'I couldn't believe it' - Martyn Pert hits out at officials following Cambridge defeat
General views around the AR Costings Abbey Stadium before the Sky Bet League 2 match between Cambridge United and Oldham Athletic at the R Costings Abbey Stadium, Cambridge on Saturday 5th December 2020. (Photo by Eddie Garvey/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Ipswich Town assistant manager Martyn Pert says Kyle Edwards’ early red card ‘destroyed the game’ as the Blues were beaten 1-0 by Cambridge United.

Edwards was sent off just 17 minutes into the game for two yellow cards, the second of which for simulation which Pert believes was an incorrect decision.

Lewis Simper’s 79th minute strike earned the U’s victory but it wasn’t enough to send the hosts into the knockout stages due to results elsewhere.

Pert on the penalty

Pert was adamant Edwards was fouled in the penalty area and says he cannot believe the decision that was made by referee Thomas Parsons.

He said: “The first one he’s knocked it over the boy’s head and it’s a lovely bit of skill. He’s gone in there and it’s a high foot, we take that yellow card on that one.

“The second one, nice running overlap, Kane [Vincent-Young]'s there to give him the ball. He’s got the 1v1, I’ve seen it on the video. I don’t know whether it was inside or outside of the box but he’s fouled him. He’s not dived and it’s sort of destroyed the game for us how it was going at the time because we had complete domination in the game.

“It was a good game, particularly for the young lads because I felt we had control and a lot of good play from it and they had to react and deal with what came after that which was 10 men for 70 minutes so it was good for them to deal with that, which they probably weren’t planning when they’re thinking about what they’re doing in the game.

“Positives really in terms of that we’re through, top the group, good minutes for the lads and in terms of being 10 men down.”

He added: “I’ve not spoken to the referee. Best not to really. I just couldn’t believe it really, it is what it is I suppose but I couldn’t believe it.

“He didn’t need to make the decision because no one else was [appealing]. You can always go by the player's reactions and no one was going ‘he’s dived’, no one was saying anything.

“If he’d have just gone ‘no foul’ and not given the penalty as a foul, but just let it go out of play and keep the game going.”

Edwards had been getting a run in the side across all competitions and recently scored his first two goals for the club in the league fixture with Cambridge just two weeks ago.

Pert was disappointed for Edwards: “Really a shame, it’s a big shame for him because he’s had spells in games now where he’s done really well when he’s come on and made an influence.

“Again, it was Cambridge in the home game in the league and we got him a good amount of minutes today and some more positive contributions going forward.

“So it was a real shame for him, I think he’s really disappointed with it.

“But he hasn’t done anything wrong in my opinion.”

Pert on a home knockout tie

Despite defeat, Ipswich top the group and will get a home draw in the next stage of the competition, something that Pert is pleased about.

“I think that’s really important,” he said. “We want to go as far as we can in the tournament. You want home games as well because you don’t have to worry too much about the travel.

“Good to top the group, I think the two performances at home have helped us.”

Town named a relatively strong squad, but still featured three youngsters in the starting XI. Pert believes that is the best way to integrate younger players into the first-team squad.

He said: “I always think it’s better to play them when they have a chance, in a team where it allows the game to be a proper game for them to come into and the lads get a really good feel of proper professional level of football, rather than all the young lads all at the same time where it doesn’t really feel like a proper game.

“It helps the young lads when they come in to play with Richard Keogh, who played in the last 16 of the Euros, they’re playing with Lee Evans, the football’s proper. So it’s good for those young players coming in.”

Pert on individuals

Tawanda Chirewa made his first start for the club and Pert was happy with his performance.

“I thought Tawanda had a good game,” he said of the 19-year-old. “What I was more pleased about was when we went down to ten men and his contribution off the ball.

“He’s working hard, we know he’s got quality, we know he can turn on it and he had a lovely little moment when he ran with it and played a curling cross to the back post which was a lovely bit of quality on the run, really good skill. Pleased with him.”

It was also a full debut for Republic of Ireland youth international Edwin Agbaje.

On Agbaje, Pert said: “He’s been coming up in training on a regular basis and he’s been progressing and doing well, he’s done well for the U21s so he’s got his chance tonight. I thought he did well in the game.”

Panutche Camara also came in for his Ipswich debut after injury had scuppered his involvement in the side since his deadline day arrival from Plymouth Argyle.

Camara played 45 minutes as he replaced Lee Evans at half-time, game time that Pert says is vital in getting him up to full fitness.

“Nice to get Pan some minutes on the pitch. Obviously, he’s come back from an injury and surgery and then he was injured before that at Plymouth with his other groin.

“So he’s had a bit of time out now so it was nice to get him some minutes on the pitch. Obviously not ideal in terms of down to ten men so he didn’t get as many touches but he’s been able to get some minutes into his legs and he was contributing by putting pressure on them and getting around the pitch.”

Looking ahead

Attention now turns to the Blues’ televised league clash at home to Derby County on Friday night.

Although some may have seen it as a risk to involve some first team players such as Luke Woolfenden and Evans, Pert was keen to emphasise that players want to play matches and that training cannot match the intensity of a 90-minute game.

“Quick turnaround. Obviously, we’ll get on the bus and get the recovery started and the lads will start with that now, then we’ll start preparing from tomorrow.

“I think when you’re in that robustness of playing games you want to keep playing. There’s a few that played tonight and did well and got the minutes in.

“Sometimes they’re as good as training sessions, sometimes they’re better than training sessions.”

Bonner on an element of fortune

Cambridge manager Mark Bonner agreed that the decision to award a red card to Edwards in the opening stages was the wrong one, admitting his side should have been facing a penalty kick rather than facing ten men.

He said: “It wasn’t one. It was a penalty. Absolute nailed on penalty so it’s a scandalous decision that if it was given against me I’d be fuming. It probably helped us so we’ll take it.”

Bonner on the competition

Despite finishing on six points in the group, Cambridge failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy due to an inferior goal difference to both Ipswich and Arsenal U21s.

Bonner, however, is quietly pleased that the U’s have exited the competition due to the number of games his side has to play.

He said: “Win two games in the group and not qualify, you’d probably expect to be able to. The result at the other end means that we don’t qualify. But I’ll be truthful, I don’t really care.

“It’s tough for us at the minute with the extra games, I know it’s a quiet month, November, but we are absolutely stretched to the bare bones in the squad and we could do without any extra games.

“Tonight was about just winning the game and try to put in a good performance, give some opportunities to some players that haven’t played. Give some time for others to try and get some resemblance of a shape that goes in line with where we might be at the weekend or were last weekend. So in that sense, it was good.

“Pleased to move on now and get ready for Port Vale at the weekend knowing that the road to Wembley is off for this year but we’ll get on with the league games which is what really matters.”

Bonner on Ipswich

Bonner, as he was two weeks ago, was full of praise for Ipswich and says it is no surprise to see them doing well in the league.

“You look at the quality of their team and their players,” he said. “They actually came stronger than I thought they might tonight. I didn’t think they’d play as many of the first team players with Derby in the league on Friday.

“I thought they’d be younger than they were tonight. We predicted when the team sheet came that they’d change four of them at half-time and they did and leave one sub up their sleeve in the second half.

“The quality of the players are excellent and, even with ten men, they make the pitch very big because they back themselves athletically to be able to cover the ground which they can.

“They’ve got some top players and a really good side. So it’s no doubt they’re going as well as they are in the league because of that.

Wes Burns comes on and that guy is quick! He just spins in behind and wraps it across the goal, they’ve got some brilliant goal threats in their team and it’s difficult to defend.

“But when they lost one it just took one out of the attacking line which made it a bit easier for us to get some control of the game. Any time you can keep a clean sheet and win a game you say it’s good whatever it looks like, to be honest.”

Bonner on 'creative' Cambridge

Bonner also highlighted the improvement in intensity between the first half and the second half.

“First half we had some good spells but weren’t so creative, second half we had a really good spell of creativity and probably should have scored and been a bit better with our use of the ball.

“But for these players, a lot of them haven’t played together for us in the team that played tonight, a lot of them are short of minutes and were playing a system we haven’t played.

“But in the end I think it was a really good night for us.”

He added: “We wanted an extra pass in our moves, we wanted to get more cutbacks, crosses across the box, extra passes around the box and we did that well.

“How Jack [Lankester]’s not scored I don’t know as he’s had three blocks, then he hit the crossbar. His luck was out tonight. Fay [Fejiri Okenabirhie] had a really good one that went just past the post so we had some good moments.

“The goal we scored I thought was excellent. Really good combination play, Simps [Simper] wins it back in our half, completes his first pass, Jack and Fay link well, plays a brilliant pass in behind and Simps strikes it really cleanly.

“It was an excellent goal and, in the end, you know you’re going to have a bit of pressure on your goal and a bit to defend but we saw it out quite well so we’re pleased.”

Bonner on squad depth

While Bonner explained how his squad is looking thin on numbers, he also hinted there was perhaps some food for thought going forwards for some of his fringe players who featured.

“I hope so,” he said. “I hope we can get some players back fit that give us a choice of what to do. But pretty much everybody that wasn’t playing tonight wasn’t available to play tonight, and a few of them won’t be available at the weekend.

“We’ll see where we are Thursday morning and we’ll wait on a few little bits to see how they show up in the next few days, but we’re certainly going to be light going into the next week, it’s a squad that’s incredibly stretched at the moment.

“But I really liked the mentality of the players tonight in which the senior players led the team because it’s not easy when you turn up in a bit of an empty stadium and it’s a tough one to get through, we felt Arsenal would win that game [against Northampton], so it would be a tough ask to better their score.

“For all of those reasons, it’s not the most inspiring or sexy game you could ever come to play but your attitude has to be bang on and the players’ was.

“We’ve got to make sure we approach the game at the weekend with the same sort of energy and optimism as if we’re on a seven-game winning streak and get to work and see if we can get a result at the weekend.”

Could this turn out to be game one of that streak?

“Who knows,” he joked.