'We're making mistakes at crucial times' - Cook on 2-2 draw with MK Dons

Town manager Paul Cook looks unimpressed.

Town manager Paul Cook looks unimpressed. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook says his team have got to stop making mistakes at crucial times following this afternoon's 2-2 home draw against MK Dons.

The Blues twice led through really fine Macauley Bonne goals scored in each half (16 and 72), but twice they were pegged back in soft fashion. Luke Woolfenden's foul led to Scott Twine's free-kick finish (58) and then Lee Evans was robbed of possession for Matt Riley's leveller (75).

Town were then fortunate not to lose the match deep into stoppage-time as Norwich loanee Josh Martin struck the bar.

"It was never going to be a nil-nil," said Cook, whose team are still waiting to register their first victory of the campaign.

"I think when you've got two teams that are intent on taking the game to each other and scoring goals then you get the spectacle that everyone watched today which, in my opinion, was a fantastic game of football. 

"Obviously, from our point of view, having taken the lead twice, you'll always be disappointed, especially with the manner of the goals we're giving away. You don't need me to go into it. We're giving soft goals away, we really, really are at the minute. And it's hurting us. It's affecting us getting results. And it's something that we've got to rectify quickly."

He continued: "We are where we are. You've known me for five or six months now. I don't get in the clamour of the football world where everything has got to happen overnight. I just don't. One of our supporters was giving us a bit of stick as we were coming off the pitch. I told them 'give these lads time'. They're making mistakes. They are making mistakes, there's no getting away from that. We're making mistakes at crucial times.

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"But they're a brand new team. They're a brand spanking new team. We've got another lad making his debut today (Hayden Coulson). 

"Whilst we're not appealing for time, meaning ridiculous, we know we have to improve, we know we have to win football games, we know we have to stop giving stupid goals away. That will allow us to win the games."

Asked what positives he took from the performance, Cook said: "Listen, we created enough chances to win a game didn't we? Whether you like it or not, I'm sure MK Dons will be pleasing on the eye at times this season - 100%. They can test you, they move the ball really well, they're a very well-drilled team.

"But we had chances in the game and when you get those big chances you have to take them, you have to put the game to bed. We never did that today."

On Kyle Edwards, who again had fans off their seats, Cook said: "Fantastic. He's very talented. I thought Macauley Bonne was excellent today too.

"In other areas of the pitch we've got to tighten up.

"I'm not a manager who likes to speaks about positives, because I'm so disappointed we haven't won the game. We're four games in now and we want to win. We all want to be promoted.

"But you can't do that in August and September guys. The biggest thing for us is getting together as a group, getting our fitness levels up, which is massively important, getting lads on the pitch and getting consistency with team selections. In my opinion, that's when we'll see consistency in results."

Asked how beneficial a clear week on the training pitch would now be, ahead of the visit of AFC Wimbledon, Cook said: "In most jobs, if you make a mistake, you look, you learn and you improve. I've always worked that way. I'm not a manager who throws players under the bus and who lambasts his players to the press. I believe in dressing rooms where you can have honest conversations. And I believe in working hard on the training ground to improve. We've got a lot of work to do."

In a later interview, he said: "I enjoyed the game. I've got to say that first and foremost. 

"I'm so disappointed not to get a result though. You can feel the wanting of the crowd in the stadium for us to win games. We score an amazingly good first goal, it's a fantastically good first goal.

"I'll never criticise players, that's not my style. And I'm always honest in dressing rooms. 

"But we have to score really good goals at the minute. Unfortunately we're giving teams really soft goals. The goals against column is too much - you can't win games when you concede like we do. We've got to stop that quickly.

"A lot of the goals are individual mistakes. They come through a bit of sloppiness, a bit of tiredness in the tackling, giving away stupid free-kicks and, certainly with the second goal, giving possession away in an area of the pitch where we just can't give possession away.

"That's something that we've got to learn quickly."

Asked if there's anything he can do as a manager to stop those individual errors, Cook said: "Trust me, it's great as a manager sometimes. When Macauley Bonne puts it in you're great, then when Lee gives it away you've not got a clue! That's football lads, I've been in it long enough to know the rules.

"We're very much a work in progress, as you can see. We show some really good signs. Some of the intent in our attacking paly and our quality is good. Defensively and the aggression side of the game is where we need to improve."

Is he confident that, playing the way they are, that first win will soon come?

"I've been around football for a period of time," said Cook. "I understand what goes on in punditry, in your line of work, your headlines you make. And I understand my line of work. I'm just a manager who works hard on the training ground. 

"I genuinely believe that fitness has to be very, very strong. The desire to win games has to be strong. And the progression in your play has to be strong.

"I felt we were in the ascendency after MK Dons had a good spell. The introduction of Tom Carroll calmed us down completely and brought a bit more balance to the midfield area where we were getting a bit overrun.

"We scored a fantastic goal and from there we should go on and see the game out, but our inexperience, decision-making, lack of that knowledge, has seen us a draw a game which, fair play to MK Dons, they probably should have won with the last kick of the game.

"Football swings like a pendulum. At the minute I'm focussed on getting the transfer window over, the squad finished off and getting on the training ground really hard so we can give the supporters the results they desperately crave."

On Bonne's fine brace, which came just days after his glaring miss at Cheltenham, Cook said: "Macauley's done great. I think bar a mad radio station in outer Scotland, every man and his dog reported on that! For a lad like Macauley who is as passionate as he is about the club, his hometown, to score the two goals today is great. They were fantastic finishers and he should be going home a winner. Unfortunately, through our naivety, we're going home licking our wounds again."

With Middlesbrough loanee Hayden Coulson making his debut, Cook said: "You can see Hayden had a little knee problem and he was going to tire. We need Sone Aluko back fit, we need Conor Chaplin back fit, we need (George) Edmundson, we need (James) Norwood, we need (Toto) Nsiala. We need all our players back fit. That's something we'll keep working away at.

"No-one's going to give us a leg up are they? We've got to spend those hours on the training field. Where do you want to play the game when you're winning the game? We seem to want to play it on the edge of our box. I know where I'd much rather play it! That's something we can work on.


"Did we look a bit leggy today? I thought we did. I've got to say that. I thought our energy levels dropped late on. I thought MK Dons looked fresh for a bit and then they looked tired. So you can debate it. 

"We've drawn 2-2, we take a point. I'm a manager who enjoys drawing because it just stops rots. When you draw you can only go on and get stronger. We are only going to get stronger that's for sure."

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