Town gunning for Arsenal treble

IPSWICH Town's under-18s have already beaten Arsenal twice over the last few months, but now it's time for the big one!

Carl Marston

IPSWICH Town's under-18s have already beaten Arsenal twice over the last few months, but now it's time for the big one!

Sammy Morgan's side are gunning for glory in the FA Youth Cup tonight, when they take on the young Gunners at Underhill, the home of Barnet, in a fourth round tie (kick-off 7pm).

Arsenal, the holders, will obviously start as hot favourites, but Town will not be over-awed. In fact, Arsenal will not be relishing yet another encounter with their bogey team.

Town beat the Londoners 1-0 in a pre-season friendly, and also edged them out 3-2 in an FA Premier Academy League fixture on October 10, when a brace from Connor Wickham and one from Ronan Murray secured a fine home win.

Wickham, the one player with first team experience, will be available to play tonight. The 16-year-old is set to lead Town's front-line, having already made 15 senior appearances this term.

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But this evening is not just about Wickham. It's about the whole team, and the possibility of cup glory.

“I know that we are in the youth development field, but this game will all be about the result,” admitted Morgan, Town's Academy manager.

“This is tournament football. It's cut-throat, so the pendulum will swing away from performance towards the result.

“It's a results-orientated business, and if we are in a leading position, we must play accordingly. I made changes on Saturday (league win over Southampton) to give everyone a game, but we want to get through to the next round.

“Arsenal won it last year, but I don't think they will be too happy to have been drawn to play Ipswich, just as it's a difficult draw for us as well. But we have beaten them a couple of times recently, so that might give us the psychological edge.

“The lads know that we can beat Arsenal. We know that they are beatable,” insisted Morgan.

Goals from Jamie Griffiths and Billy Clark secured a 2-0 win over Southampton in a Premier Academy League game on Saturday morning. It was Town's first game of 2010, and in fact their first fixture for more than a month, since the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on December 12.

Morgan was just relieved that the game went ahead.

“The weather has been so atrocious that we've only had one game in a month. We had a short break for Christmas, and then the game at Chelsea (January 9) was called off,” explained Morgan.

“We had been training in the dome, but otherwise we were struggling to find any grass within a good radius of the club. We were desperate for Saturday's game to go ahead, and in the end we got away with it.

“The weather held, we won the game and we didn't pick up any injuries. All the lads had a run out, so it was good from a fitness point of view. We were definitely rusty to begin with, but we got into the match.

“Arsenal's game against Charlton was called off, so hopefully they'll be worse off than us. That's what I'd like to think.”

Roy Keane is set to be an interested spectator at Underhill. Town's first team boss also travelled up to the third round tie at Tranmere.

“I just hope that the lads do themselves justice, and that they do themselves proud,” insisted Morgan.

“Roy Keane should be there. It was terrific to see him come up to Tranmere to watch us, because not all managers do that these days. He can't come and watch us on Saturdays, for obvious reasons. He has big business elsewhere.

“But it gives the lads a lift to know that he is watching.”

Town won 2-0 at Tranmere in the third round, thanks to goals from Wickham and Sam Carson. The winners of tonight's game, which will be decided on the night - either in normal time, extra-time or after penalties - will face Fulham in round five.

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