Can Ipswich Town ease the pain of a brutal week with an unlikely victory at Charlton?
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Ipswich Town take on Charlton Athletic at The Valley this afternoon (kick-off 12.30pm). Andy Warren takes a look ahead to the game.
They think it’s all over...
Manager Paul Cook described the Blues’ visit to AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday night as a game which would ultimately ‘define our season’.
Sadly, it appears the 3-0 defeat at Plough Lane did exactly that.
We’ve seen plenty of limp performances over the course of the last few weeks but this one was lacking in almost every area. Town didn’t deal with physical strikers, skilful midfielders or marauding full-backs. They didn’t keep the ball well, didn’t use it with purpose when they did have possession and, as usual, struggled to create.
The loss leaves Town five points back from the play-off places with 18 still to play for, with the first three of those on offer at Charlton this afternoon.
Mathematically it’s not over, but all the evidence on the pitch points to the opposite.
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What’s surely not up for debate is that defeat today ends it once and for all.
A seemingly unlikely win, however, will leave things looking a little different.
Which way to turn?
Cook bit his tongue a little in the aftermath of the Wimbledon loss but, leading up to today’s game at The Valley he couldn’t hold back any longer.
He let rip in his pre-match press conference, admitting he ‘doesn’t like’ the team, ‘doesn’t trust’ the players, listed all of their deficiencies and repeatedly insisted it will be a summer of change at Portman Road as ‘Demolition Man’ goes to work rejuvenating the squad.
Cook was asked how he thinks the players are feeling following Tuesday night’s loss and the home truths which followed in the dressing room. He simply replied ‘I don’t care’.
So all that makes you wonder what kind of side Cook will pick at The Valley and how he will motivate his players.
We already know Alan Judge won’t be involved, with the Irishman heading to the Portman Road exit and not being considered for the first-team in order to avoid triggering a new contract.
Ten of the other 17 players who turned out at Wimbledon aren’t contracted beyond this season and Cook will have certainly made his decisions on the vast majority of those, too. We just don’t know it yet.
There will be changes, certainly to personnel and possibly to the system, too, and it’s certainly not impossible we’ve seen the last of a number of other players, too.
One man who could start is Kane Vincent-Young, who came through an Under 23 game well on Tuesday and is certainly in Cook’s thoughts. Could that mean Luke Woolfenden returning to the centre of the Town defence and one of Toto Nsiala or Luke Chambers dropping out?
Cole Skuse and Myles Kenlock played in that game, too, with the latter a possible replacement for Stephen Ward. Tristan Nydam also played and, having impressed last weekend against MK Dons could get another chance to prove his worth.
Josh Harrop is suspended following his red card on Tuesday and that could maybe open the door for Armando Dobra to return. It’s understood Jack Lankester is currently injured.
The Blues have already begun releasing some of their Under 23 players ahead of the season ending but, should the Town boss fancy dipping into the younger pool, Liam Gibbs is a potential option there.
The team-sheet, out at 11.30am, will certainly tell a story.
Nothing to be scared of
Charlton manager Nigel Adkins was at Town’s game at Wimbledon on Tuesday night, with Cook sure his side didn’t give his former Wigan team-mate anything too much to worry about.
“He's probably gone home and had two great nights’ sleep because, if I'd have watched us, I'd feel exactly the same as Nigel,” Cook said.
“They are in a play-off position, they're going really strongly and they've got a lot of men in the team, Jayden Stockley, Jason Pearce, Ryan Inniss, Darren Pratley, right through the team, Alex Gilbey. All good, strong players, all men.
“If we don't turn up tomorrow, we will get beat. Simple football. If we can't raise a fight and we can't challenge and we can't be strong and we can't create chances and score goals, then we will just fall away to 15th, 16th in the league and that will go down in the history books.”
This will be Adkins’ first home game in charge of Charlton, having won two and drawn the other of three away games since his appointment on March 18.
They sit a place and two points above Ipswich with a game in hand.