Neil Redfearn takes his Newcastle under-21 side on the bizarrely long trek to Shrewsbury for their second, and crucial, game of this year’s EFL Trophy campaign.
Quite why we face a 460 mile round trip for a game supposedly regionalised as a Northern Group, is baffling, despite some teams in the Midland region having to jockey between being considered North and South each year due to numbers.
But a win in tonight’s game is vital to Newcastle’s hopes of progressing to the knock-out stages, with them having already lost their first game at Macclesfield.
Toon Under-21 and Under-23 defender Oliver Walters spoke to the Official Newcastle website of the importance of the game, admitting “a lot is on the line”.
He said: “The game against Shrewsbury is very important for us as a squad as we need to get a positive result to give us a chance to qualify for the knockout stages.
“A lot is on the line as we can’t afford to slip up if we are wanting to progress in the competition.”
It has been an underwhelming start for Redfearn at Newcastle, with the Under-21s looking for their first win in the EFL Trophy, and the Under-23s having only won two games this season.
Newcastle know they must win at Shrewsbury to keep realistic hopes of progress
But Shrewsbury, who currently sit 12th in League One, and have an identical record to Newcastle in the EFL Group D table, having also lost their opener 2-1, is a very winnable game for the Toon youngsters.
If Newcastle were to win tonight, they would go level with Macclesfield in second, but unless they win by a wide margin, they will still then need to beat leaders Port Vale in their final match.
So a defeat tonight would literally leave Redfearn on the brink of elimination, as he tries to follow the relative success Ben Dawson achieved in the competition last season, by reaching the last eight of the Northern section.
A good result tonight would be the second in a row for the U21/U23 sides, and would leave them in high spirits ahead of their next game, which is the Wear/Tyne derby on October 21.
Fans can listen to tonight’s EFL Trophy game free of charge on the Newcastle United Official website, and the game gets under way at 7.30pm.