An 11-goal thriller, a 17-year-old becoming his club’s youngest captain and a record number of Premier League academy sides making the knockout stages – the penultimate night of matches in the EFL’s Leasing.com Trophy certainly had a few tales to tell.
BBC Sport rounds up Tuesday’s action in the final round of group matches in the tournament for sides in Leagues One and Two and selected academy teams from the Premier League and Championship.
Can everyone stop conceding goals?
The EFL Trophy could not be accused of being dull on Tuesday night – 52 goals in 14 games meant most people who went to a match got their money’s worth in terms of entertainment.
Top of the lot has to be Newport County’s 7-4 win at Cheltenham Town – Taylor Maloney and Tristan Abrahams both scored hat-tricks for the Welsh side who move second in Southern Group E.
The away victory was their first in the competition this season but might not be enough to see them through – West Ham’s academy side will leapfrog them if they can avoid losing to Exeter City on Wednesday.
The biggest win of the night was 60-odd miles up the M5 as Cheltenham’s Gloucestershire rivals Forest Green Rovers were thrashed 6-0 at Walsall.
Josh Gordon scored the first three goals for the Saddlers – who are struggling towards the foot of League Two – before Wes McDonald, Liam Kinsella and Cameron Norman wrapped up the win in the final 20 minutes to top the Southern section’s Group D by a point from Coventry City.
Three penalties and 17-year-old captain
Whatever happens in 17-year-old Nico Jones’ career, Tuesday 12 November might take some topping.
The teenager became Oxford United’s youngest-ever captain and led his side to a 4-1 win away at 10-man Crawley Town.
The game was a dead rubber as Oxford were already through in second place, but that did not stop Robert Hall hitting a hat-trick – the fourth across all the games.
Hall opened the scoring after 12 minutes before Anthony Forde doubled the lead 16 minutes later from the penalty spot.
The former West Ham and Bolton attacker then dispatched two more penalties after half-time to take home the match ball.
Iron end Sunderland’s hopes of second final
Sunderland have never won the competition but have reached the knockout stages in their previous two campaigns, reaching last year’s final.
However, they were dumped out 3-0 at Scunthorpe.
It was goalless until Luke O’Nien’s red card in the 65th minute for a foul on Abo Eisa in the box with Lee Novak scoring the resulting penalty.
Eisa made the game safe in the 89th minute before Novak scored a stoppage-time third as Scunthorpe leapfrogged the former Premier League side and took second place in Group A of the Northern section.
A derby’s a derby…
The Trophy is much-maligned for its poor attendances – Coventry City mustered just 375 paying punters for their 3-2 win over Southampton’s academy last week.
But you cannot accuse Ipswich’s fans of taking it lightly – 2,871 fans made the 30-odd minute journey across the border from Suffolk to Essex as they faced closest rivals Colchester United.
Sadly they did not see a famous victory – although they did see a wonder goal as Ryan Clampin’s 80th-minute chip from the halfway line saw the U’s win 1-0.
Colchester take top spot in Southern Group A, although Gillingham’s 2-0 win over Tottenham’s academy in the other game in the group ensured both sides progressed.
More academies set to make knockout stages than ever
|Academy teams through to knockout stages|
|Leicester City||Manchester United|
|Everton||Brighton and Hove Albion|
|Wolverhampton Wanderers||West Ham United (will progress if they do not lose at Exeter City)|
It is the fourth season that top academy sides from clubs in the Premier League and Championship have been allowed to play in the EFL Trophy.
It has always been a bone of contention among some who have concerns that it is the start of allowing ‘B’ teams into the English football pyramid, while crowds for matches between academy sides and ‘first teams’ have not always been great.
In the past, most of the academies were eliminated after the group stage – the highest number ever to make the knockout stages had been three.
Only Chelsea in the 2017-18 season have made it as far as the semi-finals when they lost 4-2 on penalties to Lincoln City and had the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ethan Ampadu, Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James and Kylian Hazard (Eden’s younger brother) in their squad.
But this season seven academies are already through, while West Ham could make it eight on Wednesday, meaning a quarter of the teams in the knockout stages are academy teams.
EFL Trophy results in full:
Scunthorpe United 3-0 Sunderland
Tranmere Rovers 0-2 Salford City
Port Vale 2-1 Newcastle United Academy
Burton Albion 1-2 Mansfield Town
Bradford City 1-2 Rochdale
Morecambe 3-1 Carlisle United
Lincoln City 3-0 Rotherham United
Gillingham 2-0 Tottenham Hostpur Academy
Colchester United 1-0 Ipswich Town
Crawley Town 1-4 Oxford United
Walsall 6-0 Forest Green
Cheltenham Town 4-7 Newport County
Milton Keynes Dons 1-2 Wycombe wanderers
Peterborough United 2-1 Cambridge United
The group stage is completed on Wednesday, while the draw for the competition takes place at 14:00 GMT on Saturday 16 November.