Hatters boss Paul Buckle has made his FA Cup plans for the weekend very obvious – keep Luton’s Premiership hosts at arm’s length for as long as possible and then gun for a late winner.
The Blue Square Premier League club arrive in Norfolk tomorrow as rank outsiders to make it through to the fifth round of the Budweiser-backed competition after claiming the Championship scalp of Wolves last time out.
That success was, however, at Kenilworth Road. And while – courtesy of City’s cut-price cup ticket offer – another full house will await the non-league hopefuls, it will be a huge upset if Chris Hughton’s men fail to progress at the first attempt after their own comfortable, third round success at Peterbrough.
Whether or not fresh striker blood has walked through the door.
“We need to contain Norwich early in the game. If we concede early it will make life very easy for them,” Buckle told BBC Three Counties Radio in the run-up to this weekend’s cup encounter.
City could also do with an early strike by way of a pick-me-up after last weekend’s Anfield nightmares. Bagging a goal early will also prove to some that they still have goals within their armoury as the transfer window quest for fresh reinforcements refuses to yield a fresh face up front.
Back in Bedfordshire, that famous, third round success over Wolves gives Buckle hope. Particularly if his ‘Shut up shop!’ game plan works.
“We did that well against Wolves. And we will have to perform to our highest levels and hope Norwich don’t. My focus is on us doing our jobs on the day and staying in the game. If we do that we’ll give ourselves a chance,” he said.
Tomorrow’s fourth round draw has, it appears, paired former dressing room pals together – Buckle being a youngster at Brentford as Hughton saw out the last of his playing days at Griffin Park.
The former Spurs and Republic of Ireland full-back made a lasting impression on the Hatters chief.
“We go back to Brentford where I started my career. Chris came in as a senior pro and was a good leader, a good professional,” said the 42-year-old. “It’s no surprise to me that he’s gone on to do really well in management.”
Hughton will, he revealed, again make changes for the cup competition; as he did for the trip to London Road.
Equally, however, he recognises that whatever squad he puts out – be it first or reserve – everyone will expect the Premiership side to progress.
“We’ll be the favourites on the day irrespective of what team we put out, but there’s always that possibility [of an upset], and that’s the reason that we’ve seen some of the results that we have recently – that’s what cup football is all about and we have to be very guarded,” Hughton told the club’s official website.
He doesn’t have to look far to see what can happen – ex-City boss Paul Lambert suffering his second cup exit in almost as many days when his Villa side lost 2-1 at Millwall tonight.
As for the changes, Andrew Surman and Declan Rudd will be among those to benefit from the cup ‘break’.
“I shall be making changes,” said Hughton.“It will be an opportunity for Andrew Surman, so he will play, and Declan Rudd will also play in goal.
“I’ll make a decision on the starting XI, but it will be a strong squad. Whatever changes I make, they will all be players that have been involved in first team squads this season.”