Mark Heath: Why Cook must stick with his winning Town team in the FA Cup

Macauley Bonne celebrates his second half goal at Adams Park against Wycombe.

Macauley Bonne celebrates his second half goal at Adams Park against Wycombe. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Mark Heath argues that Paul Cook should stick with his winning team in this weekend's FA Cup clash, rather than repeat the mistakes of his predecessors....

Don't change a winning team.

It's one of the key bricks in the Great Football Clichés Pantheon, right up there with 'The first goal is crucial', 'Good feet for a big man' and 'The next goal is so important' when a team is 2-0 up.

A cliché it may be, but it has real merit - and I'm hoping Paul Cook takes heed this weekend.

Ipswich Town are finally flying, a cracking run of form capped in serious, statement style by that 4-1 evisceration of third-placed Wycombe on Tuesday night.

But now, with no league games for the next week and a bit, we all know the drill. We've been here many times, after all.

Wes Burns celebrates his second half goal with Macauley Bonne at Adams Park against Wycombe.

Wes Burns celebrates his second half goal with Macauley Bonne at Adams Park against Wycombe. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

A wholesale change of the team for the visit of Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup this Saturday, followed by another complete overhaul for the Luke Chambers testimonial in the Papa John's Pizza Platter next Tuesday.

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By the time the next league game rolls around, on November 13 against Oxford - a side, don't forget, who are also in the top six - there's a good chance most, if not all of the players who thrilled the Town faithful on Tuesday night won't have competed since. And Town could have lost two matches on the bounce.

I do get it, of course. Town have a big, talented squad, players need to play games, and cup/trophy fixtures are the perfect opportunity to give the fringe, second string and youth a chance.

It's only the FA Cup after all, it doesn't matter - Town haven't cared about it for years. And the Papa John's Pepperoni Trophy matters even less.

Nonsense.

Sport is all about one thing - another cliché incoming here, duck or it might hit you - and that's momentum.

Town, after a dreadful start to the season, finally have it, and they have it in full snowball rolling down a ruddy big mountain style.

Macauley Bonne is on fire. Sam Morsy and Lee Evans are running midfield. Bersant Celina and Wes Burns carry more attacking intent than Andrew Marr on a Sunday morning with a politician in his crosshairs. George Edmundson and Toto Nsiala are building a burgeoning brick wall partnership at the back.

Why then, would you chuck all that away and totally change things for the next game, whatever it might be?

Listen, I know I'm urinating into the breeze here. Come 2pm on Saturday, the Ipswich Town team will look very different than it did at 6.45pm on Tuesday night. And it'll still look bloody strong, I'd imagine.

But imagine a scenario - an entirely reasonable one, I might add - where Town are cupset again at home on Saturday, or extended to a replay after fielding a much-changed, unfamiliar team.

Three days later, another totally different side exits the Papa John's Trophy without so much as a slice of ham and pineapple.

Then, come a week Saturday, Town have to start the process of collecting snow for that momentum ball all over again, when Oxford roll into Portman Road for the important stuff.

Ipswich Manager Paul Cook at Adams Park for the match against Wycombe.

Ipswich Manager Paul Cook at Adams Park for the match against Wycombe. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Madness.

The Blues have just smashed a proper League One contender for the first time this season. After numerous breakdowns, the side are a purring, confident machine, picking their punches and throwing bombs when they need to.

In a fight, when you have the opponent hurt and on the ropes, you don't just walk away and change tactics. You punch them in the face again, leave them in a heap and move on to the next unlucky soul who happens to be standing in front of you.

Those unlucky souls on Saturday are Oldham Athletic, and this Town wrecking machine can smell blood.

Please, Paul, punch them in the face. Stick with your winning team, smash another opponent and move on, with the added momentum of actually winning an FA Cup game too. Who knows, it could even turn into a cup run! Now I really am getting carried away....

You said it yourself on Tuesday night: "We're on a rollercoaster ride. Our supporters have had disappointments this year, but we've also had a couple of really big highs. We've got to make sure we continue with the big highs."

Town fans have had enough of riding Oblivion for the last few years.

Let's have a go on The Smiler for a bit.


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