All Ipswich Town eyes are on a League One promotion charge... but an FA Cup run can bring real benefits
PUBLISHED: 06:00 09 November 2019
Ipswich Town begin their FA Cup journey this afternoon against Lincoln City. ANDY WARREN looks at the benefits a run in the famous competition could bring.
We already know Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert plans to make changes for this weekend's FA Cup clash with Lincoln, but it remains to be seen how many.
It's safe to assume the likes of Luke Chambers, Cole Skuse, James Norwood and Kayden Jackson will sit this one out, given how much weight they've carried in the league so far this season.
Lambert's said those that 'stayed at home' for the win at Rochdale on Tuesday night will come into contention, which should mean starts for Janoi Donacien and Toto Nsiala, while substitutes James Wilson, Andre Dozzell, Will Keane, Emyr Huws and Myles Kenlock are all likely to be involved.
It's understandable Lambert would want to rest players, given he speaks so regularly about the physical demands being exerted on his players. Resting those who have been in the thick of the league battle is probably the right call. But that doesn't mean a 'cup run' is beyond the Blues this season or that the white flag should be raised.
So here are a few reasons why staying in the competition could benefit the Blues.
Ending the nightmare
First things first, we all know how bad the Blues' record in this competition of late.
No win in nearly 10 years, spanning 13 games, and four exits to lower-league opposition is ugly by anyone's standards.
It's a big part of why the last decade has had a 'groundhog day' feel for many Ipswich fans but it's a run which surely must end at some point.
Lambert has done a lot to re-enthuse fans and bring a sense of optimism for the future, so shedding this sense of cup inevitability would be another valuable step along that road.
Winning breeds winning
It's fair to say the Blues' league programme has been stop-start of late.
The scheduled clash with Oxford on November 16 has been postponed due to international call-ups, just as the games with Rochdale and Wycombe were. Ipswich also had a free Saturday due to Bury's expulsion from the league.
All that means Ipswich won't play a league game again for a fortnight, when they host Blackpool.
Lambert's men have done well to forge a winning mentality so soon after a disastrous relegation. A cup win (and maybe another at the end of the month) can help keep that going.
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Fit and firing
We know Ipswich have a big squad, with Lambert using 29 players in total so far this season.
They need games and this competition is a good chance for them to get them. It's perhaps a better environment than the EFL Trophy with bigger crowds, higher stakes and more intensity.
Changes will be made but there will be plenty of experience on the pitch for Ipswich. This isn't a case of throwing in the kids.
The two to benefit most from a run in the cup could well be Emyr Huws and Will Keane. Both are, arguably, too good for League One but are still playing catch-up following nasty injuries.
A run in the cup could aid their journey back to full health, given they appear to be behind the Skuse/Downes and Norwood/Jackson partnerships respectively.
You never know, progression to the next round (or further) could also facilitate the returns of Teddy Bishop and Freddie Sears who are on their way back from their own injury lay-offs.
Beyond that, the games would give the fringe players previously mentioned an opportunity to stay sharp, in case they are called upon for league action.
Laying a marker
The ultimate goal for the Blues this season is of course promotion back to the Championship.
That quest is going pretty well at the moment, given Ipswich sit atop of League One despite still struggling to truly hit top gear.
There's already talk of how this current Ipswich side, full of confidence and back in the winning habit, would have fared against the class of 2018/19 who of course came tumbling out of the second tier with four games still left to play.
We'll never know which side would have come out on top in that mythical game, but progress to the third round (at least) of this season's competition could give the Blues a chance to test themselves against sides further up the football pyramid.
As we well know, round three is when the Premier League and Championship sides enter the competition meaning all 44 of those teams would be possible opponents should Ipswich make it that far.
The sad reality is, whatever the draw, both sides would most-likely rest players and not put out frontline teams, but it would be fascinating to see how James Norwood and Kayden Jackson get on against higher ranked defenders, while also getting a chance to see if Luke Woolfenden can handle second or third tier forwards.
We may get that chance, we may not, but to have a game where we can measure just how far this group have come would be a positive.