Tired legs, a chance to progress, new faces and maybe even a record-breaker - Town take on Crawley in EFL Trophy
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town take on Crawley Town in the two sides’ final EFL Trophy group game this evening. ANDY WARREN looks ahead to the contest.
State of play
Here we go, then. It’s time for the deciding game in Group J of this season’s EFL Trophy and Town’s first match under the Papa John’s sponsorship.
Following defeat to Arsenal’s kids and victory over Gillingham, tonight’s equation is pretty simple for the Blues if they want to progress. Better the Gills’ result.
The two sides are locked on three points, three behind Arsenal, but Town are ahead of their League One rivals by two goals so, should Ipswich better their result, they’ll be through.
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The picture will be even more clear when Town take to the field, given the Gillingham v Arsenal game kicks off at 5pm.
So if Arsenal win again and keep a perfect record, Town could still lose to Crawley by one goal and make it through to the knockout phase.
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But the best route through to the next round is victory.
The major talking point heading into these Trophy games is what side Paul Lambert will opt to field.
The Town boss has made his disdain for this competition very clear. He doesn’t like it at the best of times and would be more than happy for it to be mothballed for a year during the coronavirus pandemic.
But it’s going ahead and there are plenty of his players who will be grateful for the chance to get onto the field.
That’s true for goalkeeper David Cornell, full-backs Janoi Donacien and Myles Kenlock and other Ipswich Town fringe players such as Emyr Huws and Keanan Bennetts.
Andre Dozzell is available, with his three-game ban paused and not including this competition, but it surely makes sense for him and the likes of Teddy Bishop to continue a well-earned rest following some heavy lifting during the early weeks of the season.
Young first-teamers Brett McGavin and Corrie Ndaba will be hopeful of more minutes in this game, but Armando Dobra is not available given he’s already flown out for Albania Under 21 duty.
What this competition is really about for Ipswich Town is giving young players opportunities.
Defender Elkan Baggott and midfielder Liam Gibbs both played well when starting against Gillingham last time out and could be involved again, as could striker Tyreece Simpson.
Then the bench spots are up for grabs. Town have used their substitutions to give debuts in this competition, with Zanda Siziba, Allan Viral and Ross Crane getting that honour in the Gillingham game and Tawanda Chirewa, Tommy Smith and Tommy Hughes getting chances last year.
Others hopeful of debuts will be defenders Levi Andoh, Albie Armin and Dylan Crowe, striker Zak Brown, attacker Jack Manly and midfielder Alfie Cutbush, who scored twice in the FA Youth Cup last week.
With an Under 23 game against Coventry being played this afternoon, it’s not impossible an even younger group of players will be given chances on the first-team bench.
Don’t completely rule out the possibility of the club’s youngest player record being broken. It’s currently held by Connor Wickham.
That’s the Town side, now onto the strength of the Crawley Town line-up.
The League Two side will be back on the field just 51 hours after one of the most epic FA Cup games in recent memory finally came to a conclusion, with their visit to Torquay on Sunday ultimately ending in a 6-5 victory after extra-time. The record books will show they played 120 minutes but, a serious head injury suffered by Crawley keeper Tom McGill meant this game included 20 minutes of injury time before the extra 30.
McGill won’t be available for Crawley tonight meaning 39-year-old Stuart Nelson could be between the sticks, after being frantically registered in the build-up to the FA Cup clash.
What impact Sunday’s efforts have on the rest of the Crawley line-up remains to be seen.
Man in charge
Full disclosure, I’d never heard of Crawley manager John Yems until a few weeks ago. But he’s a fascinating character.
I’ve made a point of watching his post-match interviews with his club’s Youtube channel after most of their games this season, with the 61-year-old not putting up with any nonsense.
He’s questioned his players, calls out journalists for ‘stupid questions’ and is very blunt in his assessment of games.
“Do you think I give a monkey’s what people think of our decisions?” he said after a loss at Exeter last month. “They’re our decisions to make. I don’t care what people in the stands say, they can mind their own business.”
He’s clearly doing something right. They’re eighth in League Two and are unbeaten at home in the league all season.
Yems has given assistant Lee Bradbury the chance to lead the team in these games, but he’s sure to be a presence.
This will be a difficult game for Ipswich this evening, regardless of the side they put out.