Skip to content
  1. Football
  2. EFL Trophy

EFL Trophy semi-final preview: Plymouth and Bolton in pole position for Wembley meeting

The battle for the EFL Trophy has been whittled down to its last four contenders, as Plymouth, Cheltenham, Accrington Stanley and Bolton all vie for a ticket to the Wembley showdown.

The competition represents third and fourth division sides’ best chance of reaching the national stadium and for the four League One teams left standing, just one more match is in their way.

While in previous years the semi-finals were contested over two legs, this year’s finalists will be decided in one-way, 90-minute affairs, which will go straight to a penalty shoot-out in the event of a draw.

Plymouth are flying towards a return to the Championship and are 11/8 favourites to lift the trophy, with divisional strugglers Cheltenham Town visiting them at Home Park on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, it’s the turn of another team fighting relegation, Accrington Stanley, to take to the field as hosts; they face a Bolton side who sit fourth in the league and are second-favourites at 7/4.

Pilgrims to progress at home

WhatPlymouth v Cheltenham
WhereHome Park, Plymouth
When20:00, Tuesday 21st February 2023
How to watchSky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Football
OddsPlymouth 11/20, Draw 11/4, Cheltenham 17/4

While Plymouth’s seeming invincibility in the league has given way to patchier form since the turn of the year, the Pilgrims are still one of the toughest teams to beat in the third tier.

Argyle are locked in a fight with Sheffield Wednesday for the summit and currently sit second, but are nevertheless a whole eight points clear of the play-offs and can afford to commit resources to Tuesday’s tie.

Wednesday are the only team to beat Plymouth since the first week of December; they have come through their other 13 assignments in that time without defeat, though they did need penalties to see off AFC Wimbledon in the last 16 of this competition, rallying from 3-0 down after an hour to level at 3-3 with a Sam Cosgrove hat-trick.

Related Football News

Premier League review: Arsenal glee as title race hots up

Premier League: Greatest title races

Even so, the task facing 6/1 competition outsiders Cheltenham is an unenviable one. The travelling side are the only team to have scored more than once against Plymouth since that win over Wimbledon on 21st December, but were still outclassed in a 4-2 Argyle win.

What’s more, Town have won just one game out of seven since beating Salford to reach the semi-finals.

They were thrashed by four unanswered goals against Barnsley on Saturday and are hovering precariously above the drop as a result, with their 33-point return leaving them 19th just four points clear of the red zone.

With the gulf between the pair clear over the first half of the season, anything other than a home win, at 11/20, looks unlikely.

A price of 17/4 is available for a Cheltenham upset, with odds of 11/4 saying the honours will be even after 90 minutes.

Bolton to blow Stanley away

WhatAccrington Stanley v Bolton
WhereWham Stadium, Accrington
When20:00, Wednesday 22nd February 2023
How to watchSky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Football
OddsAccrington Stanley 3/1, Draw 13/5, Bolton 3/4

A 1-0 league defeat to Wycombe on Saturday may have come as a surprise for Bolton fans given their recent hot-streak, but a record of five straight wins before that suggests little need to panic.

With a push for the automatic promotion spots unlikely, Wanderers may have to settle for the play-offs as they look to climb back into the second tier; Ian Evatt’s side sit a healthy fourth in the table with a six-point gap to seventh, though they have played more games than the rest of League One’s top half.

Though the standings suggest a rather straightforward run to the final against an Accrington team lying 20th in the table, Stanley did trouble Bolton when the sides last met at Wham Stadium, in October, when Evatt’s men had to recover from a two-goal deficit to win 3-2.

Stanley are at 5/1 to lift the EFL Trophy and will be under no illusions as to the strength of their semi-final opponents, but will hope that their return to winning ways at the weekend will spark the kind of start they enjoyed last time out against Wanderers - only with a better outcome.

Now out of the FA Cup having been beaten in the fourth round by Leeds United, this competition is the only distraction from their dire league position on offer to Accrington fans. The exit against Premier League opposition began a run of five winless games, but a 1-0 home victory over Shrewsbury brings them into the tie in better momentum than their adversaries.

The hosts will hope Bolton’s play-off bid will remain the focus and a win for Stanley can be backed at 3/1, with a draw after normal time priced at 13/5.

Bolton, however, should have the measure of their relegation-threatened opponents and are 3/4 favourites to reach the final.

Related Articles

bet365 uses cookies

We use cookies to deliver a better and more personalised service. For more information, see our Cookie Policy