Stu says: Seven observations following Town's 2-1 FA Cup win at Oldham

Idris El Mizouni celebrates scoring to put Ipswich in front in the 81st minute at Boundary Park.

Idris El Mizouni celebrates scoring Ipswich Town's winner at Oldham in the FA Cup. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town progressed to the second round of the FA Cup with a 2-1 replay win at Oldham last night. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.

Paul Cook gives a thumbs up to the travelling fans at Boundary Park.

Paul Cook gives a thumbs up to the travelling fans at Boundary Park. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

JOB DONE

Not the most convincing display, but a win's a win. Ipswich Town haven't had many of them in the FA Cup over the last decade after all.

The Blues are normally the ones on the end of a cupset. Last night, as Wycombe, MK Dons and Oxford United were all dumped out by lower league opposition, Paul Cook's men found a way on a rain-soaked night in Greater Manchester. 

From mid-September onwards, Town's form across all competitions reads: P15 W8 D5 L2 F29 A12. That's not too shabby.

Forget all the usual nonsense about 'wanting to concentrate on the league'. Staying in both the Papa John's Trophy and FA Cup as long as possible can only be a positive.

Winning is a habit. And the more games there are, the more chance Cook has to keep his large squad both sharp and happy.

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Beat Arsenal's U21s on November 30 and the Blues would be just three wins away from a Wembley final.

Beat Barrow (currently 16th in League Two) on December 4 and Town are in the hat with the big boys. 

Conor Chaplin rounds the keeper to score the equaliser at Boundary Park.

Conor Chaplin rounds the keeper to score the equaliser at Boundary Park. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

SLOPPY START, LUCKY LEVELLER

Oldham, enjoying the distraction of a League Two relegation battle, raised their game. Ipswich, by contrast, looked disjointed and sloppy. Time after time passes were loose.

Davis Keillor-Dunn side-footed into the side-netting after an uncontested cross on the left from Benny Couto, then Christian Walton made a big save with his legs from Keillor-Dunn after Dylan Fage had shrugged Scott Fraser off the ball.

The home side got their deserved breakthrough in the 29th minute when Harrison McGahey headed in the rebound at poorly defended corner. Luke Woolfended had been outmuscled by big centre-half Carl Piergianni prior to Walton's reaction stop.

Conor Chaplin rounds the keeper to score the equaliser at Boundary Park.

Conor Chaplin rounds the keeper to score the equaliser at Boundary Park. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Town continued looked vulnerable at set-pieces all evening, even after Cameron Burgess replaced Woolfenden at the break. That's something for Francis Jeffers to work on back in training.

Ipswich simply hadn't been at the races in the opening exchanges, but they were gifted an equaliser. Joe Pigott was the one providing the cross rather than attacking it, so there looked little danger on when keeper Jayson Leutwiler caught the ball unopposed. Somehow, though, he spilled the ball with defender Jordan Clarke in close proximity and the alert Conor Chaplin rammed the ball into an unguarded net. 

Idris El Mizouni celebrates scoring to put Ipswich in front in the 81st minute at Boundary Park.

Idris El Mizouni celebrates scoring to put Ipswich in front in the 81st minute at Boundary Park. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

WHAT STRIKE!

From the equaliser onwards, the story was much the same as the second half against Oxford three days prior.

Town worked the ball into plenty of good positions, but the final cross/pass/shot wasn't quite there. Oldham, to be fair, kept making timely interceptions and blocks.

It looked like this game was heading to extra-time. Thankfully, a moment of magic arrived.

Idris El Mizouni scores to put Ipswich in front in the 81st minute at Boundary Park.

Idris El Mizouni scores to put Ipswich in front in the 81st minute at Boundary Park. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Idris El Mizouni's goal 10 minutes from time was one worthy of winning any game.

When a half-cleared cross fell at his feet a full 30 yards from goal, the French-born midfielder killed it with his first touch and then sent a delicious dipping shot into the far corner of the net with his second.

Fraser gave the 21-year-old an encouraging push in the back to go and soak up the acclaim of 496 jubilant away fans behind that goal.

The humble celebration tells you a lot about the man. Instead of pointing to the name on his back or posing statue still with chest puffed out, El Mizouni simply stood and applauded the supporters.

Idris El Mizouni celebrates scoring to put Ipswich in front in the 81st minute at Boundary Park.

Idris El Mizouni celebrates scoring to put Ipswich in front in the 81st minute at Boundary Park. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

His goal capped a good few days for the club's academy, Bailey Clements having made an impressive league debut against Oxford. 

Even after all that summer recruitment, Cook's shown that homegrown players will still get their chance if they earn it. That should act as inspiration for others at Playford Road.


MIDFIELD TWEAK

It was interesting to see Rekeem Harper start as the No.10 and Scott Fraser in a deeper midfield role alongside El Mizouni.

Cook admitted afterwards that, following that poor opening half hour from his team, a little 'tweak' in the middle of the pitch helped change the dynamic.

Redeem Harper under pressure during the game at Boundary Park.

Redeem Harper under pressure during the game at Boundary Park. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

There was no major formation change, to my eye at least, but Fraser perhaps began to operate a little higher up the field and was to pull a few strings from far more dangerous positions. 

"We got Scott Fraser on the ball a lot more and then our lads shone a little bit better," said the Blues boss.

The skilful Bersant Celina and energetic Conor Chaplin have both had moments of brilliance in the No.10 role this season, but no-one at the club can unpick a lock quite like the smooth and silky Fraser.

Working out how best to utilise his talents remains a conundrum.

Idris El Mizouni celebrates scoring to put Ipswich in front in the 81st minute at Boundary Park.

Idris El Mizouni celebrates scoring to put Ipswich in front in the 81st minute at Boundary Park. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

ALL WHITE ON THE NIGHT

It's fair to say that the majority of Town fans were underwhelmed when the club revealed a new plain white away shirt in the summer.

The ultimate popularity of kits tends to be set by the results gained in them though. 

Gillingham, Portsmouth, Wycombe and now Oldham... That's now four wins from four in games played under the lights in white.

If the powers that be at Portman Road are in any way superstitious maybe they should think about asking if it can used for the crunch home game against Rotherham next Tuesday night.

England did, after all, wear blue at Wembley last week.

   

BACK IN THE FOLD

It was great to see Kane Vincent-Young come on as a second half substitute. When the right-back went off clutching his shoulder in the first meeting between these sides 10 days earlier it was natural to fear a longer absence given his recent bad fortune.

Another positive was seeing Tom Carroll among the nine substitutes. It's easy to forget how good the former Premier League midfielder was looking before a hip problem flared up in September. Along with El Mizouni he should keep Sam Morsy (just one booking away from a suspension) and Lee Evans on their toes.

Paul Cook with Chief Exec Mark Ashton before the game at Boundary Park.

Paul Cook has explained why he doesn't want to label the trip to Sunderland as a 'big game'. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

UP NEXT...

Town now prepare for two big games in the space of four days.

First, it's a trip to seventh-place Sunderland on Saturday. Then, it's the visit of third-place Rotherham on Tuesday night.

Black Cats boss Lee Johnson and his assistant Jamie McAllister were at Boundary Park last night to size up the Blues ahead of the weekend.

Johnson, who enjoyed a warm embrace and long chat with Town CEO Mark Ashton before the match (the pair worked together for a long-time at Bristol City), won't have gleaned too much given it's no secret how Cook sides set-up and that Town's personnel will look vey different at the weekend.

His side will have had 10 full days to stew on a six-game winless run by the time kick-off comes around.

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