Ipswich Town boss Paul Cook pleased with performance as goalless draw with Colchester United followed up by penalty shootout victory to seal EFL Trophy progression
The road to Wembley is still open for Ipswich Town fans in the Papa John's (EFL) Trophy, but it was only achieved thanks to prevailing 4-3 in a penalty shootout at home to lower-league Colchester United last night.
For the 8,100 supporters (566 Colchester fans) inside Portman Road – including a first appearance for Ed Schwartz, the representative for ORG who own 90 per cent of USA-based ownership group Gamechanger 20 Ltd – there was no lack of goalmouth action.
But neither side was able to break the deadlock across the 90 minutes with the sides' final Southern Group A winner-takes-all game proceeding to a penalty shootout as is customary for drawn group games in the competition.
Joe Piggott had seen his opening penalty saved by Jake Turner but Václav Hladký kept things level by keeping out former Town striker Freddie Sears' kick.
Conor Chaplin, Rekeem Harper, Bersant Celina and captain for the night Sone Aluko all went on to score for the Suffolk side before Colchester's Shay Cooper's effort struck the post.
The two points gained from the match saw Town clinch the second knockout qualification spot from the group behind West Ham United Under-21s. The regionalised (southern and northern) draw is set to take place on Saturday. They later found out they would have qualified whatever the result, but claimed a home draw as group winners, after West Ham United-21s were docked points.
Only defender Kane Vincent-Young and Cameron Burgess kept their starting places from the weekend's 1-1 draw in the Emirates FA Cup with lower-league Oldham Athletic as Cook made nine changes. They included rare appearances for Aston Villa loanee Louie Barry and Myles Kenlock, while Scott Fraser featured in an unfamiliar defensive midfield role. And the game marked former Town captain Luke Chambers' first return to Portman Road.
Despite failing to overcome another League Two side across 90 minutes in what was the first time in 19 matches the Blues had not scored, Cook declared himself pleased with the display and sealing progression.
"I'm delighted for the supporters," he told iFollow Ipswich.
"I thought it was a really enjoyable nil-nil. At times we played really, really well.
"We had some amazing opportunities to score and I actually felt in the game it was probably always going to peter out into a nil-nil.
"Penalties bring a bit of excitement for the crowd and Vaz (Václav) has done great, obviously the lads have scored a few and it was just a really good night for us.
"It is just enjoyable to win, winning is a great habit for everyone and to see the stadium erupt at the end there is really, really good."
He added: "Tonight was just a good night for us. We got a lot of minutes into players.
"I thought we played with an intent, we got into crossing positions and we had some really good performances.
"Everyone who wasn't involved on Saturday has probably done themselves the world of good tonight.
"The final ball and making the good decisions in the final third is the key to the game and the reality is if you don't do that you won't score goals.
"We are delighted to get through, it's a good cup competition and we've put a strong side out as you've seen tonight, so onwards and upwards in the competition."
Bailey Clements came on for the second half with Kenlock having been unwell at the interval, and the 20-year-old's performance in only his third senior game drew special praise from the Town boss.
"I thought Bailey was outstanding," he said. "A lot of our under-23 lads have probably suffered with the strength of the first-team squad now and you saw Bailey brought great energy, balance and left foot and done himself no harm at all."
Vincent-Young was also taken off at half-time with Cook confirming the full-back received 'a bang'.
Town (9th) are back at Portman Road again on Saturday as they return to Sky Bet League One action with the visit of sixth-placed Oxford United (3pm).
Karl Robinson's side have won their last three matches to sit four points above the Blues, with the U's having played a game less.
FA Cup date set
* Meanwhile, Ipswich's FA Cup first round proper replay at Oldham Athletic has now been confirmed as being set to take place next Tuesday (7.45pm).
The club has said gold card members are now able to purchase tickets. Season ticket holders can purchase tickets from 2pm this afternoon.