EFL Football Manager Cup | Round One Review
There were plenty of goals, late winners, and drama in an action-packed first round of the inaugural EFL Football Manager Cup.
The tournament, which is being run in partnership with the EFL and their charity partner, Mind kicked off on Monday with the last of the first round games completed on Thursday night. Here are the key highlights of the first week.
Leeds vs Nottingham Forest was billed as the tie of the round as two of the biggest teams in the EFL went head-to-head. The game did not disappoint as both teams played a free flowing, attacking style that produced plenty of chances at both ends. Forest, managed by their 2018/19 Player of the Season Joe Lolley, took the lead through Nuno Da Costa after 19 minutes but their joy would be short-lived as Leeds equalised five minutes later through Jack Harrison.
Lewis Grabban restored Forest’s lead with 20 minutes to go but Matty Cash’s red card in the 88th minute meant it would be a nervy last few minutes for Lolley’s men. Forest held on to book their place in the second round and, luckily for Lolley, Cash’s red card won’t carry over to their next game.
Arguably the most entertaining tie of the round took place between Championship side Birmingham City and League Two’s Swindon Town. Birmingham’s goalkeeper, Lee Camp, was installed as the club’s virtual manager but came up against experienced opposition in the form of Football Manager community veteran, FMDoop. It was Doop who will be left wondering what might have been after coming within a minute of pulling off an amazing upset.
Swindon took the lead from the penalty spot as former Birmingham man Paul Caddis squeezed the ball past the Camp’s virtual alter ego. Despite having a man sent off after just 37 minutes, it looked like Doop’s men were going to hold on only for Scott Hogan to latch onto Jude Bellingham’s through ball and slot the ball past the Swindon keeper deep into injury time. That goal took the wind out of Swindon’s sails and two goals from Lukas Jutkiewicz and a second from Hogan sent Birmingham into the hat for the second round.
Camp credited his tactical nous post-match saying he was “always confident that we would spring the offside trap, we pressed high and stopped them from trying to play out and control possession.” It’ll be interesting to see if he sticks with that philosophy in the next round.
The first Bristol Derby in nearly seven years produced all of the action and suspense that you’d expect from a local derby. Bristol Rovers’ manager, former England rugby international Duncan Bell, was in hopeful mood ahead of kick-off but his side were dealt a blow when Josh Barrett was sent off in the first half. Bristol City’s gaffer, YouTuber Mikey Cobban, took full advantage and The Robins went into the lead midway through the second half. Despite an equaliser for Rovers, two further City goals – one in injury time – sealed the local bragging rights for the red half of the city.
Elsewhere there were goals galore at Deepdale as Preston thrashed Crawley 10-1. Daniel Johnson’s five goal haul and perfect 10.0 match rating earned him the title of Player of the Round. Preston manager James Moulding sent an ominous warning to the rest of the competition when he commented post-match, “To have 12/13 corners and not muster a shot on goal from them shows there is still work to be done on the training ground.”
Wigan and West Bromwich Albion both hit five against League One opposition although, as in the Birmingham vs Swindon tie, Wigan needed extra-time to find their extra gear. Forest Green Rovers also turned in a five-star performance against Macclesfield Town with Aaron Collins notching a hat-trick.
Southend won the tournament’s first penalty shootout over Bradford but their Essex rivals Colchester were less lucky as they were edged out 3-2 by Charlton. Ipswich somehow came through against Port Vale in extra-time despite being down to nine men by the game’s conclusion with a Jon Nolan penalty enough to send the Tractor Boys through.
Leyton Orient were the first team to beat higher level opposition when they sent Tranmere out with a 2-1 win in the opening match of the tournament – a feat that was matched by Walsall in one of the last matches of the round.
FM YouTubers Lollujo and FoxInTheBox were both eliminated at the first stage of the competition as Lollujo’s Peterborough side lost 2-0 to QPR and Fox’s Northampton team went down to Mansfield by the same scoreline. There was some success for the FM community though as self-described Football Manager failure Proudie produced arguably the most shocking result of the round courtesy of a 6-0 drubbing of Plymouth. It’ll be interesting to see if he can continue this purple patch into the next round or if he returns to his usual ways.
The 22 winning teams from the first round will join the 10 teams who received a bye in the second round. Don’t forget, during the tournament you can show your support for Mind and help them protect, support and save lives by donating what you can at the tournament’s JustGiving page.
The draw for the second round will take place tomorrow, April 26th, on the Football Manager Twitter account and we’ll have a full recap of the second round action next weekend.
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