'Portsmouth and Accrington are probably our biggest competitors' - Cook on Town's promotion chances
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Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook says his players need to embrace, rather than fear, the pressure of getting promoted back to the Championship.
Cook replaced Paul Lambert in the Portman Road hot seat last week, the latter having led the Blues to an 11th place third-tier finish following relegation and then departed with them in eighth after another good start had begun to badly drift.
The Cook era started with a disappointing 3-1 defeat at Gillingham on Saturday, with Town two points adrift of the play-off places and 12 off of the top two.
And the law of averages suggests that the Blues will need at least eights wins from their remaining 15 matches to stand a good chance of finishing in the top-six.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow's home clash with third-place Lincoln, Cook said: “For us football managers, pressure is something that you have to deal with. One of the things I’ve learnt is that managers are as good as their players, without a shadow of a doubt.
“I’ve been really fortunate to have been involved with some really good footballers at previous clubs.
“I think at Ipswich Town, as we’d all agree, there are some very good footballers here. What we have to do is get them on the same page in terms of tactics, formations and what we’re trying to do.
“The quicker we can do that, the quicker we can see the team flourish.
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“I think with 15 games to go, Portsmouth and Accrington are probably our biggest competitors, with Gillingham hot on us.
“We must be deemed to have a realistic chance. I’ve never been one to ever fear pressure. I feel you should embrace it.
“I don’t feel you should fear failure. I feel you should embrace it. That’s been my message today and it’ll be my message tomorrow and going forward.
“We have an opportunity, so why not take it?"
Lincoln, whose side was completely rebuilt by Michael Appleton last summer, have been at the top end of the table all season.
"They say teams reflect their manager in how they play and I think Lincoln represent Michael in a really good way," said Cook.
"They’re really bright, they’re very well coached, they have good patterns of play and they certainly have good players.
“We know we’re in for a difficult game tomorrow night, we really do, but it’s about what we can offer.
“I have the greatest respect to Lincoln, we respect every team we play, but Lincoln must feel us tomorrow night. It’s at Portman Road, it’s our home ground and we must make Portman Road a fortress for Ipswich Town, not a place where teams like coming to play."
Asked if top two was still a realistic ambition for his side, Cook said: “Something seems so far away when you have a bad result and it gets a lot closer when you have a good one.
“The reality is I want to see us play a lot better than we did on Saturday. I want to see the level of performances go up.
“I believe that when you’re playing well then the results will follow. I think we’ve hiccupped our way through a couple of games. I think Saturday was just a culmination of everything that can go wrong in a game did. Going forward we want to be a lot better."