EFL Trophy a ‘pointless’ competition? Try telling Nsiala, Huws and Keane that tonight
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town face Gillingham in game two of the EFL Trophy group stages tonight (7.45pm). STUART WATSON previews the Portman Road action.
Victory tonight, coupled with any kind of result for Colchester against Tottenham's U21s at The Community Stadium, would guarantee the Blues a place in the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy.
If not, there would still be work to do going into the final Group A game at Colchester on Tuesday, November 12.
Drawn games in the group stages go straight to a penalty shootout, with the winner of that claiming a bonus point. The top two progress.
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There's no doubting that a trip to Wembley in the final of the EFL Trophy would in no way compensate for missing out on League One promotion this season. And that's what's happened to both Sunderland and Shrewsbury in the previous two campaigns.
Right here and now though, these group matches - far more competitive than U23s action - are providing valuable game-time for players returning from injury or very much on the fringes of the first team.
There are international games this weekend and some Town players have already linked up with their countrymen.
Alan Judge (Republic of Ireland) and Flynn Downes (England U20s) would have been rested for this one anyway, but it's a shame that Andre Dozzell (England U20s) and Anthony Georgiou (Cyprus) - both of whom have struggled for game-time of late - are unavailable.
The good news is that Armando Dobra (Albania U19s) and Idris El Mizouni (Tuniaisa U23s) have, once again, been given special dispensation to link up with their international team-mates later in the week in order to be able to play.
Dobra was the star of the show in the 2-1 win against Tottenham U21s having also impressed in the Carabao Cup defeat at Championship side Luton. The skilful 18-year-old attacker will again be looking to catch the eye.
WHO ELSE WILL PLAY?
Discount those who are injured, unavailable or who featured heavily in Saturday's 1-0 win at Fleetwood and you've pretty much got your team.
Down the spine of the side will be three experienced senior players all working their way back to full fitness.
Centre-back Toto Nsiala, who suffered a hamstring injury in pre-season, is set to make his first 'senior' start following three U23s outings.
Midfielder Emyr Huws is likely to get a lengthy run-out. Since completing the whole game against Tottenham U21s he has had 67 minutes at MK Dons, plus substitute cameos against Gillingham (on in 65th min), Tranmere (on in 87th min) and Fleetwood (on in 89th min).
Striker Will Keane will return to action again. The 26-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Blues after recovering from the hamstring injury that cut short his loan spell last season, played a one half for the U23s and then had senior game-time against Doncaster (on in 79th min) and MK Dons (on in 35th min) before reporting a groin niggle.
Then there are the fringe players who have been struggling for game-time.
Wolves loanee Will Norris will be in goal, while Janoi Donacien, Myles Kenlock and Jordan Roberts, the latter having scored twice against Spurs U21s, should all start. Danny Rowe may well feature having only come on in the 71st minute at the weekend.
Will James Wilson play? He's available as his one-game suspension, following a two-booking dismissal at Fleetwood, is competition specific. That means he'll be forced to sit out the League One game at Accrington Stanley a week on Sunday.
We've mentioned Dobra and El Mizouni. Other academy graduates such as Bailey Clements, Corrie Ndaba, Brett McGavin and the fit-again Ben Folami are set to be involved.
Gills boss Steve Evans is also set to ring the changes following Saturday's 3-1 home win against Southend.
Teenage duo Joe Walsh (17, keeper) and Jack Tyler (19, defender) both started their 3-2 defeat against Colchester earlier in the competition.
Former Town loanee Ben Pringle and ex-Colchester striker Mikael Mandron might get run-outs after being unused subs at the weekend.