Mansfield Town boss Steve Evans believes the inclusion of Premier League U21 sides has devalued the Checkatrade Trophy.
The Stags will take on Everton U21s at home on Tuesday in a bid to try to progress out of the group stage.
But fans continue to vote with their feet against this much-maligned competition and Evans said: “In my personal opinion I think people knock it because – here comes the Football League on to me tomorrow – I think it was devalued by bringing Academy sides in, 19/20-year-olds from Premier League elite level.
“You only have to look at some of the consistency of results around that.
“You had Middlesbrough going for a Carabao Cup tie down to Bournemouth and they are playing in the Checkatrade on the same evening. Is that right for the competition? I don’t think it is. That’s where the devaluation comes from.”
With 10 changes per team made, Stags gave themselves a chance of progress with a well-deserved 2-1 win at neighbours Notts County on Tuesday, though County boss Kevin Nolan may feel differently.
“It is surprising what we all see in football,” smiled Evans.
“In his post-match comments Kevin thought Notts County were the better team – then we wake up and see what really happened!
“It was a good win for us because we wanted to win a game.
“I thought the boys on duty were terrific from start to finish. The only sad aspect from our point of view is that we didn’t get a few more goals.
“We recognise that Kevin made some changes like we did, so therefore it wasn’t a full-on derby battle. But Kevin and his staff were very committed on the side, as we were.
“It was nice to catch up with him afterwards and we shared the same thoughts about what is happening around League Two at the minute in that it’s a very difficult competition.”
Evans was delighted with the quality of play from his second string, putting themselves into the frame for Saturday’s visit of Exeter City.
“I’ve often said to some of the lads who come into my office – talk is cheap. The best way to do your talking is do it in training and do it in games,” he said.
“You can play in all the reserve games in the world but there’s nothing better than playing against the likes of Notts County or any club around our level where it’s a proper game with spectators and people have to step up.
“I am delighted we have some options today in a positive way about what we do on Saturday.”