The draw for the next round of the Papa John’s Trophy has been (seemingly) kind to us again, with either an Under 21 team or a League Two team coming to Sincil Bank.
It’s one from Mansfield Town and Everton Under 21s, which is a meeting of old friends, whichever way next week’s tie between the two goes. We’ve played Mansfield in three of the last five years in this competition, although they have always been group stage matches. Curiously, all three games have been away wins – 3-1 to us the year we won it and again the year we reached the semi-finals, whilst their visit to us in 2018/19 saw them win 2-1 in a hot-tempered affair.
As for Everton, it’s obviously not easy to have a history with an Under 21 team, but we have faced their youth in the competition before – in 2017/18 as we went on to win the competition. We beat them 2-1, a Jordan Maguire-Drew double securing the win. A host of players who have gone on to play in our division and above appeared for them that night, including Dennis Adeniran (Sheff Weds), Anthony Evans (Bristol Rovers), Nathan Broadhead (currently at Wigan on loan), Shayne Lavery (Blackpool) and Josh Bowler (Olympiacos). Of course, we’ve also played their senior team in the League Cup and FA Cup, both huge occasions for the club (us, not them).
In the competition this season, Everton U21s emerged from Morecambe’s group, but it wasn’t a classic. They drew 3-3 with Morecambe, losing 7-6 on penalties, then drew 1-1 with Harrogate, winning 4-2 on penalties. They did humiliate Hartlepool in their final group game, winning 6-0, with Thomas Cannon amongst the scorers, a player who has since appeared in the Premier League for them. That made them group winners, although they have to get past the Stags if they’re to visit Sincil Bank again.
As for Nigel Clough’s side, they beat Manchester City Under 21s 3-2 after trailing 2-1 at the break but were then beaten 2-0 at Grimsby. Derby were their final group opponent, and they drew 1-1, with former Imp George Maris getting their goal. They won that tie on penalties and progressed to the next round. They’re currently eighth in League Two as they frantically hunt that promotion they seemed so close to when we came up but have failed to achieve.
The tie is set to be played the week commencing 12 December 2022, between our home tie with Wycombe and the trip to Cheltenham.