'We had to dig in' - Cook on his first win, Downes injury and Skuse return
- Credit: Steve Waller www.stephenwa
Paul Cook was delighted to get his first win as Ipswich Town manager, but admitted there is room for improvement after watching the players 'dig in' to secure a 1-0 home victory against Plymouth.
A mistake by Adam Lewis gifted Troy Parrott a fourth minute opener, with the out-of-form Pilgrims very much there for the taking in an utterly one-sided opening 20 minutes.
Town couldn't score a killer second though and in the end they had to dig in to claim the three points and move back into the League One play-off places.
"It was a changing game, if you like," said Cook.
"We started really well and I was very pleased and impressed. Our shape looked good and we had more penetration going forwards. Probably for about 25/30 minutes I thought we were really good and we had a couple of good chances to score.
"The game was petering out towards half-time though and I felt Plymouth took control of the game second half if I'm truthful. That's without them ever creating many real good chances though. I thought we were very solid behind the ball. They had the one header second half that the boy's put wide.
"Defensively we looked very sound against a free-scoring team. With (Luke) Chambers at the back, (James) Wilson, Toto (Nsiala) , Myles Kenlock, I think those lads are really good if we have to dig in and see games out. We've got the capabilities to do that.
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"Great credit to Plymouth. We know Ryan (Lowe) is a very good coach and manager. Their shape caused us problems second half and we had to dig in and see it out."
Cook has called upon his team to be braver in attack and already highlighted a lack of chances and goals as an issue.
On his side's failure to kill this game off, he laughed: "It was never coming was it?! I was saying that on the bench. We could be here all night and not scored - we may as well just shut our eyes and play!
"Everyone knows what goals do in games. At certain levels, confidence for players is huge. If we'd have got the second goal you'd have seen us grow into the game. Unfortunately, if Plymouth had got it you've have probably seen us wilt away. That's a character building exercise for us all.
"I'm just delighted for the players. It takes a lot to win a game of football at any level. The clean sheet is a bonus.
"As a manager three games in without a win, we all know the rules now! That pressure builds quickly.
"It's just small steps. We'll have a certain style of play that I enjoy. I thought our flair players had a bit more effect today without chances being converted or the crosses going in being quality.
"I'm a big believer in partnerships, I love partnerships on a football pitch, and that's something we're going to try and develop and grow.
"We're a good club, a great club, a massive club in this league. There are plenty of big clubs who have been lower down than they want to be. Going forwards we've got to be strong at home, we've got to win games, we've got to score goals and we've got to excite our fans. That's my target as a manager."
With Town moving back into the play-off places with 13 games to go, Cook said: "I just keep going. Football is great now because if you drop out it's 'you're not going up' and if you get in it's 'you're going up'. The reality is none of us have got a clue. So I'll just stick to the 'none of us have got a clue!'. If we keep winning we'll be alright.
"It's tough. The schedule is so demanding. Like most teams, we're probably getting by on the quality of our players."
Flynn Downes limping off in the first half changed the dynamic of this game.
On the 21-year-old's injury, Cook said: "Him and Andre (Dozzell) are forming a good little partnership in there. It's a massive blow, but I'm sure if you look around the country other teams will have similar disappointments.
"It doesn't look great does it? It's a hamstring. He'll go for a scan.They have different grades of them, don't they? We'll wait and see."
Cole Skuse came on in the second half for his first competitive outing in more than a year. On the veteran midfielder, who has worked his way back following knee surgery, Cook said: "Cole and Chambo have been absolute stalwarts for this club, they've been outstanding players, they've been outstanding men. You get longevity like that in football when you're good and you look after yourself. They're great role models for our younger players."
Asked if Skuse, 34, is capable of starting games any time soon, Cook quipped: "He might not have a choice soon! We'll talk to him and see what's right for him. I know he'd not want to let anyone down. I don't think you'd see Cole refusing to play or not asking to play. Let's just wait and see. Let's just enjoy our win and look forward to Fleetwood on Tuesday night."
With Tottenham loanee Parrott getting his first goal for the club, Cook said: "He's worked so hard in games. His work rate and desire is relentless, but from there he's got to get goals. Flair players in teams have to score. Today we were working on getting them higher up the pitch, giving more penetration and I felt for the first 20-30 minutes we done that really well.
"It's great for him to get his goal because he's a really nice young man."
On the absence of striker James Norwood, he explained: "He's got back spasms. He had them at Accrington and was close to being pulled out. He reported them again on Thursday. It's going to be a little problem, but I don't feel it's going to be anything that's going to keep him out any length of time. I would imagine he will be fit very quickly."