Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 3-1 loss at Luton in the Carabao Cup
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Ipswich Town lost 3-1 at Luton Town to exit the Carabao Cup at the first hurdle tonight. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
TIMES HAVE CHANGED
Almost two years ago to the day, Town came to Kenilworth Road in the opening round of the Carabao Cup and eased to a 2-0 victory. It was a case of Championship side easing past League Two opposition. David McGoldrick and Bersant Celina showed their class that day.
Tonight, the boot was on the other foot. Luton, now in the second-tier following back-to-back promotions, eased their way to a 3-1 win against the recently-relegated Blues as Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown ran the show.
Lloyd James headed the Hatters in front (8), before Elliot Lee's penalty (18) and Andre Shinnie's low free-kick (55) extended the lead. Armando Dobra grabbed a consolation (74) for the Blues.
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Mick McCarthy, the man in charge of Town for the aforementioned last visit to Luton, watched from the stands with interest in his new role as Republic of Ireland boss.
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Luton boss Graeme Jones changed his entire team following a 2-1 defeat at Cardiff on Saturday, but was still able to bring in three Premier League loan players, as well as experienced Championship campaigners Kazenga LuaLua and Shinnie.
Luke Chambers was the only Town player to keep his place following Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Sunderland.
Paul Lambert's rotation saw him call upon a clutch of semi-fit players - James Wilson, Emyr Huws, Gwion Edwards and Alan Judge all playing catch-up with their fitness following injuries and/or disrupted pre-seasons.
There were also debuts for highly inexperienced youngsters Bailey Clements and Dobra.
For Huws it was a major milestone, this being his first competitive start in more than 20 months.
Even the other outfielders - Josh Emmanuel, Andre Dozzell and Jordan Roberts - have had limited game-time over the last 12 months.
It was always going to be a big ask for this team to compete against decent opposition.
That said, Town managed to shoot themselves in the foot when it came to the opening two goals.
Four players were in a cluster following a half-cleared corner. Brown's teasing ball back into the box took them all out, with an unmarked James ghosting in at the far post to head home an eighth minute opener.
Josh Emmanuel was then guilty of a needless and clumsy foul on Elliot Lee in the corner of the box to concede an 18th minute penalty that Lee tucked away.
The homegrown right-back didn't look to be in favour with Lambert as it is, having been left out the squad entirely for the opening two league games. This error has not helped his cause.
It gave Luton a platform to enjoy themselves.
Conceding shoddy goals that left a mountain to climb was a theme throughout last season. It continued at the weekend. And it's a habit Town need to quickly break.
Armando Dobra was Town's most lively player. Operating on the left wing, the Albanian teenager produced some lovely tricks and incisive runs.
It was fitting that he grabbed the Blues a 74th minute consolation goal, rifling a low shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box following a run and pass by substitute Flynn Downes.
And what of the other two debutants?
Wolves loan keeper Will Norris could do little about the goals against. He made smart saves from Harry Cornick and Lee in the first half and blocked at the feet of Callum McManaman after the break. This game doesn't tarnish him in any way.
It was, however, a steep learning curve for left-back Bailey Clements. The 18-year-old was often left chasing shadows. To his credit, he did improve.
WE MOVE ON
To be honest, Paul Lambert won't be losing much sleep being out of this competition.
This was game three of eight in a hectic opening month for a thin on the ground squad that will soon have three group games in EFL Trophy to contest. Squeezing a second round game in wouldn't have been ideal.
Town are set to be backed by 4,000 fans at Peterborough on Saturday.
We may have been starved of any sort of cup run in recent years, but it's all about being in the League One promotion mix this season.