Cobblers draw West Ham, Coventry and Wycombe in EFL Trophy

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The Cobblers have been handed a favourable draw in the controversial new EFL Trophy.

Placed in southern section two, Rob Page’s men could have faced long trips to places such as Plymouth, Exeter or Swansea.

As it is, they have been drawn against West Ham United Under-21s, Coventry City and Wycombe Wanderers - and their only trip will be to the Ricoh Arena.

Each team plays each other once, and the Cobblers will host Wycombe and West Ham, and travel across the county border to play Coventry.

The Cobblers were actually also drawn to play at West Ham, but there will be no trip to the Olympic Stadium to take on the Hammers youngsters.

The EFL had previously stated that all the Academy clubs that have been invited to compete would host one of their games at their home ground, but the EFL immediately issued a statement saying West Ham will not play a game at their new east London base.

The Hammers will instead play all of their group games on the road, so despite being drawn to host the Cobblers in he final group game, they will be coming to Sixfields.

The fixtures will see the Cobblers host Wycombe in the week beginning August 29, travel to Coventry in the week beginning October 3, and then host West Ham in the week beginning November 7.

The EFL Trophy has replaced what was previously called the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

At the 2016 EFL Summer Conference, clubs voted to support the EFL Board’s recommendation to invite 16 clubs with Category 1 Academies to participate in a one season trial format of the EFL Trophy with an aim to reinvigorate the competition and support the wider development of young players across the English game.

A number of Premier League clubs, whilst appreciative of the offer, declined the invitation for operational and scheduling reasons.

But those clubs that did accept have been drawn into the 16 regionalised groups of four teams, each featuring at least one side from each of Leagues One and Two.

The top two teams in each group will progress into the knockout stages of the competition, which will undergo a further review after the pilot is completed following the showpiece final at Wembley Stadium in April 2017.

EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said: “Now that we have finalised what has turned out to be a longer than expected invitation process, we can start to work with our clubs and invited sides to ensure everyone gets the maximum benefit from being involved.

“When opting to make these innovative changes to the competition, at the very heart of our thinking was to ensure younger players got an opportunity to test themselves in competitive games against experienced professionals.

“By involving them much earlier at senior level, we have a real chance of developing more and better home grown players.

“The next stage is getting the group stage underway and today’s draw has thrown up some exciting prospects.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the competition develops on the pitch and also the reaction it gets from the crowd.

“But as stressed previously this is a one season trial and only at the end of the pilot will we take a step back and consider what lies in wait for future seasons.”

He added: “Whilst it’s disappointing not to have some of the Premier League sides involved in this season’s competition, they were all appreciative of the opportunity to participate and could see how the EFL Trophy would benefit their squads in the long term.

“But it ultimately came down to a question of scheduling – a problem football in this country continues to face and one we plan to address as part of the ‘Whole Game Solution’. Due to this perennial issue, we are forced to play this competition during international breaks.

“Many young Premier League players are away with their respective countries during these periods and this understandably led to a number of questions about availability and squad strength.

“There were also a number of sides who have already committed to sending their players out on loan for the period in which the games will be played and were reluctant to renege on those agreements, which again I understand and respect.

“In all our discussions it was made absolutely clear by the Premier League sides that if they were to be involved in the competition then they had a responsibility to ensure they were as competitive as possible in order do the competition justice.”

Southern Group D fixtures

Match Day 1 – w/c August 29, 2016

Coventry City v West Ham United; Northampton Town v Wycombe Wanderers

Match Day 2 – w/c October 3, 2016

Wycombe Wanderers v West Ham United, Coventry City v Northampton Town

Match Day 3 – w/c November 7, 2016

Wycombe Wanderers v Coventry City, West Ham United v Northampton Town (to be played at Sixfields)