EFL Football Manager Cup | Round Two Review
Three 5-0 victories, a penalty shootout and a costly sending off were amongst the best bits of action from round two of the EFL Football Manager Cup.
10 new teams joined the tournament at this stage, hoping to make their mark on the competition while the 22 sides who made it through the first round were looking to build on their performances and mark themselves out as early favourites. Here’s how the second week panned out.
Five Star Performances
Nottingham Forest underlined their credentials as serious contenders as they produced an excellent performance in a convincing 5-0 win over Southend United. Forest’s manager, Joe Lolley, might have dropped himself but was confident after the match, saying his team are “improving with each game” which is an ominous sign for their opponents in the next round.
Tiago Silva sent Forest on their way with an effort that arrowed into the top corner from just inside the area, giving the Southend keeper with no chance. Ben Watson and Yuri Ribeiro added two goals in seven minutes midway through the second half before Ribeiro notched his second with five minutes left on the clock.
There was still time for Watson to score the goal of the game, and arguably the goal of the round. Forest went on the counter from a Southend corner and Samba Sow’s cross-field ball was cushioned into the path of Watson by Silva and the Reds midfielder lashed a swerving shot right into the roof of the net from 25 yards.
That strike seemed to impress Lolley with the Forest gaffer commenting on it post-match: “I didn’t realise he could reach the goal from that distance with his ageing legs so it was a shock to the system, I’m sure he’ll be dying to see himself get forward more and I look forward to him replicating it.”
Bristol City also ran out 5-0 winners as they beat Scunthorpe to move into the next round. An unlucky own goal from Scunthorpe goalkeeper Rory Watson put The Robins in front before Korey Smith added a second before half-time. Famara Diédhiou slotted home a penalty five minutes after the restart and went on to notch his second of the game with 10 minutes to go. A last-minute strike from Benik Afobe rounded things off for YouTuber Mikey Cobban’s side and they’ll be one to watch in the next round. Cobban declared that he was looking forward to the next match and that this win “indicated we can do really well in the competition.”
Lee Camp’s Birmingham City had a much easier time of things in this round than in round one, when they came within a minute of going out. This time out, Camp saw off the threat of fellow professional footballer, Chris Stokes, in a resounding 5-0 win over Forest Green Rovers. The Blues scored the fastest goal of the tournament so far when Jérémie Bela put them 1-0 up after just 26 seconds. Two goals from Lukas Jutkiewicz and solo strikes from Scott Hogan and Jude Bellingham saw them through in style.
Walsall see red and Penalty Drama at Brentford
Another week and another nervy 1-0 win for Karlan Grant’s Huddersfield as they came through against a resolute Walsall side. The Saddlers went down to ten men early on when Liam Kinsella was shown a straight red for a mistimed tackle on Emile Smith Rowe. Huddersfield were awarded a penalty late in the first half but the virtual Karlan Grant fired wide, much to the disappointment of his manager… Karlan Grant. The Terriers peppered the goal but couldn’t find a way through until the game rolled into injury time when Smith Rowe met Juninho Bacuna’s cross with a pinpoint header that nestled into the bottom corner. Grant will be hoping for an easier time of things in the next round.
Shrewsbury and Brentford both made their tournament debuts in round two, playing out a classic that showed neither side had been resting on their laurels in their extra week off. Shrewsbury went in front with 20 minutes to go through Sean Goss’ curled 20-yarder but Ollie Watkins levelled things up inside the last fifteen minutes.
Shrewsbury restored their advantage early in extra-time through Jason Cummings but Brentford hit back again almost immediately through an Emiliano Marcondes penalty. The Bees thought they’d won it deep into the second half of extra-time but Christian Norgaard’s close range goal was ruled out for offside and the game went down to the lottery of a penalty shootout. Brentford’s David Raya shone under the spotlight as he pulled off two saves to put Sam Jacques’ men into the hat for the next round.
Favourites and Underdogs
Preston built on their emphatic 10-1 win last time out with a 4-1 victory against Salford City. It was a baptism of fire for Salford, having been given a bye into round two, and they weren’t helped by being reduced to 10 men midway through the first half. Daniel Johnson netted his sixth goal of the tournament as Preston continued their free-scoring run.
Middlesbrough put in another polished performance as they saw off Blackpool 4-0. It’s the second straight dominant display coupled with a clean sheet after their 3-0 victory last time out and their manager, Neil Trewick, can be optimistic going into the round of 16. After the match he said, “At this stage everyone left in the competition is there on merit so difficult to say but I've seen Preston scoring for fun and Joe Lolley's Forest side look useful after beating Leeds so we’ll hopefully save them for the later rounds.”
Mansfield Town are the sole League Two side left in the competition after they beat Portsmouth 1-0 courtesy of an injury-time winner. FM YouTuber Proudie’s Portsmouth side caught the eye in Round One with a 6-0 win but came unstuck against a well-organised Mansfield side who pressured the Pompey goal throughout but had to wait until the 92nd minute to break the deadlock through Nicky Maynard. Mansfield will surely be tough opposition for whoever awaits them in the Round of 16.
There were three all-Championship matches in round two. QPR saw off West Bromwich Albion 3-1 with QPR boss Rob Roberts-Facey revealing post-match, “I’d be lying if I wasn’t slightly shocked at getting a win over Romaine Sawyers’ side.”
Charlie Cooper’s brand of ‘medieval football’ produced another 1-0 win for Fulham with Charlton falling victim to his unique style of play this time round.
Adam Armstrong’s Blackburn Rovers made their bow in the competition and made quite the statement with a 3-0 victory over Stoke. They’ll be a team that plenty of people will want to avoid in the next round.
The Next Round
The draw for the Round of 16 will take place at 3pm tomorrow, May 3rd on the Football Manager Twitter page with some fascinating ties guaranteed to be drawn as we head into the business end of the tournament. We’ll have a full recap of next week’s action here on the FM website.
The EFL Football Manager Cup is being run in partnership with Mind, the mental health charity. You can show your support for the work they do protecting, supporting and saving lives by donating what you can afford at the tournament’s JustGiving page.
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