‘Maybe there’s a stigma... but of course we can beat League One’s best’ - Ward on facing promotion challengers

Stephen Ward pictured during the Blues' 2-1 win over Shrewsbury Town Picture: Ross Halls

Stephen Ward pictured during the Blues' 2-1 win over Shrewsbury Town Picture: Ross Halls - Credit: Archant

If one statistic can prove just where Ipswich Town have been going wrong during the last 15 months it’s their record against League One promotion challengers.

Stephen Ward gets up high for the ball at Sunderland Picture Pagepix Ltd

Stephen Ward gets up high for the ball at Sunderland Picture Pagepix Ltd

Last season’s effort stood at two wins in 18 games against the 10 sides which finished directly above them, with the other 16 matches split evenly between draws and defeats.

Left-back Stephen Ward wasn’t around then but it’s been a similar story since he joined the club in the summer, too.

This time around they’ve played six top-half sides, beating only Accrington Stanley but losing to Hull, Lincoln, Sunderland, Doncaster and Portsmouth. The latter was in the FA Cup, with wholesale changes, but is still a continuation of a theme.

This weekend sees sixth-placed Charlton visit Portman Road, with Irishman Ward confident the Ipswich squad is capable of proving themselves against sides in the upper reaches of the division.

Stephen Ward at Sunderland Picture Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town defender Stephen Ward. Photo: Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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“Of course we can,” he insisted. “If you look at all of those games, I don’t think we were outplayed or overawed in any of them. Maybe there is that stigma that we can’t beat the top teams but of course we believe we can, we just maybe have to learn from the games where we’ve not won.

“Credit to Hull, they had a good away performance, but you wouldn’t say they came and outplayed us or out-footballed us but they were just more ruthless and that’s the bit that we need to get into our game.

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“From last year, the lads have said the same, we maybe struggled against the top six. It’s something we need to work on.

Skipper Luke Chambers at the final whistle after Town lost to Hull. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Skipper Luke Chambers at the final whistle after Town lost to Hull. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

“Starting Saturday we need to show against a decent Charlton team, who are going to be up there, that we can bounce back, we need to reflect on what we didn’t do right in the games we have lost because in a lot of the other games we’ve done well.

“But those games, we have to have a look at ourselves and look at how we approach them and how we turn the record around and get a result against one of these teams.

“If you’ve got aspirations of getting promoted, every game’s a massive game, no matter who you’re playing,” he continued.

“The three points against Shrewsbury is the same as three points against Hull, against Portsmouth or Charlton. It’s important we react.

Ipswich Town face Lee Bowyer's Charlton Athletic this weekend. Picture: PA

Ipswich Town face Lee Bowyer's Charlton Athletic this weekend. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

“When you lose a game it’s massive that you show character - that bottle that you can come back and get a result after it - and that’s what we need to do. We’ll recover and we’ll get ready to go again.”

Ward revealed the Ipswich players and staff had a good discussion in the dressing room following Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to Hull.

“We’ve got what we needed to say off our chests after the performance,” he said.

“And we move on, we learn from it, we’ve got a lot of good young players in that dressing room, a lot of lads will strive to go on in their careers, there’s real talent in there. Anything we can do or any little pointers we can give.

“There’s no pointing fingers, we’re in it as a collective and that’s the most important thing. And as a team we know the performance tonight at times was really good, but there were a lot of areas, especially in both boxes, where we can do better.

MORE: Ipswich Town supporters group calls for Lambert departure with training ground banner“We’re all in it together, it doesn’t matter how old you are, we’re in it as a team, everyone’s striving for the same thing. Everyone wants this club to get promoted.”

Tomorrow’s game is set to be the final match played in front of empty stands at Portman Road, with 2,000 supporters likely to be allowed into the Blues’ home clash with Portsmouth on September 12.

Ward is looking forward to the prospect of playing in front of Ipswich fans for the first time, as well as his family, having joined the club during the coronavirus pandemic and turned out exclusively in empty stadiums.

Stephen Ward pictured at the final whistle of Town's loss to Hull. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Stephen Ward pictured at the final whistle of Town's loss to Hull. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

“We’ve missed the fans in here,”” he said. “I’ve obviously not played in front of anyone, even family members being able to come to the games. It’s been tough with your family not being able to come and cheer you on and support you.

“So that will be a real lift and I’m sure whatever numbers we can get in here, they’ll be loud and they’ll get behind the team because we’ve missed them and you need them in your home games, especially games like tonight. You do miss them. “We know that comes with pressure - that’s the nature of playing for a big club, and we are a big club in this division,” he added.

“But at the end of the day, we will give it our best to get promoted, we will work as hard as we can and having the fans behind us will be an extra man for us really.

“I would hope they’ll stay with us as long as possible. We know we need to play better and react but let me tell you the lads are hurting in there tonight and we want it as much as anyone.”

Stephen Ward during the Blues' 2-1 win over Shrewsbury Town Picture: Ross Halls

Stephen Ward during the Blues' 2-1 win over Shrewsbury Town Picture: Ross Halls - Credit: Archant

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