|Crawley Town 2 v 0 Ipswich Town|
Papa John's Trophy
Tuesday, 10th November 2020 Kick-off 19:00
Taylor: A Great Experience For the Younger Ones
Tuesday, 10th Nov 2020 06:00
The Blues are set to field another very young side when they face League Two Crawley Town in their final group game in the Papa John’s Trophy at the Broadfield Stadium this evening (KO 7pm).
Town fielded a team with an average of 21 including four teenagers as they beat Gillingham 2-0 in their previous fixture, picking up a £5,000 fine for transgressing the competition’s selection rules as a result.
The Blues are again likely to be sending a cheque off to EFL headquarters with manager Paul Lambert planning to field another youthful XI against the Red Devils.
A Town victory would secure a place in the knockout stage, while a draw either with or without a bonus point for winning a penalty shootout - which immediately follows the 90 minutes if the scoreline is level - could be enough for the Blues depending on the result in the Gillingham-Arsenal U21s fixture, which also takes place this evening but with a 5.30pm kick-off.
Town go into the match off the back of Saturday’s controversial 3-2 FA Cup defeat to Portsmouth in which the team - itself featuring nine changes but by no means as youthful as the one which will face Crawley - impressed assistant manager Stuart Taylor.
“The lads did very well,” he said. “Obviously we didn’t get off to the best of starts going two down, the second goal got a little bit of a deflection, but it was how we reacted after that and I thought the boys slowly but surely got themselves back into the game in the first half, we moved the ball really, really well.
“We actually started the game really well too, we moved it about but unfortunately went 2-0 down. But the reaction was really good, which was something we were looking for.
“The confidence was there and the belief in how we’re playing was there and we managed to draw back to level-pegging and I’ll not say much about the winning goal. Obviously we can’t say too much about it for obvious reasons so we’ll move on swiftly from that. But the lads did well and they kept going.”
Regarding the nine switches of personnel, he added: “There were quite a few changes in there. It’s just been a really, really heavy schedule so it was probably wise to leave a couple of the lads out just in case so as not to risk any injuries.
“We came out of the Sunderland game with quite a few knocks and bruises, and even before that a lot of lads went into that game with knocks and bruises but managed to get through it. So it gave us an opportunity to go and play a couple of the lads on Saturday.”
Both Taylor and Lambert have talked before about players in general being more susceptible to injury following their long break over the summer.
“I think we spoke about that a few weeks ago about how they were going to react coming back from lockdown and certainly we can see across the league that there are quite a few injuries with lads coming back after the long period off,” he said.
“But a lot of our lads have done very, very well with that. We’ve picked up a few strains which has been disappointing but I just think going into the heavy schedule of games it’s very tough for the players to try and get through that.
“It’s easy to turn around and say that they’re professional footballers and only play for 90 minutes but it’s the demands of those 90 minutes. It’s very intense and I think you can probably recognise that with no crowd here you can appreciate it a little bit more when they’re going for tackles, just the intensity of the game, how quickly the lads move.
“It takes a lot out of the body and when you’re playing Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday it’s very demanding.
“But it is their job and we’re not complaining on that side of things but we have to be careful and not run any risk with any players and just make sure we’re keeping them as fit as we possibly can without crossing that line and fatiguing them that much that they do end up picking up strains, and that’s over and above any tackles from which they might get knocks.
“It’s about being careful, being sensible with it but also trying to put the best team on the pitch that you possibly can. And it’s not just us, everybody is exactly the same.”
Taylor says fielding youngsters in the competition known until recently as the EFL Trophy has been beneficial to the club.
“We’ve always said it from last season that going into the this tournament it’s about getting the younger ones experience of going and playing,” he said.
“It’s just a shame that the crowds aren’t in because they’re missing out on that experience.
“We have a way of playing at the football club and we want the younger ones to play the same as the first team so when they do come up and play in the first team they know their jobs, they know each other’s jobs and the only question mark is whether they can handle the crowd.
“And that’s the disappointing thing, that they’re not going to experience that at this moment in time this season. Hopefully the crowds do come back then they can start having the experience of that.
“The tournament is great for them to go and play first-team football, play against real men and recognise what it’s actually like to play against someone that needs to win games of football and also playing alongside players who need to win games of football as opposed to being on the academy side of things. It’s great experience for them and it’s great for this tournament.”
He says he and manager Lambert keep on eye on the Blues’ developing talent even below the U18s side.
“Of course we do,” he continued. “We’ve done that since we came in. We did it at other clubs we’ve been at as well. When you come in you work with the first team but you work for the football club and that means you go and watch the U23s, U18s, U16s.
“Last season, myself, the manager, Gilly [first-team coach Matt Gill] and [goalkeeper-coach] Jimmy Walker were watching so many training sessions at night, and even the girls football, we’ve taken games in there as well because it’s the football club that you’re trying to progress and you’re making sure that everybody know that you care about them at the football club and you want to help them.
“We know loads of the kids at younger age levels and that’s why when they came up last year and played against Colchester we knew their names, we knew exactly what their strengths are and their weaknesses are and that’s why having to bring them in we’re comfortable with it.”
Bringing through young players looks increasingly important with the financial impact of the pandemic and the prospect of the Blues being significantly hampered by the salary cap if they remain in League One.
“At this club there’s a great academy here that we spoke about before,” Taylor continued. “We’re delighted to bring younger ones through because they’re good enough.
“We see the potential there that we can give them that opportunity and gain more experience and get better and have a taste of it to hopefully give them a little bit more appetite and whet it so that they’ll want another taste of it. That’s what it’s all about.”
One of those who made their debut last season was midfielder Tawanda Chirewa, who became Town's second-youngest player in last season’s tie at Colchester aged only 16 years and 31 days. Connor Wickham is the only player to have made his bow when younger at 16 years and 11 days.
Earlier this month, the Zimbabwe-born, Shenfield-based schemer signed his first professional contract, which runs to the summer of 2022 with the club having an option for a further season.
“And there are more as well, more that have given the right reaction and have come back in and played a second game, and there are more that have come in and played that third game, and that’s what it’s all about,” Taylor added.
“It’s giving them the opportunity to go and play, giving them that platform to go and play on and hopefully they’ll grab it with both hands and they get another opportunity after that.
“What’s really is important, without looking too much at the kids all the time, is that they’ve got to come in and play alongside the right experienced players to go and help them.
“We’ve got a good blend here, we’ve got a lot of good experienced players as well as good younger players and it’s important that part of that experience is that they’re helped along.
“As soon as they cross that white line and go on that grass then there’s only so much we can do from the sidelines and it’s over to them and it’s over to the other players to go and help them through it.”
While obviously looking to win the game, exiting the competition would be far from a disaster for the Blues with League One very much the priority.
Asked whether he wouldn’t be too devastated if Town were eliminated, Taylor said: “That would be seen as being a bit disrespectful towards the competition, but I can understand where you’re coming from because there’s a heavy schedule of games.”
Manager Lambert has said on a number of occasions he doesn’t see the point of the tournament and would have cancelled it this year due to concerns regarding fixtures congestion.
“He loves it really, especially now it’s called Papa John’s we might get a pizza out of it!” Taylor joked. “That’s a silver lining.
“In all seriousness, it’s a great experience for the younger ones to go and play and it’s good for the lads to top up on any game time as well. We’re looking forward to it, whatever the competition’s called.”
Second-guessing Lambert’s team is all but an impossibility, although David Cornell seems certain to start in goal.
Full-backs Janoi Donacien and Myles Kenlock will be hoping to make their second starts in four days but having played 120 minutes on Saturday might well be left out.
Left-back Tommy Smith and right-back Dylan Crowe could perhaps be in with a shout of starting. Smith, 18, would be making his full debut, while Crowe, 19, is yet to appear at senior level.
At the centre of the defence, Corrie Ndaba, 20, could partner Indonesian U19 international Elkan Baggott, 18, who made his debut in the Gillingham tie. If Lambert is looking to field any of his senior centre-halves, then James Wilson is the most likely to be involved having missed out on Saturday.
In midfield, 20-year-old Brett McGavin would probably be a shoo-in but for having played 120 minutes on Saturday.
Andre Dozzell is available despite being suspended for League One and the FA Cup and could potentially be involved as otherwise the former England U20 international won’t play a game for 25 days with his suspension not up until the Charlton home game on Saturday 28th November.
Jack Lankester may be considered for a start having played only 25 minutes as a sub against Pompey.
Liam Gibbs, 17, started the Gillingham tie and could again be in the XI, while Chirewa, also now 17, will also be looking to add to last season’s sub appearance with a first start.
In the front three, 18-year-old Tyreece Simpson seems likely to be the central striker with former Bury Town winger Ross Crane, 18, who made his debut as a sub against the Gills, and Zak Brown, also 18, among the options for the wide roles, as is Lankester if he isn’t involved in a central role.
It seems unlikely that James Norwood will be given a game having played an hour on Saturday. The striker felt cramp in one of his hamstrings during the match, however, it wasn’t the one which had previously been injured.
Armando Dobra, who started the Gillingham match and who turned down a loan move to Crawley last month, is unavailable as he is away with the Albanian U21s.
As was the case last season with Chirewa, it's possible Lambert could draft in one or two even younger players for places on the bench.
Crawley, who are eighth in League Two in which they're unbeaten at home, enjoyed a remarkable 6-5 after-extra-time FA Cup first-round victory at Torquay on Sunday afternoon with Tom Nichols netting a hat-trick.
Keeper Tom McGill won’t be involved against the Blues having been knocked unconscious in a collision during that match causing it to be delayed for more than a quarter of an hour. Fortunately the 20-year-old, who is on loan from Brighton, was later discharged from hospital.
Midfielder Sam Matthews is similarly unavailable due to a concussion, while another midfielder Reece Grego-Cox is a long-term absentee and keeper Glenn Morris is a doubt.
Having played 120 minutes at Plainmoor only two days prior to tonight's game, Crawley will also ring the changes.
Manager John Yems has put veteran player-coach Dannie Bulman and defender Lewis Young in charge for games in the Trophy under the guidance of his assistant Lee Bradbury.
“On Sunday we had a very tough game at Torquay, it took a lot out of the players," Bradbury told the official Crawley website.
“So we'll have to pick wisely and make sure we've enough experience out there to be able to compete, but at the same time giving those lads that haven't played, maybe not even played before, an opportunity to get out on the pitch and show the manager what they can do. We've got to get that balancing act right.
“It's important to give some of the lads rest, we've had Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday and then we get a Sunday-Tuesday chucked on us and it's very tough on the boys.
“The way we like to play, we like to get after teams, work hard and press teams high up the pitch, it takes a lot of toll on the body.
“We've got to get that balance right. But it's going to give other boys an opportunity to show the manager that they should be in the squad for Saturday.”
Crawley lost 2-1 at Gillingham in their opening Papa John's Trophy tie, then were beaten by Arsenal's U21s by the same scoreline at home.
If Town go through to the knockout stage, their round of 32 tie will be played on either December 8th or 9th with the draw made on a regionalised north/south basis.
The rules of the competition oblige clubs to field four qualifying outfield players in their starting XI.
A qualifying outfield player is someone who started the club's previous match, starts the following first-team game, someone in the top 10 players at the club in terms starting appearances in league and domestic cup competitions in the season up to this point, a player with 40 or more first-team appearances over their career or a player on loan from a Premier League or category one EFL side. If clubs transgress that rule they face a £5,000 fine.
Town have received £20,000 for entering the competition and will net a further £10,000 if they defeat Crawley in 90 minutes - as they did against Gillingham - or £5,000 if the game is drawn at 90 minutes.
The Blues and Crawley have met competitively only once before in a Carabao Cup first round tie at the Broadfield Stadium in August 2014 which the Sussex side 1-0 after extra-time.
Izale McLeod’s goal saw Crawley, then in League One, to their victory over the Championship Blues.
Debutant sub Teddy Bishop went closest for Town, who missed chances galore to have the game won within the 90 minutes, when he hit the bar.
More recently, in July 2018, the Blues beat the Red Devils 1-0 in a pre-season friendly played at East Grinstead Town’s East Court with Grant Ward netting the goal after five minutes.
Tuesday’s referee is Sam Purkiss from London, who in his 11 games so far this season has shown 22 yellow cards and five red, the latter all in his last six matches.
Purkiss’s only previous Town match was the 1-0 EFL Trophy defeat at Colchester last season in which he booked James Wilson and two U’s.
Squad from: Cornell, Holy, Przybek, Donacien, Kenlock, Smith, Crowe, Wilson, Ndaba, Baggott, Dozzell, McGavin, Gibbs, Chirewa, Lankester, Viral, Crane, Z Brown, Siziba, Simpson.
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