Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 2-1 win at Accrington Stanley

New Ipswich Town Manager Paul Cook gives a little fist bump to his new players outside the dressing

New Ipswich Town Manager Paul Cook gives a little fist bump to his new players outside the dressing rooms at the at Accrington - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town won 2-1 at Accrington Stanley in front of watching new boss Paul Cook last night. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.


THE COOK REPORT

Let's start with Paul Cook.

Town's new boss was only formally appointed at midday yesterday.

He went to the team hotel in the afternoon, had an hour-long sit down chat with Matt Gill and Bryan Klug before then meeting the rest of the staff.

He then left Gill, who had played a big part in Town's previous two victories against Hull and Doncaster, to continue with his team and tactics. Quite right too. It's great that him and Jimmy Walker are staying on post Paul Lambert.

Pre-match Cook looked relaxed. He stood and chatted with a hot drink in hand. Then, as the players came in from their warm up, he switched up a gear.

Most Read

Stood by the entrance of the tunnel, he gave every single player a fist-bump and a few words of encouragement as they headed back to the dressing room.

That was the first sign that Town have a new Mr Motivator.

New |Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook at Accrington

New |Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook at Accrington - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Cook watched the game from the stands on the opposite side of the pitch to the dugouts. 

He obviously started with the intention of keeping a quiet watching brief. For the first 20-30 minutes, he leant forwards and provided a constant commentary to newly appointed first team coach Gary Roberts and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill.

As the action started to hot up though, so did the Blues' new boss.

First there were a few instructions to the players nearest to him. Then after the break, as Town began to look increasingly ragged and anxious against 10-men, he simply gave up trying to be understated.

Come the hour mark, he had barked himself hoarse.

His most used instructions were to 'make the pitch massive', get 'higher and wider' and 'press! press! press!' 

In amongst that, there was loads of encouragement. Phrases like 'well done', 'good, 'let them do that' and 'brilliant' were shouted in staccato fashion.

And he was always ready to fight his team's corner when it came to the referee and opposition players too.

After Accrington player Mark Hughes had gone down dramatically holding his face looking for a penalty (only to spring up to his feet when play went on), Cook did not forget. A little while later, when Hughes came over near the touchline, Cook called him a 'cheat' in the strongest possible terms.

To his credit, Town's boss apologised profusely and repeatedly to everybody in the immediate vicinity for his colourful language.

It was proof, however, that this is a man pumped up and ready to rock.

Connelly is sent off at Accrington

Connelly is sent off at Accrington - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

TWO SLICES OF LUCK

It's been a crazy few days in the world of Ipswich Town. It is perhaps understandable then that the team started the game with a few nerves.

Accrington, playing with a narrow diamond, started with intensity and turned the game into the physical battle that suits them.

With less than five minutes on the clock, Tomas Holy had spilt a low cross from the right and Dion Charles was there to force in the loose ball.

But then Accrington had captain Seamus Conneely controversially dismissed for a foul on Troy Parrott in the box.

The rules state that the double punishment of a penalty and red card should not occur unless the referee deems that the offending player 'made no attempt to play the ball'. Conneely's desperate lunge as the last man was undoubtedly a stonewall spot-kick, but the early bath looked very harsh. 

James Norwood fluffed the spot-kick, but Town had another slice of fortune just after the half hour when keeper Nathan Baxter collided heavily with Parrott and was eventually forced off injured. He was replaced by inexperienced 20-year-old Toby Savin.

Playing against 10 men and a second choice keeper, the stage was all set for the comeback.

James Norwood's saved penalty at Accrington

James Norwood's saved penalty at Accrington - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED

James Norwood really should have left the field with a hat-trick to his name.

In the end, he had to just make do with the winner and his third goal in as many games.

First, he put his penalty (Town's first of the season) too close to keeper Baxter. It was a spot-kick which lacked conviction. 

Then, in the 28th minute, he spun expertly on the ball in the box to open up the whole goal from 12 yards out only to see a curling attempt clawed around the post. It was a fine flying save by Baxter, but really the keeper should have been left with no chance.

Norwood's third big chance went begging in the 44th minute. This time his snapshot from close in, following Alan Judge's teasing delivery, was kept out by replacement keeper Savin. 

However, six minutes into first half stoppage-time, Norwood netted from a chance that was harder than the previous three which had gone begging, powering home a superb header.

It's often said that strikers should only start to worry when they're not getting chances.

Well Norwood always seems to get plenty of them.

He's now the Blues' outright topscorer for the season with six in all competitions. That's a pretty good record for someone who has only made nine starts and 10 sub appearances.

James Wilson celebrates his equaliser at Accrington

James Wilson celebrates his equaliser at Accrington - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

MORE SET-PIECE SUCCESS

Ipswich's set-piece threat had been non existent for too long.

Then, in Saturday's 2-1 win against Doncaster, the Blues scored from two - Alan Judge's fine free-kick finish followed by Norwood's poacher's effort after a corner was only half-cleared.

Four days on, Town scored two more from dead ball situations.

Andre Dozzell's wicked inswinging corner from the right wasn't dealt by keeper Savin and James Wilson was there to stab in the 41st minute equaliser.

James Norwood celebrates scoring just before half-time at Accrington

James Norwood celebrates scoring just before half-time at Accrington - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Then Dozzell was at it again for Norwood's header, whipping in a dangerous free-kick from the left.

Matt Gill insists Town have put a lot of work into set-play drills in recent weeks and it shows.

For two games in a row, the Blues haven't been bang at it as a team but have found a way to win thanks to dead ball situations.

The power of the set-piece should never be underestimated. You only have to look back on England at the 2018 World Cup to be reminded of that.


SOLID AS A ROCK

No doubt about it, Ipswich made hard work out of seeing this game out against 10 men.

The game management just wasn't there after the break.

It all felt a bit rushed and anxious when, ironically, this was the time we wanted to see some of that slow control of possession that often infuriated earlier in the campaign.

But see it out they did, thanks to yet more rock-solid defending.

Holy atoned for his early error with a good second half stop from Michael Nottingham - the one real moment of danger - and confidently dealt with some high balls in pressure moments. 

In front of him, Luke Chambers, James Wilson, Toto Nsiala and Myles Kenlock were again excellent. Wilson reads the game so well, while Nsiala was strong, brave, calm and composed. That quartet don't look like they'll be broken up any time soon. 

Troy Parrott tries to battle his way through the defence at Accrington

Troy Parrott tries to battle his way through the defence at Accrington - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Accrington's desperation was summed up when Sean McConville became the latest player to take an embarrassing dive in the box. Chambers let him know what he thought of that. 

At the other end of the field, the Irish duo of Alan Judge and Troy Parrott worked their socks off. Parrott's work-rate, in particular, was phenomenal.

Ultimately, it didn't matter that substitute Aaron Drinan made a real mess of a four versus one counter-attack overload at the death. 

So what is this strange feeling? Is it... optimism?

A new manager (with recent success on his CV) who Championship clubs wanted, widespread talk of a takeover being imminent and now three straight wins.

How quickly things can change.

It's hard to believe that the drab goalless draw with Northampton, which felt like a new low, was actually only little more than a fortnight ago.

All of a sudden, Ipswich are up to seventh. 

All of a sudden, anything seems possible.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter