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Woolfenden: A Dream to Reach 200 Appearances
Thursday, 9th Mar 2023 17:15

Luke Woolfenden is likely to clock up his 200th senior career appearance when Town visit promotion rivals Bolton at the weekend also aiming to create a new club record with a sixth successive clean sheet.

The defender has so far made 143 outings for the club in all competitions and, when added to the 20 and 36 he made for Bromley and Swindon in respective loan spells, he only needs one more to complete the landmark of a double century.

Woolfenden, 24, said: “I didn’t know that and it makes me feel a bit old, but I’m still only 24 so I’ll take it. When I was only 13 or 14 it would have just been a dream to play that many games, but if I sit back and think how hard I’ve worked over the years it’s impressive.”

It is also notable that the Blues, who have won their last four games without conceding, head for the University of Bolton Stadium having also kept five clean sheets on the spin, meaning another one against the fifth-placed Trotters will establish a new club record.

Town have been in this position before, of course, most recently last season when they headed to Morecambe and had to settle for a 1-1 draw. It was also the case in August and September 2019, March and April 2013 and the same period in 1997 that they failed to extend the run of shut-outs from five to six.

Despite Aaron Wildig’s goal for the Shrimps, just before the hour mark in February last year, Kieran McKenna’s men did set a new record in terms of minutes without conceding, 592, while the current run stands at 506 minutes, George Byers being the last opposition player to find the Town net, which he did in the 34th minute of the sides’ 2-2 draw at Portman Road last month.

But despite the possibility of creating history, third-placed Town’s main focus will be on victory against a side currently six points worse off having played a game more, which would maintain the pressure on the top two, Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth Argyle, who are both five points ahead as they continue to occupy the automatic promotion places.

When told about the clean sheet record being within reach, Woolfenden added: “I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t know that either and it hasn’t been mentioned this week. Throughout the whole of this season, I think we’ve defended well as a team.

“It’s just been teams coming to Portman Road, having half a shot and the ball flying into the top corner. Thankfully, now that we’re going into the business part of the season, that has stopped happening and long may it continue.

“We haven’t been doing anything different. The training has been pretty much the same and the improvement has been on the pitch — least number of shots on our goal, us and Manchester City across the four leagues I think, and there’s only so often that the opposition are going to score from one half-chance in a game flying into the top corner.

“It’s not going to happen every time so I think that’s probably the main reason what it’s down to. The run of clean sheets probably helps our confidence to be fair. We weren’t keeping that many at the start of the season.

“We were going into games thinking ‘If they have a shot here, it’s probably going to go in’ because that seemed to be the way that our luck was going. Now we’re starting games and we’re thinking ‘If we score here, we’re winning’. It’s massive for the whole team really.”

Supporters won’t need reminding that Town have conceded several goals that were due to opposition efforts being deflected into the net and Woolfenden was asked if the more it actually happened, the more the players began to fear it would occur again.

“I think it is easy to fall into that trap,” he said, “but the gaffer has been massive on us controlling the narrative and if you look at goals going in off deflections from, say, 30 yards it’s ultimately unlucky.

“You’ve just got to try to not let it affect you, either as a team or as a back line, and thankfully we did. Now we are keeping the clean sheets.”

Focusing on Saturday’s opponents, Woolfenden continued: “It’s important that we can take points off the teams around us and I look forward to us doing that. I know us and Bolton have the best possession stats, so I can see it being more of an open game that might suit us better.

“I think that with the players we’ve got and the way we want to play, when teams set up with 11 behind the ball it is going to be more difficult for us. But hopefully Bolton will stick to their usual game plan and it will suit us down to the ground.”

During their previous three seasons in League One, Town’s promotion prospects have suffered with a lack of positive results against their main rivals, but in the same circumstances this term there is an argument that says they have often been denied their performances probably deserved.

Woolfenden added: “I had this conversation the other day with someone, but I can’t remember who it was. In the big games — and I don’t really want to put it down to being unlucky — I think you could argue that but for a few refereeing decisions here and there we would be a lot better off. There are still games in which we can put it right, of course, so we just have to do that.”

Reminded about the opening day of the season 1-1 home draw with tomorrow’s opponents, when Town started slowly and fell behind before equalising and dominating the second half, the academy graduate reflected: “I think that has been the case in a few games.

“Plymouth came here and they had one big chance where they missed a sitter and we probably should have won that one comfortably.

“Sheffield Wednesday away, we did well to fight back from 2-0 down to them at home, Barnsley at home when we should have been 3-1 up and the referee ruled one out.

“There are narratives that you could spin either way but I think we should be going into Saturday’s game full of confidence and regardless of whether they are a big six team or not, we can still win.

“We have comfortably won our last four games and we’ve kept clean sheets in the last five, so I think that as a group confidence is really high at the minute.”

Photo: Matchday Images

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IpswichT62OldBoy added 19:40 - Mar 9
I am clearly very old, that has gone in a flash.
Top man, kudos.

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