Just when the no-football fear was beginning to set in, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, complete with wind-rippled cape and its own theme tune, comes flying out of the fringes of obscurity to the rescue.
A hefty dose of lower-league cup action takes place this evening, as the lesser-lauded outfits in the English game scrap for silverware.
For those eager to capitalise on the opportunity with a wager, we’ve strung a tasty treble together that pays north of 8/1 and features the two biggest factions taking the field.
Sheffield United to beat Hartlepool @ 3/4
It may be a competition those with promotion aspirations tend to take less seriously, but given the way Hartlepool are playing at the minute, the Dog and Duck would fancy their chances of progression here.
Nigel Clough’s men have dodged defeat in eight of their last ten outings, while Pools have been bested in eight of their 12 this term.
They’ve failed to score in four of their previous five and are conceding in bulk too, shipping ten across their last four.
Portsmouth to beat Northampton @ 21/20
This was the outcome when the pair met at Fratton Park earlier in the season and recent form suggests that the Cobblers will be powerless to prevent it occurring again.
Pompey are unbeaten in four games, three of which have seen them record clean sheets.
Northampton, on the other hand, have enforced one shut out in five, with their most recent pair of adversaries plundering a total of six goals from their backline.
Notts County to beat Scunthorpe @ 31/20
Scunny are freefalling their way back to League Two and have lost five of their latest six.
While they’ve been losing (and conceding at least two goals in each of these games, no less) the original Magpies have been cruising.
No foe in seven has got the better of them and five of these were unable to score.