'I thought we deserved to win' - Cook on goalless draw with Oxford United

Town manager Paul Cook pictured of ahead of the game.

Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook felt his team played well enough to beat Oxford United. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook said his team have proved they are a match for anyone in League One following this afternoon's goalless home draw with Oxford United.

Macauley Bonne and Bersant Celina both hit the post during an even opening period in which the Blues also rode their luck at times.

Town were the more dominant side after the break and the in-form visitors, who had come into this game off the back of three successive league wins, ended up cynically running down the clock. 

Asked if he felt it was a fair result, Cook replied: "No, I thought we deserved to win. I've got to be a bit biased.

"I thought the first half was very equal. We've hit the post twice. Oxford are a good side, there is no getting away from that, and they showed their credentials very early on with how they moved the ball from side to side. They had good penetration.

"But I felt second half we took control of the game. Kicking into the end we like kicking in I felt that a goal was coming. 

Oxford United manager Karl Robinson argues with the fourth official ahead of being shown the yellow

Oxford United manager Karl Robinson argues with the fourth official ahead of being shown the yellow card. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

"We allowed Oxford only brief counter-attacks in the second half. I was really pleased with how we played and everything about our performance today.

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"Sometimes you've got to assert yourself on a game and make sure it's a game you don't lose. I felt we did that well today."

Ipswich remain ninth in the table, four points behind sixth-place Oxford, with big league games now coming up against Sunderland (a) and Rotherham (h). 

Cook continued: "I think Karl (Robinson) said there was a likelihood we might cancel each other out. I never felt the game ended up like that.

"First half especially, both teams had their styles and their moments at both ends. Second half I felt very, very comfortable on the bench. I felt we really, really turned up a level and I felt we were looking like we were going to score. Unfortunately, we just couldn't produce that moment of magic that would have seen a fantastic crowd go home delighted.

"We just keep working hard and keeping looking to the next game."

This was the first time Town have failed to score in a league game this season. It was also only their second clean sheet at Portman Road.

"Great credit to our players for listening and learning," said Cook. "We made sure that when we were attacking we remained secure at the back. Too many times here this season we've given goals away when we're in the ascendancy from counter-attacks. In transition today we looked very solid.

"We then looked for our flair players to get us a goal and unfortunately they couldn't do that today."

A bumper Town crowd of 21,322 chanted 'boring, boring Oxford' towards the end as U's players continually went to ground for treatment.

Bersant Celina battles with Herbie Kane.

Bersant Celina battles with Herbie Kane. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Asked if Oxford's time-wasting tactics were a compliment to his team, Cook smiled, grimaced and glanced across at his nearby counterpart Robinson, who was about to conduct his own post-match interview.

"We've all watched the game..." he said. "Karl's a very good coach. His teams go everywhere and play with a really good style. They are open, aggressive, want to play. But today they were hanging on at the end. That's football.

"I'm sure our supporters have always wanted us to be the aggressive team at Portman Road. We don't want to give up the pitch to anyone and I felt we did that really well today."

Asked if he felt recent performances have proved his team are a match for anyone in this division, Cook replied: "I think so. We've played Plymouth (2-1 away loss), Wycombe (4-1 away win) and Oxford. With the greatest respect to all three teams, I think we've been the better team on the pitch on each occasion. So while the points tally only says four, on another day it might say more.

"We'll travel to all the games now with our supporters hopefully believing in the optimism that's coming.

"We had Ed (Schwartz), one of our co-owners, here today and I'm sure he really enjoyed it."

Academy graduate Bailey Clements was a surprise starter at left-back in this game and the 20-year-old took his opportunity with both hands.

"Absolutely outstanding," was Cook's assessment of the former Northgate High School pupil's display. "We've had such a turnover of players here, but we've all seen what it means to fans to have one of their own playing (in Bonne). If you work hard at this football club you get an opportunity. The right thing will happen.

"Bailey's a big Ipswich Town fan and I'm sure his family are really proud tonight. His debut was fully deserved. The way he played means he'll be hard to leave out.

"We've got a very strong 18s and 23s. We don't want to be a club that just buys players. We need to produce players. Ipswich Town over many years has always done that. We've seen a lad step up today and produce an outstanding debut, so well done Bailey."

Asked if Matt Penney, not named in the squad, was injured, Cook explained: "No, Matt's just feeling it a little bit having played a lot of games quickly. The reality is when you have squads you have to give lads an opportunity. You've got to earn the right to play. That's what big clubs do. If you get at a shirt at our club you've got to retain it with your performances on the pitch. Matt is no different to anyone else. He'll be back involved, he'll be back in the team, because when you fall off a horse the most important thing is you get back on it and you ride it again."

The Blues now head to League Two strugglers Oldham on Tuesday night for an FA Cup first round replay.

"There will be changes, but purely on the basis that we want to pick a team to go and win the game," said Cook. "We want to pick a very aggressive strong team and we want to be playing Barrow at home in the next round.

"Big clubs have a lot of football games because they are on good runs. That's what we want to develop here."

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