Lambert's Opinion of Leasing.com Trophy Unchanged as Blues Face Peterborough
Tuesday, 3rd Dec 2019 12:43
Town boss Paul Lambert says his thoughts on the Leasing.com Trophy haven’t changed as the Blues enter the knockout stages of the tournament and travel to face Peterborough United in a second round tie on Wednesday evening (KO 7.30pm).
Ahead of the start of the group phase Lambert said he "[didn't] see the point of the tournament" and despite the Blues now being only four matches from the Wembley final that view hasn't wavered.
Asked whether his opinion had altered with Town having progressed through their group by finishing second, he said: “No, not really. We’ve too many games in this country. Too many. People say the quality goes down and you’re asking fans to travel midweek, Saturday, midweek, Saturday. It’s hard.
“It’s hard for the supporters and it’s hard for the players to go every single week and the quality comes down and down and people say the game’s are not good. They’re not good because you’ve too many games.
“That’s where I think it doesn’t stack up. I understand the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup and the league, but when you throw another cup competition in there it’s tough, really tough.
“You’re asking supporters to travel all over the country on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and then ask them to do it on the Saturday and then ask them to do it the following week.
“And then people moan when the games aren’t good. They’re not good because there are too many games.”
However, he says he and his squad will go into Wednesday’s game looking for a victory which will take them into round three.
“We’ll want to win, we’ll want to try and win a game,” he said, speaking after Sunday’s 1-1 FA Cup draw with Coventry at St Andrew’s.
“We’ll have a lot of fans going there no doubt so we’ll go and try and do our best to try and go through.”
Lambert has given a number of youngsters their chance in the competition this season with Brett McGavin handed his senior debut in the final group match at Colchester last month. Are the likes of the 19-year-old midfielder set to be involved again?
“I don’t know. It’ll be a strong side, I’ll go strong to try and get through the tie,” he said. “Again, I don’t have any preference on who I think can play, I trust them to perform.
“To be fair to the guys, we’ve been great that way, I don’t have any problem whatsoever, I think we’ve lost two [league] games all season, so the trust is huge.”
Lambert also gave 16-year-old midfield duo Liam Gibbs and Tawanda Chirewa their debuts as late subs. Are they or any other similarly youthful academy players in his thoughts for a place on the bench at Peterborough?
“I don’t know, I’ll see in the next couple of days what I’ll do with them,” he said. “It’s a tie that I want to win.”
Following the Colchester match goalkeeper-coach Jimmy Walker tweeted that one of Town’s young keepers might have been handed their debut against the U’s but Harry Wright was injured and Adam Przybek was away with the Wales U21s. Might they be involved against Posh?
“I don’t know. I’ll wait, I’ve a few days to go,” the Blues manager continued. “As I said before, I don’t want to give anybody a gift, I want people to earn the right to get in. It’s a tie we’ll try and get through.”
As has been the case all season, predicting out a Town cup side - particularly a Leasing.com Trophy team - is all but impossible.
EFL teams are obliged to field four qualifying outfield players in their Leasing.com Trophy starting XIs but given Town's rotation policy this doesn't have an impact on the side the Blues boss can pick.
A qualifying outfield player is someone who started the club's previous match, someone in the top 10 players at the club in terms starting appearances in league and domestic cup competitions in the season up to that point, a player with 40 or more first-team appearances over their career or a player on loan from a Premier League or EFL side.
Lambert may opt to stick with Will Norris after his outstanding display in goal against Coventry on Sunday, while he will probably look to field some of his fringe players at the back.
Myles Kenlock seems odds-on to return at left-back, while Gwion Edwards could start as the right full-back. Toto Nsiala will probably start at centre-half - if he is over the hamstring niggle which prevented him from featuring at the weekend - with James Wilson his likely partner.
Lambert could give Andre Dozzell another game with Emyr Huws also looking likely to be in what again could be a midfield three.
McGavin may be handed his third senior start, although Idris El Mizouni will also hope to be in the XI.
Up front, Will Keane may well be left out ahead of Saturday’s League One game against Coventry at St Andrew’s with James Norwood suspended for that match having amassed five bookings.
Norwood could play a part at London Road, perhaps from the start, as the lone central striker while Jordan Roberts - who has scored three Leasing.com Trophy goals - could also be involved having returned to U23s action last week following his toe injury.
Ben Folami will probably be in the 18 having started the Colchester match, while Armando Dobra and Anthony Georgiou may well be the widemen.
The bench is again likely to feature youngsters such as Tyreece Simpson and Tommy Hughes.
Lambert may decide against including 16-year-olds such as Gibbs and Chirewa for this fixture - which the Blues need to win to progress - with the Colchester match having been effectively a dead rubber, the Blues having already qualified for the second round prior to that match.
Peterborough attacker Siriki Dembele has been passed fit after a knee problem, while Frazer Blake-Tracy limped off in the second half of Sunday’s 3-0 FA Cup defeat of Dover Athletic with an ankle injury and is likely to be out for a while. Josh Knight and George Boyd are also currently sidelined.
Posh, who are third in League One, four points behind the Blues having played a game more, finished top of their Leasing.com Trophy first-round group ahead of Northampton Town, Arsenal’s U21s and Cambridge United.
If Wednesday evening’s game is drawn at 90 minutes it goes straight to penalties. The winner will go through to the round of 16 with the draw, which will take place live on Sky Sports News on Thursday from 7.15pm, again split on a north-south basis.
Town will be looking for only their second competitive win at London Road, their only previous victory having come in January 1972 when goals from Mick Hill and Colin Viljoen saw Bobby Robson’s Blues to a 2-0 win in a third-round FA Cup tie.
The teams didn’t meet again until 2006 since when Peterborough has been a less than happy hunting ground, most notably in August 2011 when the Blues fell to that infamous 7-1 defeat.
Historically, Posh have had the upper hand, winning five times (two in the league), five matches having ended in draws (four) and the Blues having been victorious on two occasions (once in the league).
Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson has taken a similar approach to Lambert with his team selections in the competition up to now and he anticipates the two sides continue in the same vein on Wednesday.
“I think both teams will do the same with the games that are coming up, with such a busy period in December," he told the Posh official site.
"I might be wrong and they might field their full strength team, I don’t know. But I think the three games they’ve played previously to this one they’ve utilised the squad. They’re away on Saturday as well and we’ve got a very tough game ourselves [at Portsmouth].
“For me, it’s an opportunity to concentrate on what I can do with my squad and that’s what I’ll be doing.
"It’s about what we do and I have to focus mainly on that. We’ll prepare for the game as normal.
“I’m looking forward to it, there’ll be a bit of freshness to the team, there will be changes made from Sunday. But it’s a game I’m looking forward to.”
Despite not picking a full-strength XI, Ferguson, whose side have won their last five matches in all competitions, will field a stronger team than those he named in the group stage matches.
“Whatever 18 I pick it will be a stronger 18 than I’ve had in the tournament because I’ve got to be mindful that we’re further on in the tournament, we’re playing against a very, very good team" he said.
“We’ve done our job in getting through to this. We’re at home, where our form is excellent, so we go into it with a lot of belief and confidence and really my message to the players is that whatever team I pick I expect us to win the game.
“I feel that the team I’ve picked as got a lot of experience in it with a bit of youth, so it’s a mixed bag.
"It’s an opportunity, if we can get a performance out of the lads, to go further in the tournament and we then can really focus on the six league games ahead because then you’ve boxed off both cups and you go into that with five wins on the bounce, which is really important, a lot of momentum there.”
At home this season, Posh have won six, drawn two and lost one in League One and have been victorious four cup games at London Road, two in the Leasing.com Trophy and two in the FA Cup.
Town and Posh last met in League One at London Road - currently officially known as the Weston Homes Stadium - in August when skipper Luke Chambers headed an injury-time equaliser in a 2-2 draw.
Norwood gave the Blues the lead in the fourth minute but Posh levelled through Ivan Toney, then went in front via Mo Eisa. Norwood saw a penalty saved and Town looked set for defeat until Chambers’s last-gasp leveller.
Wednesday’s referee is Graham Salisbury from Lancashire, who has shown 55 yellow cards and one red in 15 games so far this season.
Salisbury’s most recent Town match was the 2-1 home victory over Nottingham Forest in April 2015 in which he booked only Paul Anderson.
Earlier that campaign he had been in charge of the 3-1 win at Millwall in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Squad from: Holy, Norris, Wright, Przybek, Edwards, Donacien, Garbutt, Kenlock, Chambers, Wilson, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Skuse, Downes, Dozzell, McGavin, Huws, El Mizouni, Hughes, Nolan, Rowe, Georgiou, Dobra, Jackson, Norwood, Keane, Roberts, Folami, Simpson, K Brown.
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