'There's so much work to be done... but we don't have time for negativity' - Cook on 2-0 loss at Fleetwood
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Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook admitted there is 'so much work to be done' after watching his side slip to a poor 2-0 defeat at Fleetwood Town tonight, but insists 'we don't have time for negativity'.
The Blues conceded an early goal on the road for the third successive game, Callum Connolly heading in straight from a long throw, then looked devoid of composure, confidence and character.
Gerard Garner finally added a killer second for the dominant hosts in the second half, with the Town once again looking like they could play for hours and not score.
With Ipswich back to seventh in the League One table, Cook said: "Listen, the last thing the supporters need to hear is me coming on and saying adjectives that can describe a really difficult night for us, a really poor performance.
"You can come and on and only say so many things when you play like that.
"To say we're disappointed is an understatement. To say we've got to be better is a given.
"I've just said to the players that we have to be better. To play for this club you have to carry a little bit more weight on your shoulders, because every time you play against opposition they are bang up for beating Ipswich Town in this league. It's no different to how the Sunderland lads have it probably. It's no different, probably, to the Pompey lads.
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"If you dip short on performance then you get beat and we're finding that out to our cost at the minute."
He continued: "I just think tonight we got beat fair and square. We were second best all over the pitch. Sometimes you've got to take that as a manager.
"If you look at our consistency this season it probably wasn't a surprising performance. I think we're quite consistently inconsistent aren't we? That's something as a manager you don't like. You want level performances out of players.
"Conceding goals on six minutes away from home - that's now happened at Accrington, Gillingham and Fleetwood - you give yourselves mountains to climb. And if you look back it was probably only the Accrington sending off that saved us because that game took a very similar pattern to this.
"There's so much work to be done. I really look forward to getting my teeth into the work.
"Like I said to the players, I really am looking for lads that I can see signs of life in and trust, where you go 'yeah, you can be part of a club and a team that takes us forward'. They've all got that opportunity at the minute, but certainly one or two didn't play like that tonight that's for sure."
Asked if the size of the task was bigger than he anticipated, Cook said: "No, not at all. If management was easy we'd all be doing it wouldn't we! We've got to stay with these players. That's my plea to our supporters after they've watched difficult nights like tonight. Managing them is tough because you really do get worked up inside, and I can get hot headed with the best of them, but on this run-in now we don't have time for negativity because we have an excellent chance of still achieving something.
"Albeit tonight, when we drive home, and it will sink in with the players, it feels distant. But it's not distant. It really is within touching distance."
So does that mean that this is not a time for harsh words?
"Oh no, I wouldn't say that," said Cook. "I think there is harsh words in the dressing room. I just don't think it's the right thing to do in the press to do because I think the players, for whatever reason now, when you look back over the last 18 months - to the relegation, not going up last year, this year similar - sometimes the players have probably heard negativity from conversations with Paul Hurst, Paul Lambert and now Paul Cook, because the reality is that's what the performances have been offering up.
"We've got to change that as a group of people and a group of men."
Asked if the team missed the injured duo of Flynn Downes and James Norwood, Cook said: "We didn't miss them Saturday did we when we won (1-0 at home to Plymouth)? Flynn went off and James wasn't there, but you always miss players when you lose.
"This is something that we've got to get away from. The minute you lose a game now the players that haven't played become better players. That's not right. The lads who started tonight had earned that right. Cole Skuse come in, who is an excellent player and has been an outstanding servant to the club. And because we have a disappointing night we can't just say people who weren't here should have been here and should have been playing.
"The team that was picked tonight was comfortably good enough to win the game for Ipswich Town."
Cook replaced the injured Gwion Edwards with Josh Harrop at half-time, then made a triple change just after the hour mark.
"At Gillingham, no different to tonight, I could have made four or five substitutions at half-time," he said. "But within trying to get promoted I'm also trying to find out about the character of the players. That can be tough for a manager, because while you want to help them and make changes, sometimes it's only in adversity that you find out about people.
"We go through adversity one week and pleasure the next and that's not fair on the supporters. That's not fair on everyone."
Asked of Norwood might be available for Saturday's trip to Portsmouth, Cook said: "You can't ask me three questions about James Norwood! You've asked me two and now you want to get three in! I think the cleaners at the training ground have got a chance of playing Saturday the way we played! There you go, have that one!"