For Wigan Athletic, Sutton United, Hartlepool United and Rotherham United, this week could see our Semi-Finalists make history by booking their place in the Papa Johns Trophy Final 2022.
The Semi-Final is finally here, and, in a matter of days, two teams will be bound for Wembley Stadium!
Wigan welcome Sutton on Tuesday 8 March with a 19:45 kick-off at the DW Stadium.
To find out who will be joining either the Latics or the South Londoners at Wembley in April, Hartlepool United host Rotherham United at the Suit Direct Stadium the following day at 19:45.
Both Semi-Final ties will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.
Referee James Bell will take charge of Wigan v Sutton, alongside assistant officials Matthew Smith and Conor Brown, and fourth official Anthony Backhouse completing the line-up.
Meanwhile, Robert Madley has been named as referee for Hartlepool v Rotherham, to be joined by assistant referees Ravel Cheosiaua and Ollie Williams, and fourth official Martin Coy.
Ones to watch
Among the Latics’ ranks are former winners that could give Wigan an added advantage heading into the Semi-Final. Both Jack Whatmough and Max Power have lifted the trophy in recent years, with the former playing at Portsmouth when Pompey won the 2019 Final, and midfielder Power beating Tranmere in last year’s showpiece with Sunderland.
🧤 @LaticsOfficial's @jamie1jones is drawing upon previous experience in this competition to fuel his fire ahead of the #PapaJohnsTrophy Semi-Final.— Papa John's Trophy (@PapaJohnsTrophy) March 4, 2022
The stopper will be at the Wigan store this evening to meet supporters with the trophy. 🏆#EFL https://t.co/H2GA5L0sBE
Sutton, however, have experience on their side. The ever-reliable Craig Eastmond clocked his 300th appearance for the U’s, marking the milestone with a goal as the South Londoners secured passage to the Semi-Final, and the captain will be looking to steer Sutton all the way to Wembley.
Hartlepool’s Luke Molyneux was recognised as the Quarter-Final Player of the Round as the Pools edged past Charlton Athletic. The attacker scored the leveller which took the tie down to a penalty shoot-out, keeping his cool from 12 yards to help Graeme Lee’s side make it through to the Semi-Finals. And Molyneux has been a regular from the spot, scoring three in three of the Pools’ shoot-outs in this competition.
Rotherham United’s impressive defensive record could set them on the way to the Final, and goalkeeper Josh Vickers may be the difference in the Millers’ Semi-Final clash with the Pools. Finding a way past a shot-stopper who boasts 10 clean sheets in his last 11 is never an easy feat.
Route to the Semi-Final
After finishing as runners-up in Northern Group C, Wigan completed a double over neighbouring Accrington Stanley and Oldham Athletic, seeing off local rivals Oldham 6-0 in an emphatic showing in Round Three. And Leam Richardson’s side narrowly edged past Arsenal Under-21s; a slender 1-0 victory saw the Latics through to the Semi-Final.
Sutton United cruised through the Group Stage, topping Southern Group B, with wins over Crystal Palace Under-21s, Portsmouth and AFC Wimbledon. And triumphs over Stevenage, Colchester United and Harrogate Town have paved the U’s way to this stage in the competition.
Another team undefeated in this year’s Papa Johns Trophy, Hartlepool United placed second in Northern Group A to ensure passage to the knock-out rounds. The Pools saw off League One trio Sheffield Wednesday, Bolton and Charlton next to earn their spot in the Semi-Final, where they will come up against another third-tier outfit.
Rotherham United’s impressive tally of 15 goals in Northern Group E saw the South Yorkshire side finish in pole position, before seeing off Port Vale, Crewe Alexandra and Cambridge United.
A first-ever meeting between Wigan Athletic and Sutton United is on the cards, with the two sides having never gone head-to-head before in this competition or any other.
The Latics have lifted the trophy twice before, in 1985 and more recently in 1999, when they beat fellow Semi-Finalists Rotherham en-route to the Final. Should Richardson’s side progress to Wembley this year, they could have the chance to match Bristol City’s record three triumphs in the EFL Trophy.
Sutton, meanwhile, are enjoying their inauguration into the Papa Johns Trophy, following their promotion to League Two last year.
🤝 𝐇𝐞𝐚𝐝-𝐓𝐨-𝐇𝐞𝐚𝐝 🤝@Official_HUFC and @OfficialRUFC have met twice in this competition before, with one win apiece...— Papa John's Trophy (@PapaJohnsTrophy) February 25, 2022
Who will come out on top this time around? #EFL | #PapaJohnsTrophy pic.twitter.com/nB269i9llh
Rotherham United also have history in this competition, having been crowned champions of the EFL Trophy in 1996, when – ironically – the South Yorkshire side ousted the Latics on their path to the showpiece. As for Hartlepool, the Papa Johns Trophy could mark a piece of silverware in the Pools’ first season back in the EFL, having ascended to League Two after four years away alongside Sutton last season.