Notts County’s Papa Johns Trophy campaign begins at home this week, against Premier League academy opposition Wolves U21s. The other two sides in our group face off next week, with an all-League-One affair occurring at Pride Park between Derby County and Lincoln City.
Wolves U21s have had a poor start to the Premier League 2 season, picking up just three points from their first four matches, scoring eight and conceding ten. However, the academy side did recently get their first win of the season, as they beat Crystal Palace U21s 3-2, with all five goals coming in the second half. Owen Hesketh opened the scoring from the spot in the 54th minute, and Owen Farmer scored from distance to double the hosts’ lead in the 60th. The away side got a goal back in the 69th minute, however, only a minute later, Nathan Fraser restored Wolves’ two-goal lead. After a nervy end to the game with the Eagles getting a goal in added time, the home side held out to get their first points of the season.
Notts have only played one cup match so far this season, losing 2-0 to Lincoln City at Meadow Lane. There were two defensive worries for the Magpies this game, as Geraldo Bajrami went off in the 11th minute because of a knee injury, and it was later announced that the Albanian would be likely to miss the duration of the season. In the 56th minute, Aden Baldwin got a second yellow card, taking Notts down to ten men and meaning that he would miss the next game against Grimsby. After this loss though, Notts have had very good form in the league, getting four wins and two draws from the next six games, and even though this competition isn’t a priority, they will still want to win the game regardless to carry on their momentum.
One player to look out for on the away side is centre-forward Nathan Fraser. He has already started the season strong, getting three goals already in the PL2 campaign, but as well as that, he seems to be a player that has caught the attention of first-team manager Gary O’Neil. The striker featured off the bench in a Carabao Cup fixture, where he got a goal and an assist in just 28 minutes as part of a 5-0 win against Blackpool. After impressing in this cup victory, the striker was named on the bench for a Premier League match against Crystal Palace, he didn’t get any minutes in the game, however it shows the quality he possesses as the manager would have been confident in him to perform if he was called upon. Finally, Fraser is an Ireland youth international, getting four caps and scoring one goal for the U19s, so the striker has various experiences in both youth and senior football - proving why he could be a threat for our backline on Tuesday.
Notts have a tough game just 3 days after this fixture, with the Magpies travelling to the Peninsula Stadium to play Salford City, a side who have been in or just outside of the play-offs for the last few seasons. They have had a poor start to this season so far, however it could still be a big test for the away side, so a lot of rotation against Wolves is vital, and this will give a chance to players who have hardly featured to impress the boss. New signing Will Randall is yet to play a minute for the Magpies, however he was named on the bench for the first time in our 1-1 draw at MK Dons, showing that he is getting back to full fitness and could be a starter midweek. Furthermore, striker Junior Morias has only played 55 minutes since joining at the back end of last season, he played a cameo role in a cup fixture earlier on in the season, but will be wanting to start against Wolves to make an impression. Finally, three youngsters who could feature are Luther Munakandafa, our latest signing Lewis Macari, and Ollie Tipton (depending on if he is allowed to play against his parent club). These three have played a combined 14 minutes for us this season, all coming from the Wolves loanee Tipton who featured in our Carabao Cup loss to Lincoln City – so all three will be eager to impress. Even with a rotated squad, Notts should still be favourites to win the game.