North Stander: Time to shake things up - here's what Cook should do

Ipswich players dejected after conceding the first late goal at Sunderland

Ipswich Town lost 2-0 at Sunderland - and Terry Hunt believes changes must be made to the squad for Sunderland - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Journalist and Ipswich Town fan Terry Hunt offers his thoughts on the Blues after defeat at Sunderland - and suggests a few changes.

A few weeks ago, I asked if there is a more frustrating team to support than our beloved Ipswich Town. 

Our display at Sunderland brought that question back into my mind.

How irritating was that? We absolutely bossed the game, missed chances, and then conceded twice late on – one from yet another individual error, the other a ludicrous refereeing decision.

So disappointing, especially in front of an amazing turn-out from the travelling Blue and White Army who made a ten-hour round trip to cheer on their favourites.

It was especially gutting because it came after a great week for the club off the pitch, with the Pack Out PR campaign getting huge backing, and fans responding amazingly to the efforts to help less fortunate supporters to get tickets. 

The atmosphere at those Christmas games will be incredible.

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But the galling truth is that we are now back in the mid-table mix, seven points from the top six, and Sunderland have two games in hand.

I know, I know, we’re less than halfway through the season, and there are tons of points to be played for. A great deal can change between now and May. 

Bersant Celina canÕt believe his missed first half chance against Sunderland

Bersant Celina canÕt believe his missed first half chance against Sunderland - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

But I come back to my opening question – we remain an inconsistent, ultimately frustrating side to support.

After the thrilling win at Wycombe, many of us believed that we had finally “clicked.” 

All the moving parts of the team were working sublimely that evening. I, certainly, was then guilty of expecting more of the same.

Bluntly, it hasn’t happened. Since the high point at Wycombe, we’ve been stuttering through games, our goal threat has dried up, and the previously red hot Macauley Bonne is going through the inevitable scoring drought.

This is where Paul Cook and his coaching team need to earn their money. How will they react? Will they change the team for the visit of high-flying Rotherham on Tuesday evening?

There is certainly a strong argument for Conor Chaplin to return in the number ten role. He was in sparkling form before unluckily losing his place. How about moving Bersant Celina to the left instead of Kyle Edwards, who promises a great deal more than he actually delivers?

Macauley Bonne under pressure at Sunderland

Macauley Bonne under pressure at Sunderland. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

For me, the biggest question is about Joe Pigott. We have a player who scored 20 times at this level last season warming the bench who is only getting a few minutes here and there.

Now, I know why that’s happened. Bonne started the season in red-hot form, and Cook is wedded to playing just one striker. But that does create a real dilemma if the goals dry up for your single striker, which is what’s happened.

So Cook has backed himself into a corner. No-one would suggest dropping Bonne, but at the same time keeping Pigott on the bench really does seem like a big wasted opportunity.

I fear I’m wasting my breath here, but could I humbly suggest that we should try to get both Bonne and Pigott on the pitch at the same time? 

Yes, that wonderfully old-fashioned idea of playing two strikers. I know – I’m a dinosaur....

We now have two home games against starkly contrasting opposition. 

Rotherham might not be the most fashionable team, but they are currently where we believe we should be in this division – occupying one of the automatic promotion spots. They will be tough opposition. 

Then, next Sunday, rock-bottom Crewe come to Portman Road. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yes, it would be so Ipswich Town to beat Rotherham, and then slip up against Crewe.

As I mentioned, off the pitch it’s been a great few days. 

The way the fans responded to the campaign to pack out the ground for the Christmas games was absolutely brilliant, especially the fund-raising to help those who would struggle to afford tickets.

Paul Cook watches the warm up at The Stadium of Light against Sunderland

Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook sat in the dugouts at Sunderland. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

It showed the club and fans working in harmony, something which was so sadly lacking towards the end of the Evans era.

There is a restored feeling of togetherness, of unity between the club and fans, and, at last, it feels as though we are valued.

As people have been saying – we do have our club back, which is all-important, even if they do frustrate too often!

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