‘It is ludicrous... Absolutely pathetic’ – Lambert on Town being drawn at Exeter in EFL Trophy
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Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert says the club being handed an away trip to Exeter City, in the regionalised third round of the EFL Trophy, is ‘ludicrous’ and ‘pathetic’.
The Blues, who are three wins away from making a Wembley final in the competition, will have to make a 520-mile midweek round trip to Devon to face the high-flying League Two side in the week beginning January 6.
The last 16 draw was regionalised, clubs split into north and south, but Ipswich have become a victim of their eastern geography and now face covering some serious mileage over a packed festive schedule.
With the potential for an FA Cup third round match at either Plymouth or Bristol Rovers on January 4 (Town would have to win their second round replay against Coventry), the Blues could play five games (four of them away) in 13 days.
"I don't get it," said Lambert. "If that's regionalised then dear oh dear. Glasgow's nearer!
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"I think it's a shocker. I think it's terrible to ask fans to travel that distance in midweek. It's is ludicrous. Absolutely pathetic."
Lambert has fielded several teenagers in the competition so far, the Blues finishing second in their group before winning a penalty shootout at Peterborough in midweek, and says that policy will continue at St James Park.
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"It's a tough game but we'll go with the young ones because we've already said it will give them an opportunity," said the Blues boss. "We have to know whether the young kids are ready to play.
"They need time develop because they're not ready made footballers and they will have so many ups and downs and things to encounter. But let's see if they can do it."
Asked if he thought Ipswich could win the competition taking that approach, Lambert said: "Nobody knows. Whether you're young or experienced, if you perform then it's great for everybody. There's a long old way to go.
"Everybody wants to win something and there's no greater feeling than that. It takes over everything. It goes over money, goes over materialistic things. It's a great thing."
TOWN'S FESTIVE SCHEDULE
Thurs, Dec 26: Gillingham (h) - League One
Sun, Dec 29: Lincoln (a) - League One
Weds, Jan 1: Wycombe (a) - League One
? Sat, Jan 4: Plymouth/Bristol Rovers (a) - FA Cup* ?
Tues, Jan 7**: Exeter (a) - EFL Trophy
* If Town in FA Cup home replay against Coventry next Tuesday
** Date TBC