Portsmouth's fate in the EFL Trophy may already be sealed following the 5-3 opening day defeat to AFC Wimbledon
With Pompey losing their opening match of this season’s Papa John’s Trophy campaign, Danny Cowley’s side’s fate may already be sealed in terms of lifting the trophy in April.
Since the competition’s reform in 2016, which saw the introduction of Premier League and Championship under-21 teams coinciding with the group stage format, every team to have been crowned champions have won their opening fixture.
The five champions since the start of the 2016/17 season have been Coventry, Lincoln City, Salford, Sunderland, and, of course, the Blues. Each of these five clubs have failed to lose their first group stage game, with each respective victory proving to be the springboard to a victory at Wembley.
Kenny Jackett’s Pompey beat Gillingham 4-0 before winning every match during the 2018/19 campaign, which resulted in a penalties victory over Sunderland at the home of football in the final.
The current Pompey boss was in charge of the Imps when they lifted the trophy in 2018, and they started the 2017/18 campaign with a 3-1 away win at Mansfield. A narrow 1-0 victory in the final against Shrewsbury was enough to be crowned champions.
Yesterday’s 5-3 defeat at the hands of AFC Wimbledon was only the second defeat the Fratton Park outfit had suffered in the group stages across the past 13 matches; a run stretching back until 2016.
The last time the Blues tasted defeat in the competition came against West Ham under-21s, where Kai Crobett’s goal in the fourth minute was enough to secure the victory.
It isn’t out of the realms of possibility for the Blues to qualify from group B, with games, seemingly winnable games, against Sutton and Crystal Palace under-21s to follow. It is also clear that Cowley will use the competition to introduce inexperienced young players into the first team picture, so regardless of what stage the Blues reach, it’ll be a valuable experience regardless.