Norwich City Under-21s will officially start their 2020-21 season on Tuesday, September 8, when they face Plymouth in the EFL Trophy (7:45pm KO).
The group stage tie against the Pilgrims will be the Academy’s first competitive game since March 2, making up a tally of six months absence.
Since returning to training at the beginning of August, the U23s side have faced three teams in pre-season friendlies, taking two wins and one loss to opposition including Portsmouth, Ipswich Town and King’s Lynn Town.
Hungry to get off on the right foot, a win will be a great way for David Wright’s U23s to kick-off their 2020-21 campaign, especially against newly promoted League One side Plymouth.
Following a group stage format, a win would give the Canaries three points of a possible nine, setting them up nicely for the subsequent two games to Newport County and Cheltenham Town.
Having only played two games of a pre-season, Plymouth’s form isn’t an easy one to interpret, taking a 1-0 loss to Middlesbrough and a 2-1 win over Forest Green Rovers in recent weeks.
Under-23s right-back Ethen Vaughan is optimistic for the test ahead, saying the pre-season friendly wins the team accumulated have put them in good stead for their first competitive fixture.
“We’ve had two good pre-season friendlies against Ipswich and King’s Lynn town," he said. "I think King’s Lynn was a really good test and as a team I thought we played really well; we exploited the areas. That has given us the confidence now we’re going into Plymouth on Tuesday, it got us ready to go.
"It was good timing really, playing King’s Lynn and getting the win and now going into Plymouth, emotions are good, the team is looking confident in training and we’re looking really well prepared. It’s going to be a really good game.”
Having picked up an injury early in the 2019-20 season, Vaughan came back to the season strong, going on to earn his place in the U23s. Asked about his progress and the adjustment in age groups, the young right-back gave full credit to his teammates for his growth in the side.
“I had the injury of breaking my foot, which put a downer on things, but then I had a couple training sessions and a game for the Under-23s, then coronavirus came. I really feel like I’ve bonded with the team and coaches, they’ve all been very welcoming, and I think it is a good team to be in.
"They’ve helped me get to where I’m at and they help me improve every day. The team and coaches get the most out of me, so I’m really grateful for that.”
The Under-23s have good reason to have confidence going into this big fixture after their 1-0 win over King’s Lynn Town, U23s coach David Wright agreeing on its difficulty, but saying they should focus on their ‘process’ and not solely on the three points.
“It’s going to be a really tough game, Plymouth got promoted last year, I think third-place behind Swindon," he said. "It’s going to be a really tough test going there. We know what we’re up against.
“As I said to the players, I’m interested in the process. If we get the process right, which we did in the second-half [against King’s Lynn], then the result will take care of itself.”