While not typically a competition that picks up a lot of focus, the Football League Trophy is a tournament that can bring plenty to a team’s campaign.
For sides in League One or League Two, this competition affords a realistic chance of a trip to Wembley and the opportunity to lift some silverware come the end of the campaign.
And although the games in the competition can occasionally clog up what’s already a convoluted calendar as it is, there are few fans who’d swerve the chance of making the jaunt to the home of football to watch their team.
The route to the final begins in earnest this week, with the first round of fixtures in the Northern and Southern sections of the draw set to be played out. To ensure you don’t miss any of the action, here’s a full fixture list and a set of predictions for this week’s clashes:
|Preston North End||vs.||Shrewsbury Town||2-1|
|Accrington Stanley||vs.||Carlisle United||1-1|
|Oldham Athletic||vs.||Bradford City||2-2|
|Notts County||vs.||Mansfield Town||1-0|
|Wycombe Wanderers||vs.||Coventry City||1-2|
|Newport County||vs.||Swindon Town||1-3|
|Cheltenham Town||vs.||Oxford United||1-1|
|Crawley Town||vs.||Cambridge United||2-0|
|Peterborough United||vs.||Leyton Orient||3-1|
|AFC Wimbledon||vs.||Southend United||2-1|
In many respects, this tournament has done plenty to help preserve the essence of what football is truly about. It gives teams from all corners of the country a chance to dream of a date at Wembley, and the organisers seem to take a keener interest in the supporters in attendance.
Indeed, the Northern and Southern sections of the draw ensure that hardcore fans don’t have to make dauntingly long away trips for midweek matches. In addition, with clubs keen to get people through the door, there’s usually a chance for spectators to sample some cheap football for a minimal price, as noted here by Stevenage FC:
But with the carrot there of a trip to the national stadium, this is a competition teams still take pretty seriously despite it's relatively laid back approach. And the Round 1 draw has churned out some intriguing looking contests. The most exciting of which is perhaps Peterborough United vs. Leyton Orient, a game which will be shown live on Sky Sports 2 and streamed via the Sky Go App:
Orient are a club that will be well aware of what a strong performance in the cup competitions can mean having already sampled some unexpected acclaim in one this season. The O's produced an excellent performance to knock Aston Villa out of the League Cup earlier in campaign, and having lost at Wembley in the League One Playoff final last season, Russell Slade’s side will be keen to get back and make amends.
They’ll be going up against a Peterborough side that have not only started their league campaign in fine fettle but will also be desperate to defend a competition that they won last season. They overcame League Two side Chesterfield 3-1 to win the 2014 version of the tournament.
The Posh will host this clash in front of a raucous London Road crowd, and having notched four wins from their five League One games so far, they’ll be confident of overcoming an Orient side that have struggled for consistency in the league during the early stages of the campaign.
With the international break puncturing the top-flight calendar over the next fortnight, there’s an excellent opportunity to take in some competitive, ferocious and quality football from the lower leagues. And with matches on television and players undeniably desperate to impress a new audience, the Football League Trophy is an excellent place to kindle a lower league affair.