Young players, a bizarre atmosphere and why this game isn’t a complete ‘dead-rubber’ - talking points as Ipswich face the U’s
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town are in EFL Trophy action against Colchester United this evening. ANDY WARREN looks ahead to the game against the Blues’ Essex neighbours.
It's going to be a funny old evening at the Jobserve Community Stadium.
The Blues have sold more than 2,600 tickets for the away end which, as it did in pre-season, will encompass the entire North Stand and much of the East (Jobserve) Stand.
It's a different story in the home end, though.
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As things stand there are set to be less than 1,000 home fans in attendance, meaning the travelling support will significantly outnumber the Colchester fans.
The U's previous home game in the EFL Trophy this season attracted 1,000 fans for the visit of Tottenham's Under 21s, but the competition has never captured the imagination of the Essex club due to the introduction of a group stage and the inclusion of Premier League academy sides.
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Colchester have averaged a little over 3,500 for home games this season, with Ipswich's travelling army ensuring that level is hit tonight as well as making this the highest-attended game in this competition since the U's moved to the stadium in 2008.
What's at stake?
Ipswich are already through to the next round after victories over Tottenham's Under 21s (2-1) and Gillingham (4-0).
But this game isn't a complete dead rubber for Ipswich, though.
A win or a draw (the latter result would bring a penalty shoot-out to decide a bonus point) is what Lambert's men need to top the group and secure a home tie in the first knockout round of the competition.
For Colchester, a win will see them top the group ahead of Ipswich while a draw and picking up the additional bonus point will guarantee second spot. The Spurs youngsters are at Gillingham this evening, with the academy side needing to win to have any chance of progress.
So… who will play?
Paul Lambert made 10 changes to his Ipswich side for Saturday's 1-1 FA Cup draw with Lincoln, with plenty of those players likely to be involved tonight.
Will Norris was the only man to keep his place from the win at Rochdale but could drop out to allow Tomas Holy back into the side, while defenders Janoi Donacien, Myles Kenlock and Toto Nsiala are likely starters once again.
Flynn Downes, Andre Dozzell (both England U20s) and Armando Dobra (Albania U19s) are now away on international duty, meaning they will drop out of the team, but Anthony Georgiou is likely to keep his place on the left and be joined in midfield by Idris El Mizouni.
It remains to be seen whether Emyr Huws and Will Keane, with who so much care has been taken as they return to fitness, are able to play two games in four days.
Jordan Roberts would have been a certain starter in a competition in which he's already scored three goals, were it not for a toe injury which will keep him out for a few more weeks.
Lambert's already suggested some of Ipswich's 'younger lads' could be involved in this game but it certainly won't be a team of academy products, given the Blues must field a side including four 'qualifying outfield players' or face a fine.
That means using players who have played more than 40 career games at senior level, played in the league game at Rochdale or in the next against Blackpool, are on loan from a Premier League club (Georgiou) or are one of the 10 outfield players starting the most first-team fixtures this season. A big chance
So which of Town's youngsters could come into the picture?
Corrie Ndaba and Bailey Clements would almost certainly have been involved in this game but are now out on loan at Hemel Hempstead, so are unavailable, but Tommy Hughes and Brett McGavin have both been in EFL Trophy squads this season and are likely to be so again.
Hughes is a versatile midfielder who is capable of playing in a number of positions while McGavin is in the mould of Cole Skuse and, given a lack of options due to Dozzell and Downes' absence and question marks over Huws' involvement, are two who could potentially get minutes.
Striker Tyreece Simpson impressed from the bench against Tottenham but has been dealing with an injury which looks likely to keep him out.
Others who could potentially play a part are French midfielder Lounes Foudil and forwards Kai and Zak Brown (not related).
Ben Folami has done well to recover from a long-term Achilles injury and was with the first-team squad for Saturday's FA Cup game, just missing out on the bench, but is now on international duty with Australia's Under 23s in China.
It will be interesting to see how those involved fare in front of a big away crowd.
An old stomping ground
This will be a second competitive return to Colchester for former U's boss Lambert.
His time in Essex was short but relatively sweet, inheriting a club on the slide following relegation from the Championship in October 2008 and steadying the ship in the wake of a difficult move to their new stadium.
He departed for Norwich just days after thumping the Canaries 7-1 on their own pitch the following August, before returning to beat his former employers 5-0 at the Community Stadium a few months later.
The draw for the next round of this competition will be made on Saturday at 2pm.
Topping the group will secure a home tie in the last 32, which is split into Northern and Southern sections.
The draw will be made live on Sky Sports Soccer Saturday, hosted by presenter Julian Walters and conducted by former England international Sue Smith and ex Birmingham, Crystal Palace and Colchester striker Clinton Morrison.