The 2021/22 Papa John’s Trophy Group Stage is in full swing, but the standings could all change.
Following the completion of the first round of fixtures, we assess how the Northern and Southern Group Stages are shaping up.
Northern Group Stage
Sitting pretty at the top of Group A, Everton Under-21s took maximum points from their opening fixture against Morecambe. Each with one game played, Carlisle United – who hold the most Final appearances, featuring in six and winning two – bested Hartlepool United in the penalty shoot-out to put two points on the board.
Meanwhile, in Group B, Tranmere Rovers and Oldham Athletic are tied on three points, having emerged triumphant in their respective opening matches against Leeds United Under-21s and Salford City - the winners of the delayed 2020 Papa John's Trophy Final.
There was late drama in Group C as table toppers Crewe Alexandra beat Shrewsbury Town in the 92nd minute, whilst Wolverhampton Wanderers saw off Wigan Athletic in the penalty shoot-out, after the two teams were unable to be separated in 90 minutes.
Liam Kelly and Rochdale have enjoyed a strong start to their Papa John’s Trophy campaign in Group D, as the midfielder netted on his debut for the Club against Liverpool Under-21s in a 4-0 victory. Meanwhile, Bolton Wanderers secured three points as they edged third placed Port Vale last month.
Rotherham United’s record 6-0 victory over local rivals Doncaster Rovers earned their place at the top of Group E, and Rovers moved up to third in the wake of last night’s Group Stage triumph over second placed Manchester City Under-21s. Scunthorpe United, meanwhile, occupy fourth place.
Lincoln City have fashioned a six-point lead at the top of Group F, overcoming Manchester United Under-21s and Bradford City. United, on the other hand, moved up to second with a resounding 3-0 win over the Bantams yesterday evening, who are yet to taste victory in the Papa John’s Trophy along with reigning champions Sunderland.
West Bromwich Albion loanee Callum Morton’s first senior treble cemented Fleetwood Town’s position at the top of Group G, as the Sky Bet League One side defeated Leicester City Under-21s.
Three goals from Harrogate Town hat-trick hero Danilo Orsi-Dadomo secured three points for the North Yorkshire side against fourth-tier rivals Mansfield Town, chasing down Sheffield Wednesday at the top. Similarly, the Owls claimed maximum points, registering a comfortable 3-0 win over Newcastle United Under-21s.
Southern Group Stage
Leading the pack in Group A, West Ham United Under-21s sit level on three points with Gillingham. Meanwhile, Ipswich Town and Colchester United are yet to get off the mark in the competition.
In Group B, Sutton United secured their first victory of the season in all competitions against Crystal Palace Under-21s, to mark the EFL newcomers’ entry into the Papa John’s Trophy. Goal difference alone now separates Sutton and second placed AFC Wimbledon, who defeated Portsmouth - Finalists in two of the last three seasons - in their opening fixture.
Second in Southern Group C and third in the League One standings, Milton Keynes Dons sit level on points with Aston Villa Under-21s, who sit at the summit of the standings. Burton Albion and Wycombe Wanderers inhabit the third and second spots respectively.
Fine margins separate Group D, with Walsall positioned at the summit of the standings. Northampton Town follow closely behind on two points, with Forest Green Rovers registering a point and Brighton and Hove Albion Under-21s at the foot of the table.
Matt Jay’s late leveller rescued a point for Exeter City against Chelsea Under-21s, with Bristol Rovers putting aside their lacklustre League form and riding high in Group E, in the wake of a 2-0 win over Cheltenham Town.
As is the story so far in Group F, Swindon Town’s hard-fought victory over Arsenal Under-21s was deserving of all three points, but Newport County claimed the top spot with a triumph over Plymouth Argyle.
Group G is heating up, as cross-city London rivals Charlton Athletic and Leyton Orient dominate the Papa John’s Trophy standings. The Addicks provided the entertainment factor in a seven-goal thriller with Crawley Town, which saw Charlton come out on top 6-1 against John Yems’ men.
Yesterday evening, Cambridge United doubled their points tally at the top of Group H, following up a 4-1 win over Oxford United in August. Sam Smith’s strike was enough to see off second placed Tottenham Hotspur Under-21s, who beat Stevenage last month.