Cook's strongman act, vacancies to fill and a new challenger - Town face Barrow

The Town players huddle at Cambridge.

Ipswich Town are in FA Cup action against Barrow this afternoon - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town host Barrow this afternoon in the second round of the FA Cup. Andy Warren looks ahead to the clash against the League Two side.

Why are we here? 

Town reached round two of the FA Cup thanks to Idris El Mizouni’s stunning winner in last month’s replay victory over Oldham Athletic. 

The two sides had to do it all again in round one as a full-strength Ipswich side fell horribly flat in the first staging at Portman Road, before El Mizouni helped avoid extra-time as he fired home from outside the box with less than 10 minutes remaining at Boundary Park. 

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

Idris El Mizouni fired Ipswich into the second round - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Barrow, on the other hand, had a much easier time of things as they won 4-0 away at Banbury in their first-round tie. 

They meet for a place in round three this afternoon. 

Who is the strongest? 

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Paul Cook says he will field the strongest Ipswich Town team he can as the club bids to reach round three for the first time as a League One side. 

The only problem is, by the manager’s own admittance, it’s pretty difficult to know what that is right now. 

He’s gone strong in the cup before and had his fingers burned a little, as Cook stuck with his league players for the first meeting with Oldham and ultimately saw his 11 selections produce an-at-times lifeless display which ultimately led to a replay. 

Sam Morsy charges forwards.

Sam Morsy is one of the first names on manager Paul Cook's team sheet - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

There are a few players who appear to have nailed down positions in Cook’s first-choice side, with Christian Walton in goal, Janoi Donacien at right-back, George Edmundson and Toto Nsiala at centre-back and then Sam Morsy as one of the midfield two.  

Macauley Bonne remains the main man up top, with Cook heavily hinting yesterday that his leading man would be back at the tip of the side. 

Beyond that, though, there are opportunities for others. 

Town manager Paul Cook pictured of ahead of the game.

Paul Cook has vowed to field a strong side this afternoon - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Situations vacant 

I’d say there’s an opening at left-back, one in the centre of midfield and then a so-far incomplete puzzle in the attacking three behind Bonne. 

Beginning with left-back, Bailey Clements is the incumbent when it comes to Cook’s ‘strongest’ side right now, having started the last four League One games. But Matt Penney surely has to be under consideration at this point, having returned against Rotherham and then started against Arsenal. This could be a chance for him to reclaim the place he lost after a disastrous afternoon at Plymouth in October. 

Alongside Morsy, Lee Evans has been the regular starter but dropped to the bench against Crewe, with Scott Fraser taking his place. The Scot performed well that day, but there’s also Tom Carroll and El Mizouni to consider. The latter, in particular, could bring real energy to the side, while Carroll brings undoubted class but fitness issues. 

Kayden Jackson fires Town into the lead.

Kayden Jackson scored twice in midweek - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Then there’s the ever-puzzling attacking three.  

Wes Burns, Conor Chaplin, Sone Aluko, Bersant Celina and Kyle Edwards will all want to start and all bring their merits. Burns’ recent absence through injury has been a real blow for Ipswich, who often used him as their most direct form of attack. Hopefully he’s not too far away from returning. 

Wednesday night’s loss to Arsenal has ensured there’s one other name in the mix, with Kayden Jackson netting a brace before it all went wrong for the Blues. He’s made progress in the right-wing role and will hope to have made his case. 

Whether he did enough to twist Cook’s arm remains to be seen. We’ll find out at 2pm. 

Barrow manager Mark Cooper is interviewed by Sky Sports ahead of the Carabao Cup second round match

Barrow boss Mark Cooper - Credit: PA

First meeting 

Ipswich Town and Barrow have never met. 

When Town were last competing in Europe, between 2001 and 2002, Barrow were in the Northern Premier League, the seventh tier of English football. 

Progress has been slow and steady over the last two decades but they’ve finally made it into League Two, finishing 21st in their debut season with a five-point gap between them and the drop zone. 

Under the management of Mark Cooper, the former Swindon and Forest Green boss who always tries to play attractive and expansive football, they aren’t having things their own way and sit 20th. They’re on a miserable run, which has seen them fail to win any of their last nine league games. 

So, with the greatest respect, they are a side which Ipswich should be comfortably beating. 

We know, though, that it doesn’t always work like that. 

Oh, and if you weren’t aware, Barrow play in blue and white, meaning they will likely be wearing their extremely light pink away shirt at Portman Road. It looks white under the lights. 

The Emirates FA Cup Trophy ahead of the Emirates FA Cup first round match at The MEL Group Stadium,

The draw for the third round of the FA Cup will be made on Monday night - Credit: PA

What’s next? 

Both sides will be hoping to make round three of the competition. 

Town haven’t managed that during their two seasons as a League One club, with Cook already setting his sights on a potential third-round clash with rivals Norwich. 

Whichever team wins this tie will be ball 63 in the draw, made at 7pm on Monday evening as part of ITV 4’s coverage of Boreham Wood’s clash with St Albans City. 

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