Crawley Town 2-0 Ipswich Town: Young Blues exit Papa John’s Trophy at end of group stage
Ipswich Town’s EFL Trophy campaign is over following defeat at Crawley.
Brian Galach scored a goal in either half for the hosts to secure three points, meaning they leapfrogged an Ipswich side who ultimately finished their campaign bottom of Group J.
Manager Paul Lambert, who has made his disdain for this competition clear over the last two seasons, opted to field an incredibly young side at the People’s Pension Stadium, with an average age of a little over 18.
Only David Cornell and Keanan Bennetts retained places from Saturday’s FA Cup loss to Portsmouth, with Corrie Ndaba the only other Ipswich player to have reached the end of his teenage years.
They never lacked heart and continued to play throughout, but founds things difficult in midfield at times as the young players struggled to handle the pace of the game, which meant the supply line to the final third was limited.
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A few minutes after this game kicked off Ipswich knew they would need at least a point to secure progress from the group, given Gillingham had taken Arsenal’s Under 21s to a penalty shootout and edged a point ahead of Town in the standings in the early kick-off, but they couldn’t find a way back into the game once Galach had put Crawley in front.
Ultimately it is the young Gunners and Gillingham who progress to the next round.
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A second-half substitution meant, at 16 years and 22 days, midfielder Jack Manly became the second-youngest player in club history when he came off the bench in the second period, with only Connor Wickham representing the Blues at a more tender age.
He joined Dylan Crowe, Zak Brown and Levi Andoh in making their Ipswich debuts, as four others - Ross Crane, Zanda Siziba, Allan Viral and Tommy Smith - made first starts following brief substitute appearances.
Cornell captained the side at 29, while defender Corrie Ndaba and Borussia Monchengladbach loanee Keanan Bennetts were the only three players who could be considered first-teamers.
The hosts changed their entire XI following a punishing FA Cup tie on Sunday afternoon, which saw them come out 6-5 winners after extra-time in a dramatic contest at Torquay, with a handful of senior players alongside a
The young Blues, who only had six substitutes on the bench, started fast and had the game’s first effort on goal as trickery down the left from Bennetts saw the winger pull the ball back for Gibbs, who had his shot blocked away.
The hosts’ first effort came and went as Ricardo German rolled Ndaba, before scuffing wide, but the Red Devils were soon in the lead.
It came from the head of Galach, after Sam Ashford had got free down the right flank to cross into the Ipswich Town box which the Crawley man was able to find and head down into the back of the Town net.
The young Ipswich side were struggling to keep possession midfield and found it hard to connect with Tyreece Simpson in attack, with Crawley having the next chance as Tarryan Allarakhia skipped past Andoh before opting to pass instead of shoot despite having a clear sight of goal. Fortunately his ball trundled through to Cornell in the Town goal.
The Blues went into the break a goal down, by this point knowing they would need at least a draw to secure progress given Gillingham had picked up a point for a draw with Arsenal’s Under 21s, with the young Gunners winning the group thanks to the extra point they also picked up for winning the penalty shootout at Priestfield.
Crane, signed from non-league side Bury Town in the summer, shot wildly wide to start the second period, as Ipswich played with more purpose and were able to work the ball into dangerous areas to trouble the home defence.
But the hosts were able to strike what felt like a killer blow to Town’s chances in this competition as Galach was played through from deep on the left of the box before firing superbly past Cornell to give Crawley a two-goal advantage.
Lambert then introduced Manly from the bench, with the 16-year-old becoming the second-youngest player in the club’s history as Brown also came on for a debut, before Bennetts’ cross appeared to be handled by Manny Adebowale as penalty appeals were waved away. Lambert could only laugh on the touchline as another refereeing decision went against his side.
Brown pulled a shot wide at the near post as Town looked to find a route back into the game, but it never came as they exited the competition at the end of the group stage.
Crawley Town: Nelson, McNerney, Dallison, Adebowale, Sesay, Ferguson (Burnett, 62), Allarakhia (Tsaroulla, 56), Khaleel, Ashford, Galagh, German (Al-Hussaini, 46)
Ipswich Town: Cornell; Crowe, Andoh, Ndaba, Smith; Viral (Manly, 68), Gibbs, Siziba, Bennetts, Crane (Brown, 68), Simpson
Subs: Holy, Armin, Healy, Chirewa