It’s a quiet midweek this week as we await the World Cup qualifiers which begin on Thursday, and we’ll have tips for the full international program. In the meantime, despite a dearth of top level action, there’s a host of intriguing fixtures in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday night. Otherwise known as the Checkatrade Trophy, the former Johnstones Paint competition has changed beyond recognition this season.
In a bid to ignite enthusiasm for the lower league competition, the Football League has invited Premier League and Championship academy sides to enter. It’s a subject of some controversy, with the top teams grateful for the competitive action for under-23 and reserve players, but several clubs in the Football League opposed to the idea. In another change the Trophy has been organised into group stages which lead to a more traditional knockout phase. 64 teams have been split into 16 groups of four – eight in the Northern section and eight in the Southern section. And in yet another twist, any games finishing all-square after 90 minutes will go straight to a penalty shoot out with a bonus point awarded to the winner.
Whether you agree or not, it’s certainly interesting to see some of the Premier League’s top-rated youngsters going up against clubs from Leagues One and Two, and it adds a new dimension to the competition. The bookmakers may have underestimated the academy sides in the first round of group games. Sunderland and Leicester under-23’s took Rochdale and Sheffield United to penalties after drawing over 90 minutes. Reading U23’s beat Bristol Rovers 3-2, and Everton U23’s beat Bolton 2-0. Southampton U23’s held Charlton to a draw, and the Norwich academy side ran riot in a 6-1 victory over Peterborough.
We’ve picked out four decent bets for the night, with two decent-looking ‘banker’ home teams, and two academy sides at long odds.
Sheffield United v Walsall
The first bet of the night is Sheffield United, who are a decent 4/51.80-1250.80-1.250.80 with SkyBet and Betway to beat League One rivals Walsall at Bramall Lane.
The Blades have been knocking on the Championship door over the last few seasons, without ever quite doing enough to earn promotion. After eleven games so far this season, they’re 4th in the table with 18 points and another promotion challenge is on the cards. They were beaten on penalties by Leicester’s under-23 side after a 0-0 draw in the last round of games in this competition, but since then have won four and drawn two in a six-game unbeaten run.
Walsall are 16th in the League One table, just a point above the relegation zone, and they haven’t won away all season. They lost 2-0 here in the league in April, and a similar result would be no surprise.
Doncaster v Derby U23
Another side we fancy to do the business at home is Doncaster, who are rated a 87/1001.87-1150.87-1.150.87 chance with BoyleSports when they take on Derby U23’s.
The Rams’ academy side were on a run of six defeats prior to back-to-back 2-1 wins against Reading U23 and Jong PSV. The six losses included a 1-0 defeat at League One Port Vale in this competition, and a trip to League Two title-challengers Doncaster is another big ask.
Rovers are 2nd in England’s third tier, behind Plymouth, and a return to League One is the priority this season. However, this cup competition is a realistic chance of a Wembley appearance and much-needed finances, and Rovers were 2-0 winners on the road at Mansfield in the last set of games.
Grimsby v Leicester U23
Leicester’s under-23 side was impressive in holding Sheffield United to a 0-0 draw and beating them on penalties, and they are worth chancing at decent odds of 2/13.00+2002.002.00-0.50 with Betfred
Grimsby have lost three of their last five matches on home soil, despite holding a fair position of 9th in League Two. They were thumped 5-2 by Walsall in the last round of games in the Checkatrade Trophy, and were beaten 3-0 at home by Hartlepool in their last league match.
After keeping a clean sheet at Sheffield United, Leicester’s youngsters should have no fear when they travel to Grimsby, and can take the game to their opponent.
Cheltenham v Everton U23
Finally, we’re also going to back one of the shock winners from the previous round, Everton U23 when they travel to Cheltenham. The Toffees academy side are 47/252.88+1881.881.88-0.53 with Ladbrokes.
Bolton were the victims in a surprise 2-0 home defeat to an Everton U23 side which has won nine of it’s last ten matches. There are clearly some talented youngsters coming through on Merseyside, and their latest away result was a 5-0 win over Arsenal U23.
Cheltenham have only won one of their last ten matches, after drawing three and losing six. One of those defeats was a 2-1 loss at Blackpool in the last round of this competition, and this could be a an embarrassing result for the side teetering on the brink of the League Two relegation zone.
Sheffield United to beat Walsall
Tuesday 4th October, 19:45 GMT
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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