Earning fans' trust, closing the gap and wheeling out 'The Fridge' - Pre-match talking points
- Credit: ITFC
Ipswich Town host AFC Wimbledon in a League One match at Portman Road this afternoon (3pm). STUART WATSON previews the action.
V IS FOR VICTORY
Is today the day that this new-look Ipswich Town team register their first win of the campaign?
There have been plenty of encouraging signs so far, but the combination of not killing games off when on top and conceding sloppy goals through individual errors means performances have not been backed up by points.
"The only appeal that we have is for that little bit of time for lads to gel," said boss Paul Cook, whose team have drawn against Morecambe and MK Dons (both 2-2 at home) and lost to Burton and Cheltenham (both 2-1 away) in the league so far.
"We had three lads - (Hayden) Coulson, (Kyle) Edwards and (Cameron) Burgess - making their home debuts last weekend. You can only imagine how difficult that is for those players with their families, with tickets, with hotels, with moving house, everything.
"So there is that appeal for time. We're not talking about a long time, we're just talking about a few games for everyone to travel together, to get used to each other and, more importantly, to spend those hours on the training ground that we need to learn."
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He added: "All the excuses go out the window soon and the race will start being run in earnest.
"We know we have to get up to speed, we know we have to win games, we know we have to stop giving silly goals away.
"But one of the biggest qualities this team has is the ability to score good goals. I think everybody's seen that. And when you carry that punch as a fighter, you're a danger. We have to develop the other aspects of the game now that will result in us being a better team and putting more points on the board."
BUILD THE TRUST, CLOSE THE GAP
Paul Cook's record, since taking charge of Town back in March, now reads W4 D9 L8.
"At the minute, I'm sure I haven't got the Ipswich fans' trust," he said. "The players will probably be the same. That's something that we're looking to develop over the next few weeks. They need to see signs of us getting better and stronger. Then those trust levels develop more.
"Nobody has got a magic wand. The harder you work, the luckier you get. Our lads are working hard - I can guarantee that.
"It's about getting some patterns into our play. At the minute, the patterns are indifferent. When you watch us play we're indifferent. We need to become consistent. Once you get a consistent team you get consistent results.
"I just keep going. I don't let the results or the goals conceded affect me. I've been at other teams where we've been through similar patches. Eventually something goes your way, eventually you'll click, partnerships develop in front of your eyes and all of a sudden things look better. I'm 100% confident that's what will happen to this Ipswich Town team."
Town currently find themselves eight points behind the early leading trio of Sheffield Wednesday, Wycombe and Portsmouth. Asked if it was important Town didn't let that gap grow too big during their bedding in process, Cook replied: "If we were sitting where they are now, would we be promoted? No, we wouldn't. If you go on a three-game good run or a three-game bad run then your life changes. I've been in these leagues long enough to know that. The only thing that changes everyone's mind is results. We've got all the teams you've mentioned to play."
DEBUT FOR 'THE FRIDGE'?
Cook says that all his injured players could return 'very, very quickly' and that 'possibly one or two' will feature today.
There's a possibility, therefore, that George Edmundson becomes the last of Town's 16 summer signings to make his debut this afternoon.
The 23-year-old, who was affectionately nicknamed 'The Fridge' by his former Rangers team-mates, would most likely replace Luke Woolfenden at the heart of defence and partner Cameron Burgess.
There's a decision to make at left-back between Middlesbrough loanee Hayden Coulson, who made his debut last weekend, and Matt Penney, who has made a solid start to life with the Blues.
Lee Evans and Rekeem Harper have started every league game thus far. Is the door ajar for Tom Carroll to make his first start? Dropping captain Evans, following his costly mistake against MK Dons, would certainly be a bold move.
At the top end of the pitch, Conor Chaplin, Sone Aluko and James Norwood are now back in the picture, while Joe Pigott (an unused sub last weekend) is another attacking option.
It's hard to see any of front four Kyle Edwards, Scott Fraser, Wes Burns and Macauley Bonne being dislodged just yet though. Burns would be the most likely candidate.
AFC Wimbledon have already played three different formations so far this season.
Manager Mark Robinson deployed a 4-2-3-1 system in the league games against Doncaster (2-1 away win), Bolton (3-3 home draw) and Sunderland (1-0 away loss), while it was 3-4-3 for the 1-1 home draw against 10-man Gillingham.
Meanwhile, in the Carabao Cup, it's been 3-5-2 for the wins against Charlton and Northampton which have set-up a third round trip to Arsenal.
Cook was at Sixfields on Tuesday night to watch the Dons progress courtesy of a last-minute 1-0 win. Ben Heneghan and Anthony Hartigan were the only two outfield players to keep their place from the narrow loss at the Stadium of Light three days earlier.
"I thoroughly enjoyed the game," said Cook. "I thought Wimbledon were a threat. They probably played a different system to the one they may play on Saturday with quite a few different personnel. But clearly they are a team playing with great belief and great structure. I think Mark's done an excellent job in a short tenure as manager.
"Every team offers a different challenge at League One level.
"Our game plan doesn't change very much for the opposition. It's about how good can we be? We respect every team we play, but the most important thing for us now is bringing a complete 90 minute performance to a game.
"At the minute you watch us and you go 'wow, they're showing some really good signs', the next minute you're thinking 'how young, naive, inexperienced are they?' Only time and games will make us stronger and better."
Another week, another reunion.
Scott Fraser has already faced his former clubs Burton and MK Dons this season. Now, Joe Pigott is up against his previous employers AFC Wimbledon.
Pigott scored more than 50 goals in three-and-a-half seasons for the London club as they repeatedly beat the League One drop.
In a heartfelt letter penned after his Bosman switch to Town, the 27-year-old said it was the 'toughest decision' of his career and that it had been an 'absolute privilege' to play for the Dons.
Wimbledon assistant boss Rob Tuvey said: “I think he’s definitely up there (with Wimbledon’s best strikers) if you look at the service he gave to the club, both on and off the pitch. He was a massive part of our dressing room last year and hopefully the Wimbledon fans will give him a great reception. Joe was fantastic for us and we wish him well for the future.”
Whether Pigott starts today remains to be seen.