North Stander: Nowhere near good enough at this stage of the season

Macauley Bonne vents his frustration on the final whistle at Cambridge.

Macauley Bonne vents his frustration on the final whistle at Cambridge. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Journalist and Ipswich Town fan Terry Hunt gives his views on the Blues after the 2-2 draw at Cambridge United....

This is getting ridiculous. How many more times are we going to surrender leads in games which we should be winning comfortably?

An infuriating pattern is forming. Play well, dominate, go ahead. Maybe score a second goal. Then...let the hopeless opposition back into the game, come under increasing pressure, and concede a late equaliser.

Maddening, isn’t it? Every time it happens, Paul Cook says he and the players will work hard on the training pitch to sort it. But it keeps happening, and at the moment it looks like it will prove very costly as far as our season goes.

It really is time that Cook and his increasingly large team of coaches and advisors dealt with this Achilles heel. Is it complacency? Is it fitness? Is it panic? Is it simply a collective inability to manage games to a successful conclusion?

Paul Cook after the draw at Cambridge United.

Paul Cook after the draw at Cambridge United. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Cook’s weird substitutions don’t help. Why on earth introduce Bersant Celina when you’re tying to see a game out? Cook says he will never shut up shop, but we’re not asking him to. Simply deal with the situation!

It’s now mid-October, which is the time I said it would be sensible to start making proper assessments of the season. Sadly, we are still very much a work in progress, and we shouldn’t be at this stage.

Scoring goals is no problem, clearly. We’re the top scorers in the division. Enough said. But no team has conceded more, and that includes utterly awful sides like Doncaster, who were taken apart at Portman Road a few weeks ago.

We are specialists in conceding soft goals. I wouldn’t mind so much if we made the opposition work really hard for their goals, or score worldies. All too often, it’s down to our own mistakes, either individually or collectively.

All of which leaves me – and lots of Town fans, I’m sure – in a less than positive frame of mind. A quarter of the season has whizzed by, and we’re still below halfway. For a while on Saturday, we could enjoy the feeling of being in the top half. But, as we all know, that didn’t last.

The stark facts are that we’ve only won three of our 12 league games. Nowhere near good enough. We cannot find any consistency, either from game to game or even within matches. Our first half displays tend to be really good, but we so often fall away after the break. Why?

We must hold the world record for most goals conceded within five minutes of scoring. Why?

Paul Cook has questions to answer. He has clearly assembled a talented squad for this level, but they are not delivering. Why?

Paul Cook talks to Mike Ashton, Ian Craney and Michael O'Leary after the draw at Cambridge United.

Paul Cook chats to Ian Craney, CEO Mark Ashton and chairman Mike O'Leary after the draw at Cambridge - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

It’s not a lack of quality. So what is the problem? He needs to find the answers quickly, or this season will fizzle out, just like the previous two. Another season in this dreadful division really doesn’t bear thinking about.

While I’m on Paul Cook’s case, another bone to pick. I really wish he wouldn’t describe the Cambridge game as a derby match. It’s not. Norwich is our derby game. It’s about much more than two points on the map. We have absolutely no history with Cambridge, and certainly no emotional connection.

I’ll stop now, Paul. Rest assured, most Town fans – including me – are still behind you, and desperately want you to succeed, but some tricky questions are starting to emerge...

Cook did come up with one master stroke on Saturday. There were no doubt a few raised eyebrows among the Blues faithful when Sone Aluko was named in the starting line-up.

It proved to be a genius decision and demonstrated once again the strength of depth in this squad. But, as always, the positives are about our attacking play. The case for the defence is a very different story.

Finally, we have welcomed two new additions to the coaching and back room staff in the last few days.

The vastly experienced Peter Reid has joined in a consultancy role, and Gary Probert has arrived as Director of Football Operations.

I’m sure both will do fine and valuable jobs, but I’m getting a little confused about who exactly does what behind the scenes. I wonder if the club could help out by explaining clearly what each individual role is for and how it fits into the big picture?

Don’t get me wrong – this really isn’t a criticism. I genuinely would like to understand our back room structure and how every role contributes to what we ultimately all want to see – success on the pitch. Perhaps one of those clever “family trees” would do the trick.

Ipswich concede a late equaliser at Cambridge.

Ipswich concede a late equaliser at Cambridge. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

So, on we go to Fratton Park. That certainly won’t be easy.

I’ll tell you one thing – I won’t be getting too excited if we go ahead. A three goal lead, and it might be a different story.

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