Ipswich Town lost 1-0 at Cambridge United in the Papa John's Trophy last night. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.


With nothing riding on this match and a big home clash with Derby County coming up just three days later, no-one was expecting Kieran McKenna to go with a team quite as strong as this.

Starts for those who have found game time limited this season - Vaclav Hladky, Richard Keogh, Kane Vincent-Young and Kyle Edwards - wasn't a shock.

Seeing league regulars Luke Woolfenden, George Edmundson, Lee Evans, Wes Burns and Freddie Ladapo all get a half each came as a much bigger surprise.

That meant just four academy youngsters - Cameron Humphreys, Edwin Agbaje, Tawanda Chirewa and Albie Armin - were involved in the 18-man squad, despite the fact the club had called off its scheduled Under-21s game the previous day.

"It gives those young lads a proper feel of professional level football rather than putting them all in at the same time," explained assistant manager Martyn Pert afterwards.

Asked if it had been risky playing so many key first teamers so close to the Derby clash, he replied: "When you're in that robustness of playing games you just want to keep playing. Sometimes these are as good as, if not better than, training sessions."


Town started on the front foot and it looked only a matter of time before they'd open the scoring.

Then the whole dynamic of the match shifted when Edwards was controversially given his marching orders for two yellow shown in the seventh and 17th minute respectively.

His first was for catching defender Zeno Rossi in the face with a high boot in the Cambridge box. His second was for an alleged dive when trying to burst into the box from the left-hand side.

Replays show that defender Jubril Okedina clearly stepped across the running line of Edwards. Did the Blues winger collapse his legs to exaggerate contact with the obstructing thigh? Possibly. But was he also genuinely impeded at speed? No doubt.

The sensible thing for referee Thomas Parsons would have been to consider his options for a moment, wave away penalty protests and simply give a goal kick. Instead, he made a snap decision.

The usually mild-mannered McKenna remonstrated with the fourth official for the remainder of the half and then marched straight on the field at half-time to speak to Parsons only to be dismissively waved away. Assistant Martyn Pert and first team coach Charlie Turnbull were also raging.

Cambridge boss Mark Bonner had complete sympathy.

“It wasn't one (a red card), it was a penalty,” he admitted. “It was an absolute nailed on penalty. A scandalous decision that if it was given against me, I'd be fuming.”

Poor Edwards, who has been really pushing his case with some electric cameos of late, was denied an extended chance to shine.

It's important to note that his suspension is competition specific.


A word now for the four youngsters involved.

Cameron Humphreys, making his eighth senior appearance for the club, one again played with a maturity beyond his tender years. The 18-year-old is a silky smooth operator who looks to have the technical and mental attributes to go a long way in the game.

Ipswich Star: Tawanda Chirewa in action at Cambridge United.Tawanda Chirewa in action at Cambridge United. (Image: Steve Waller)

Edwin Agbaje, also 18, made his senior debut. The athletic right-back, who scored in the FA Youth Cup semi-final against Liverpool last year, can be satisfied with his evening's work. Yes, there were moments when the dangerous left-sided duo of James Brophy and Jack Lankester combined to get the better of him. But he stuck to task well, grew in confidence and contributed to the attack.

Tawanda Chirewa, 19, started this game superbly. Playing as the No.10 he kept landing on the ball and playing well-weighted through passes. The Under-21s star's talent is not in doubt, but those that watch him regularly have questioned whether he has the work-rate to go with it.

Credit to him, when Town went down to 10 men he showed discipline and desire.

Albie Armin, 18, was introduced at left-back late on. Within seconds he had produced a perfectly-timed slide tackle to prevent a dangerous Cambridge counter-attack. I enjoyed that.


Deadline day Panutche Camara, signed from Plymouth with a groin problem, only started full contact training last week.

It was, therefore, far from ideal to bring him on at half-time in an 11v10 match.

There were some understandable loose touches from a player whose previous competitive appearance was six months ago. Richard Keogh had to get him out of jail with a lunging block in the second half.

But we also saw glimpses of him being an ultra-lean, non-stop runner who can intercept and carry the ball up the field.

This was a valuable 45 minutes in the bank.

Ipswich Star: Wes Burns in action at Cambridge United.Wes Burns in action at Cambridge United. (Image: Steve Waller)


At the age of 36, Richard Keogh has been there, done it and got the t-shirt. But that didn't stop the former Republic of Ireland throwing his body in the way of shots in a meaningless Papa John's Trophy fixture. His passion for the game still burns brightly.

Wes Burns' performance is worthy of praise too. The Welshman looked much more like his old self during the second half, constantly running off the last shoulder, driving at defenders whenever he had the ball and clipping some nice crosses into the box. Hopefully he can carry that into Friday night.


Ipswich, stung by the injustice of Edwards' red card, started the second half really well. They dominated the ball for long periods and, despite their numerical disadvantage, actually had Cambridge sitting deep.

The tide began to turn on the hour mark though. Bonner introduced key men Harvey Knibbs and Sam Smith and the U's went up a gear.

Lankester, who had a good game against his boyhood club, saw a deflected shot loop onto the bar. Fejiri Okenabirhie shot wide at the end of a slick move. Knibbs then fired straight at Hladky from a golden position.

Cambridge deserved their 79th minute breakthrough when Lewis Simper's sweetly struck shot from outside the box skidded past the out-stretched hand of Hladky and in off the post.

In the end it mattered not. Ipswich, having already registered home wins against Northampton (6-0) and Arsenal U21s (2-0), still went through as group winners, therefore earning themselves a home draw for the first knockout round.

Cambridge, despite victory, went out due to the fact Arsenal U21s had won 3-1 at Northampton.

It's not clear when the draw for the last 32 will take place. What we do know is that Ipswich will host a team that finished second in one of the other southern groups. They are: Sutton, Newport, Bristol Rovers, Peterborough, MK Dons, Portsmouth and Gillingham.