'It's definitely must win... we're still aiming for the title' - Town loanee Earl on AFC Wimbledon clash
PUBLISHED: 10:49 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:49 11 February 2020
Ipswich Town defender Josh Earl insists the team is still gunning for the League One title ahead of tonight's 'must win' game at AFC Wimbledon.
The Blues slipped from first to seventh in the space of a fortnight following successive defeat to promotion rivals Rotherham, Peterborough and Sunderland. It leaves Paul Lambert's men eight points off the top and five adrift of second spot heading into their final 14 games - nine of which are at Portman Road.
"It's definitely a must win game after three losses - I don't think it's an option really not to get the three points," said the 21-year-old Preston loanee, speaking ahead of Town's first ever trip to Kingsmeadow Stadium.
"Every game from now until the end of the season is pretty much a must win game. They are all massive games. If we want to go up automatically we've got to win quite a few of the 14 left.
"A massive part of me coming here was to come to a side that I think is probably the best in the league. We're struggling a bit at the minute, but top two is definitely still the aim. We've still got every chance of going up automatically, never mind the play-offs.
"With the players we've got and the way the manager wants us to play, there's no reason we can't go and win this league. I do think we've got by far the best team in the league."
Earl, who made his Town debut as a late sub at the Stadium of Light, continued: "It is so tight. If you win two on the bounce you could be right at the top again.
"I thought the lads played really well first half at Sunderland. If we took some of our chances it would have been a different game. If we play that way in the rest of the games coming up then we've got every chance of winning most of them.
"You can't let the mood get down because then you'll lose the next game and the next game. It's not like we've got to come in and start pointing fingers. Of course we're disappointed and will have a go at each other after the game and say 'come on we've got to be better', but we can't get disheartened.
"It's a good group of lads. We've got 14 games left. It's not the end of the world at all. We know we've got to do better and get some results, but it happens in football. We just have to play our game at Wimbledon and we'll get the job done."
Wearing a protective mask
"It was just a little accidental elbow on the training ground, nothing major. It won't stop me from playing.
"It was Willo (James Wilson) who got me with an elbow. Fair play to him, he's not done it on purpose, but I'll get him back somehow! You train how you play. If you're sloppy in training you're going to be sloppy in games.
"I think it's a fractured sinus or something like that. It's not painful. I've just been told I've got to wear this mask for a bit.
"To be honest it will probably get binned halfway through a game because it's so uncomfortable to wear! It stops you breathing through your nose properly. It's not bad, but I'd rather not wear it.!
Finally making his Town debut
"I was delighted. It's been a long time coming, so I was just happy to get out on the pitch and get playing again.
"I can't complain about not playing because the lads have done well. The manager has said I've been unlucky with how the lads have played, because before I came they probably weren't in the best of form with the 12 games without a win. As soon as I've come the lads have been doing really well and you can't argue.
"It's always frustrating when you're not playing but the lads have been doing well so you can't get upset about it. I know there have been a few poor results recently, but we've played well in most of the game since I've been here and you can't take anything away from the lads.
"I am sure I will get my chance at some stage. It's then up to me to take it with both hands. Any time I can put the shirt on I'm buzzing. I just want to enjoy it."
His loan spell at Bolton and future at Preston
"I enjoyed it thoroughly at Bolton. The manager was really good to me, the fans were great, but this is a different challenge now. There is a lot more pressure on us to go and perform and get wins. I'm just excited to be at a massive club like this.
"I've been at Preston since I was nine years old. The manager (Alex Neil) just said to me to go and get games and some experience in a different environment. He wants to see how I cope under different pressures. It's good.
"This is the first time I've lived away from home, having to cook and do the washing, so that's a good experience for me too. I'm really grateful of this opportunity. It's a good move."
His best position
"If you asked me my best position I couldn't tell you. I've played left-side centre-half, centre of a three, left wing-back - I'm happy being versatile, I think it helps you.
"We've got the two Lukes (Chambers and Woolfenden) getting forwards from the back. I think that role would suit me quite well."