Ipswich manager Paul Cook was clearly unimpressed with his players after Tuesday's 0-3 defeat at AFC Wimbledon. Asked how fans would be feeling, he said: "I think they are bored of us. I'm surprised we've still got any - we flatter to deceive. The best feeling as a manager is when you put a team on the pitch that you trust. I don't trust our team."
There has certainly been no evidence of new manager bounce at Portman Road since Cook arrived in early March to replace Paul Lambert. Bizarrely, the team had won three consecutive games before he took control - winning at Hull and Accrington and seeing off Doncaster at home. Under Cook, however, there have been only two wins in ten games - narrow home victories over Plymouth (1-0) and Bristol Rovers (2-1). There have been only six goals in those ten games and only two in the last five.
When Cook arrived his team were in seventh place and only two points off the play-off places. They were three points ahead of Charlton with two games in hand. Now they have dropped to ninth and are five points off sixth place. They have two points fewer than us and have played one game more. It all seems a far cry from late October when, after ten games, they were joint leaders with Peterborough. (At that time Oxford were in twenty fourth place).
Scoring goals has been their problem. Ipswich's defensive record (41 conceded) is top six standard but only Northampton and Bristol Rovers have scored fewer than their 41 from 40 games. Their leading goal scorer is former Tranmere and Forest Green striker James Norwood with 7. Three of their last four games have ended 0-0. This may to some extent be due to the fact that they now employ in goal the giant (6'9") Czech keeper - Tomas Holy (last seen filling the net at Gillingham).
We certainly owe them a beating at The Valley because they have won on their last four visits. The most recent being November 2015 when they handed us a 3-0 thrashing as we headed for inevitable relegation under Karel Fraeye.
While Charlton had a rest this week most of our rivals for promotion played on Tuesday and all the games in hand they held have now been used up. Doncaster seem to have completely imploded and are surely out of the picture. Portsmouth and Blackpool could only draw with Crewe and Accrington. On the other hand, Lincoln recovered form with a 4-0 beating of Milton Keynes and Oxford scored their tenth goal of the week in seeing off Shrewsbury 4-1. If we beat Ipswich on Saturday we will open up a five point gap on them which would suggest that it might be a seven horse race over the final six games. Looking at the fixtures this weekend we would expect most of our rivals to collect three points but we notice that Blackpool play Sunderland and will be playing them again in a few week's time.
In contrast to Paul Cook, Nigel Adkins was upbeat this week about the spirit in the Charlton squad:
"The lads are in good spirits. It was a hard-fought victory, they had been undefeated for a long time so to go there and win in the manner we did, we’re all very pleased with it. Great character shown by the players which is important."
It seems strange to be approaching a home game feeling confident but there is little to suggest that a demoralised Ipswich squad will be able to upset a revitalised Charlton.
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