Momentum, confidence, fear, friendships and familiar faces as Town head to Stanley once again
- Credit: stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town will be looking to build further momentum when they travel to old foes Accrington Stanley this afternoon. Andy Warren looks ahead to the game.
It’s been a good week at Ipswich Town.
Tuesday night’s 6-0 demolition of Doncaster Rovers saw the Blues cut loose, banishing (temporarily at least) all memories of a stuttering start to the season which had raised plenty of questions.
But there has been no sense Paul Cook and his players have been basking in the glory of such a good result, with the Town boss quick to insist he remains focused on the bigger picture. He’s been around football too long to allow himself to get carried away. He knows he can’t afford to do so.
That bigger picture sees the Blues on a run of three unbeaten games in which they have claimed seven points from a possible nine, building vital momentum at a time when the Blues are playing catch-up in the League One table.
Confidence will be high as the Blues head to the Wham Stadium, and rightly so.
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Let’s hope those levels of momentum and confidence are even higher once we hit 5pm.
Ipswich Town and Accrington Stanley have become intrinsically linked in recent years.
Paul Hurst spent the best part of £2.5m to sign Kayden Jackson and Janoi Donacien from Stanley in the summer of 2018, then, later that season, Paul Lambert took the team he inherited from Hurst there and was dumped out of the FA Cup. It was one of the lower points of a miserable season.
Then, now on an equal footing in League One, Stanley inflicted defeat in October 2019, from which Lambert’s Ipswich never recovered.
The Wham Stadium had become shorthand for misery.
But Town need to rid themselves of those shackles of pain and leave the past in the past.
The Blues won there last season, under the stewardship of caretaker Matt Gill, with Cook watching from the stands having been appointed hours earlier. He tried his best to sit on his hands that night but, as we now know, Cook is not the type who can passively watch a football match involving a team which has his name above the door.
Cook’s firmly in post now. The squad has completely changed. Not one of the Ipswich starters today will have played a single minute at Accrington in a Town shirt. Not even Donacien.
There’s no baggage.
But that’s not to say this is a game void of worries.
We know Accrington punch well above their weight and have players who can punish bigger clubs not at their best. Cook has experienced that, too, losing games at Stanley with both Chesterfield and Portsmouth in the past.
Stanley are on a poor run, having conceded 12 in three games. They’re wounded but, under John Coleman, will always be dangerous.
In short, Town will need to be on it.
Every game between Ipswich and Accrington involves plenty of familiar faces. Jackson and Donacien’s transfers make sure of that, while Toto Nsiala has also played for Stanley in the past.
Then there’s Cameron Burgess, a defender who moved between the two clubs back in August.
He’ll be hoping for a win against his former club today.
But, with Cook now at Town, those connections run much deeper.
Cook is a former Accrington player and manager, finishing his career under Coleman and then replacing him as manager following the latter’s move to Rochdale.
Cook and Coleman are close friends, growing up together in Kirkby, Merseyside, and playing for the same youth football team when both were still at primary school.
Their friendship endures. They speak multiple times a week, have taken holidays together, attended games together and have supported each other during the ups and downs of their managerial careers. Coleman attended the funeral of Cook’s father, Chris, last week, following his recent passing.
They will be the best of enemies on the touchline this weekend.
Also is in the Ipswich dugout today are three more former Accrington men.
Gary Roberts was a current Accrington player when he left to join Cook’s coaching team in March last year, hanging up his boots in the process, while fellow Town coaches Francis Jeffers and Ian Craney also represented Stanley during their playing careers.
All will have one goal this weekend – securing three points for Ipswich Town.
Continuing the ‘familiar faces’ theme, the Ipswich Town starting XI this afternoon will certainly have a familiar feel about it.
That’s because Cook expects to name an unchanged side. And why wouldn’t he, given the Blues won 6-0 on Tuesday evening?
There should be changes on the bench, though, with Kyle Edwards involved once again following a groin problem. That’s an exciting substitute to be able to call upon.
There will be absences, of course, with Christian Walton, Tom Carroll (both hip), Joe Pigott (virus) and Jon Nolan (calf) still on the sidelines. Hayden Coulson is likely to miss out, too.
But this Ipswich Town squad is strong. We’re starting to see that now.
Tale of two strikers
There are familiar names in the Accrington squad, too.
Colby Bishop is a notable one. He’s a striker admired by Cook and Ipswich fans know why, having seen the former Leamington man cause trouble during the games between the two sides. His two goals were the difference when the teams faced off in October 2019.
Seamus Conneely, Sean McConville and Michael Nottingham all remain from battles past but, in a boost to Town, centre-back Ross Sykes is suspended after picking up five yellow cards already this season.
One name absent from the Stanley team-sheet in the last three games is striker Dion Charles, who netted 20 goals for the club last season.
Now a Northern Ireland international, he was linked with a move away from the Wham Stadium this summer but didn’t secure one.
Coleman has questioned his commitment to the cause and has stood him down from action while the issue is resolved.
“Dion needs to realise it’s a two-way process football,” Coleman said recently. “We have given him a massive lift-up in his career and he has to show commitment to the club.
“At this moment in time, he is not.”
Whether he returns this afternoon remains to be seen.