The 2017/18 Checkatrade Trophy got under way with a goal-filled opening week, which saw twists, turns, and a triumph for teenage talent.
The perfect example of that came at Home Park, where just short of 4,000 fans were in attendance to watch Plymouth Argyle face Chelsea’s Under-21 side.
Chelsea took control in the second half thanks to a brace from 16-year-old prodigy Callum Hudson-Odoi, but Argyle replied late on thanks to their own young starlet, 18-year-old Alex Fletcher.
The forward’s 88th and 90th minute goals set up a penalty shoot-out — taken in the new ‘ABBA’ format, which is being trialled in EFL competitions this season — and it was the Pilgrims who prevailed for the bonus point.
Derek Adams, the Argyle boss, was full of praise for his young striker, saying: “It was an excellent night for him, he’s so happy. He’s got two first-team goals to his name and that’s important for him.
“It’s not easy, but he’s shown that, when the ball is in and around the penalty area, he can score.”
Two new sides to the competition, Manchester City U21 and Tottenham Hotspur U21, were also taken to penalties on Tuesday night, experiencing contrasting fortunes.
City grabbed a last-minute equaliser to draw at Rotherham United before winning 4-2 in the shoot-out — four British youth internationals were on target from 12 yards for the visitors.
Great experience tonight playing against Rotherham First team! Boys dug deep and got the result 💙#Mcfc— Taylor Richards (@TaylorJRicho) August 15, 2017
Spurs eventually came unstuck against last year’s semi-finalists Luton Town in a topsy-turvy affair, played out in front of more than 2,500 fans at Kenilworth Road.
After coming from a goal down to lead 2-1, the U21 outfit were pegged back by the Hatters, who then prevailed 4-2 on spot-kicks.
The first goal of this year’s competition was scored by West Ham United U21’s Martin Samuelsen — a player who has picked up valuable experience in the EFL with loan spells at Peterborough United and Blackburn Rovers.
The Hammers went on to defeat Swindon Town 3-2 and U21 boss Terry Westley was proud of his young squad, saying: “To come here against a full strength side of Swindon and to get our first ever win in this competition is a great boost for us.
“They were direct and we had to deal with long balls and those second balls and then try and establish our own game, but in the end I think we deserved the victory.”
Swansea City U21 also emerged victorious, with 19-year-old Welsh youth international Aaron Lewis capping their comeback at Cheltenham Town.
Great shift from the boys to get the 2-1 win over Cheltenham. Always nice to get the winner!🤘🏼⚽️ @SwansOfficial— Aaron Lewis (@aaronjameslewis) August 15, 2017
Notts County were Tuesday night’s other winners, with the experienced Jonathan Forte and Haydn Hollis helping them to a 2-1 win over Everton U21 at Meadow Lane.
Twenty-four hours later, Portsmouth and Fulham U21 played out a six-goal thriller, with the Cottagers claiming the additional point with victory from the spot at Fratton Park.
Checkatrade Trophy Group Stage — Key Stats
- More than 15,000 fans witnessed the first week of the 2017/18 Checkatrade Trophy campaign
- The new ‘ABBA’ penalty format was trialled in four of the seven matches
- Notts County were the only EFL club to pick up three points — Luton and Plymouth earned two
- Manchester City and Fulham's U21 sides grabbed two points on their Checkatrade Trophy bow; Spurs U21 took one
Checkatrade Trophy results
Tuesday 15th August
North: Group F
Rotherham 1-1 Manchester City U21 (Man City U21 win 4-2 on penalties)
North: Group G
Notts County 2-1 Everton U21
South: Group C
Swindon Town 2-3 West Ham United U21
South: Group D
Plymouth Argyle 2-2 Chelsea U21 (Plymouth win 5-4 on penalties)
South: Group E
Cheltenham Town 1-2 Swansea City U21
South: Group F
Luton Town 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur U21 (Luton win 4-2 on penalties)
Wednesday 16th August
South: Group A
Portsmouth 3-3 Fulham U21 (Fulham win 4-2 on penalties)