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Sunderland v Tranmere Rovers - Papa John’s Trophy - Final 2021 - Wembley Stadium

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Match Preview: The Lads kick-off their EFL Trophy defence with a trip to take on Lincoln City!

Tonight we begin our defence of the Papa Johns Trophy as we take on our semi-final opponents from last season, Lincoln City - here’s everything you need to know ahead of kick-off!

Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

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Tuesday 5th October 2021

(L1) Lincoln City v Sunderland (L1)

Papa Johns Trophy

Northern Group F

Sincil Bank

Kick-Off: 19:00

Tickets & Match Coverage

Tickets: Tickets are now available online via SAFC here.

TV/Stream: Full live match coverage available via Further information can be found here.

Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Radio Newcastle (not online)

Don’t forget to follow the blow-by-blow account of the game on the Roker Report Twitter feed (@RokerReport) and check out the player ratings after the full-time whistle at!

The build-up...

It’s easy to forget, after the subsequent meetings in the play-offs and our Wembley success, that on our way to winning the Papa Johns Trophy last season we knocked out Lincoln City at the semi-final stage via a penalty shoot-out.

The fixture tonight, however, won’t have any of the pressures of a semi-final, be it the EFL trophy or for a chance to play in a one-off game for promotion to the Championship.

The fixture comes at a strange time with an international break around the corner, Oxford’s trip to the Stadium of Light is postponed, as is Lincoln’s trip to Wigan, so both managers will be looking to get this out of the way to re-group ahead of the next push in League One.

Portsmouth v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Lee Johnson will not want a repeat of Saturday
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

After last season’s success in the competition, Sunderland will feel this is a distraction this year, with the focus being on getting out of League One, and with the knowledge we have been there and done that, most fans wouldn’t be distraught if we crashed out in the group stage.

However, taking the performance on Saturday at Portsmouth into account, a lot of players who may get an opportunity tonight may be looking to give the manager something to think about ahead of the clash with Gillingham a week on Saturday.

After defeat in the play-off final last season, Lincoln have struggled so far this season, currently sitting in 16th position, only three points above the drop. On Saturday, they were a last-minute penalty away from avoiding a second successive defeat as they salvaged a point at home to high-flying Plymouth Argyle.

As much as the competition may be low down on their priorities this season, it does provide the opportunity to gather some much-needed momentum to kick-start their season.

Lincoln City v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League One
Lincoln City manager Michael Appleton
Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

The Rules...

Full competition rules can be found here, the following rules govern those of team selection:

Each EFL Club shall play its Full Available Strength in and during all Matches. Full Available Strength means the EFL Club must include at least four Qualifying Players in the ten outfield Players named in the starting eleven on the Team Sheet.

Qualifying Player means any Player who:

  • Had started the immediately preceding First Team Fixture (as defined below);
  • Subsequently starts the immediately following First Team Fixture;
  • Is in the list of ten Players at the Club with the highest number of starting appearances in First Team Fixtures* in the same Season;
  • Has made forty or more starting appearances in First Team Fixtures* or international equivalents (and not limited to the same Club or Season); or
  • Is on standard loan from a Premier League Club or any EFL Club operating a Category One Academy.

First Team Fixture means the League Competition, Premier League, EFL Cup or FA Challenge Cup (but shall, in the context of specified Rules*, also include this Competition).

The Betting...

Nobody has much of a clue what sides either team will put out so it’s pin the tail on the donkey time in terms of the odds. We are 6/4 to win in the group stage at the first time of asking, while Lincoln are 17/10 to take the home win, and the draw is 2/1.

In terms of a final score, a 1-1 draw is the shortest odds at 9/2, with a 1-0 away win at 7/1, closely followed by a Lincoln 1-0 win at 15/2.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg
Lee Johnson during the League One Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg back in May
Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Played for Both...

Billy Knott

The midfielder joined the Academy of Light in 2011 as a 19-year-old after being released by Chelsea and spent three years at Sunderland making only one appearance for the first team.

After a few loan spells away from Sunderland, Knott moved to Bradford making 79 appearances over two seasons before a move to Gillingham. This was followed by spells at Lincoln and Rochdale, where he started just once and made three appearances from the bench in January 2018, before signing for Chelmsford City in March 2019 via a brief time at Concord Rangers.

Billy Knott in the red and white of Sunderland and Lincoln City
Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images and Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Mick Harford

Sunderland-born Harford started at Lincoln City in 1977, making his debut in 1977, and going on to score 41 goals in 115 appearances before a £180,000 transfer to Newcastle United in 1980. Moves to Bristol City and Birmingham City followed before eventually ending up at Luton Town in 1984.

Harford would spend six successful years at Kenilworth Road, and gained two international caps for England, before a £450,000 move to the midlands to join Derby County in 1990, only to return to Luton Town a year later. A spell at Chelsea followed before Terry Butcher signed him for Sunderland for £250,000 in March 1993.

Soccer - Barclays League Division One - Sunderland v Oxford United
Mick Harford
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images


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