Improvement needed, strength test and a good omen - Town head to Oldham in FA Cup replay
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Ipswich Town head to Boundary Park this evening to face Oldham Athletic in the two sides' FA Cup first-round replay. Andy Warren looks ahead to the game.
Why are we here?
So here we are, then. An FA Cup replay away at Oldham.
The reason Ipswich are heading to Greater Manchester on a Tuesday evening is because the Blues, at full strength no less, were unable to find a way past the League Two Latics in the first staging of this tie 10 days ago.
Manager Paul Cook went with the same side which had beaten Wycombe Wanderers so convincingly just a few days earlier and, following Wes Burns’ early goal, looked well on their way to the second round.
But things fell flat soon after, with Cook’s men punished just before the break as Davis Keillor-Dunn swept home an equaliser which ultimately forced a replay. Town only came away with that thanks to Christian Walton’s second-half penalty save.
So that’s why Ipswich are in action tonight.
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Since the first game, Town have failed to score a goal, drawing 0-0 with Colchester (winning on penalties) and then Oxford but probably being the better side in both games.
Oldham have lost twice on the road, going down 3-2 at Tranmere in the Papa John’s Trophy before being beaten 2-1 by Exeter in the league. They’re 23rd in the table.
Paul Cook threw everything at the first game with Oldham, so how strong will he go for the replay?
"There will be changes,” Cook said. “But purely on the basis that we want to pick a team to go and win the game.
"We want to pick a very aggressive strong team and we want to be playing Barrow at home in the next round.
"Big clubs have a lot of football games because they are on good runs. That's what we want to develop here."
But how many changes?
If Town were in league action tonight, Cook would no doubt make changes from Saturday’s Oxford draw, given his side failed to find the net.
Conor Chaplin will surely start. He enjoyed a real purple patch before back spasms saw him lose his place in the side.
Sone Aluko and Scott Fraser have to be in the equation, too, as well as Joe Pigott. Macauley Bonne could do with a rest at some point.
But, if I was Cook, the front end of the side is where I would look at in terms of potential changes, keeping the back line as it is.
That would mean another start for Bailey Clements who, following a good display on Saturday, will surely get another chance to keep his shirt. Kane Vincent-Young could return to the 20-man matchday squad, following his shoulder bump. Remember, Cook can use five subs from his nine-man bench tonight.
The fact Town are at Sunderland for a big League One game on Saturday will surely come into Cook’s thinking a little tonight.
We’ll find out exactly how much at 6.45pm.
Oldham will fancy their chances tonight, having pushed Ipswich for a draw just a few days ago.
A driving force for Keith Curle’s side in that game was attacker Dylan Bahamboula, a player who, on his day, can cause any team problems.
The Frenchman, who came through the youth system at Monaco, possesses power and pace and a direct style which sees him head to goal at any given opportunity.
Those who watch Oldham regularly will tell you he is either the star of the show or largely anonymous. He was certainly the former in the first game, from an Oldham perspective anyway, with the Blues needing to pay closer attention to him tonight.
He’s not the only danger, either. Keillor-Dunn looked a technically gifted player and Hallam Hope caused a few issues up front.
Oldham brought more than 400 fans to Ipswich for the first staging, with a number singing songs and holding banners protesting against the club’s ownership. Expect more of that tonight, with Latics supporters planning boycotts and early departures from games in the future in order to make their point heard.
Town will also be backed by more than 400 fans in this game. An excellent effort in the circumstances.
Town’s FA Cup record is still dreadful, now standing at just one victory in their last 20 matches.
But there is one good omen heading into tonight’s game.
Cook’s men will be dressed in their white away kit at Boundary Park which, so far, has proven to be something of a lucky charm.
They’ve worn it three times so far this season, winning at Gillingham, Portsmouth and Wycombe and scoring a combined 10 goals in the process.
More of the same tonight, please.
Tonight’s winner will play at home in the next round, with the duo drawn to face League Two Barrow.
Mark Cooper’s side, playing their second season in the EFL, are currently 16th in the fourth-tier table.
Clearly that’s a winnable tie, should the Blues make it. Win it and you’re in the hat with the big boys for round three.
Cook’s already says he wants Norwich at home.