FOR too long, Ipswich Town’s FA Cup assignments have played second fiddle to the cut-and-thrust of Championship football.

Viewed as the poor relation, judging from team selections, ties have become unwanted distractions, rather than something to savour.

Underrated and devalued.

That’s certainly how it’s looked from the outside in, as reflected by a stinging run of eight straight third-round exits.

Forget the magic of the cup. More like the misery.

Depleted teams have repeatedly paid a heavy price with bruising early eliminations being commonplace since Town’s last win in the competition, in 2010.

However, things are different this year – or at least they should be – heading into tomorrow’s trip to mid-table League One side Accrington Stanley.

For me, the significance of the tie has been ramped up following Tuesday’s calamitous 3-2 defeat against Millwall.

The motivation and stakes are higher.

Yes, Town are still in a relegation scrap, mathematically, and therefore league points will always be the most coveted prize.

But with their survival hopes dangling from a mountain ledge by a fibre-optic thread, why not attempt to rescue something from this grimmest of seasons with a cup run?

It would provide a crumb of comfort – a modicum of magic - within an otherwise dismal campaign.

It would inject some much-needed spark and excitement and it would give the club’s long-suffering supporters something to celebrate. At last.

It might even give the players a timely confidence-boost to take into their league campaign, inspiring an improved second-half of the season (although probably, sadly, too late to stave off relegation).

Town have nothing to lose and everything to gain, after the debacle of New Year’s Day.

People are already writing them off.

Some bookies believe the hosts are favourites and the Football Focus team scent blood, with Dan Walker and co broadcasting live from the Crown Ground.

But Town boss Paul Lambert has vowed to field as strong a side as possible – a refreshing stance compared to the irritating, wholesale changes of predecessor Mick McCarthy.

So why not go for broke, put up a fight and attempt to upset the apple cart?

On current form and given what’s likely to happen, it won’t save the season.

But it would be a welcome pick-me-up at a time when the club needs its supporters more than ever.