before Teddy Bishop was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
At the end of October last year, what proved to be Oli Hawkins’s only Town goal saw the Blues to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Railwaymen at Portman Road and up to second in the League One table.
The visitors could count themselves unlucky not to have taken something from the game having been on top for long spells and having had the better opportunities prior to Hawkins’s 62nd-minute header.
Crewe’s squad includes former Town academy youngster Ben Knight, who is on loan for the season from Manchester City, the Railwaymen having signed the 19-year-old after also eyed current Blue Armando Dobra for the same role.
Knight has so far made only three league starts and one sub appearance for his loan club, in addition to one cup start and two appearances from the bench.
The Alex’s goalkeeper-coach is be-masked glovesman Fred Barber, who made one appearance for the Blues on loan from Luton in December 1995, a 2-2 draw at Wolves.
Sunday’s referee is James Oldham from Derbyshire, who has shown 61 yellow cards and two red in 15 games so far this season.
Oldham has previously only refereed Town games against Lincoln, last season’s 1-1 draw at Portman Road in which he yellow-carded Bishop, Flynn Downes and two Imps, and the 5-3 defeat at Sincil Bank in December 2019 in which he booked Andre Dozzell, Gwion Edwards, Freddie Sears and two home players.
Squad from: Walton, Hladky, Donacien, Vincent-Young, Clements, Penney, Edmundson, Nsiala, Burgess, Woolfenden, Morsy, Evans, Harper, El Mizouni, Carroll, Fraser, Burns, Chaplin, Celina, Edwards, Bonne, Pigott, Jackson.
Photo: Matchday Images
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