With the Imps out of the competition, interest is bound to wane in the League Cup, but as there are League Two teams in it, and indeed competing this week, I thought I’d have a look at some of the main news.
One result that jumped out at me was Cheltenham’s 4-3 win against Oxford at the Kassam Stadium. Cheltenham have been tipped to have a tough season, and in my season preview I said much would depend on the impact of former Greenwich striker Mo Eisa. If this result is anything to go by, Cheltenham might surprise a few people. Eisa was on the score sheet twice, opening proceedings on nine minutes with a deft header, and winning the tie in the 99th minute with an 25-yard screamer. Big striker Danny Wright, on as a sub, bagged himself a brace as well to cause the upset.
I’m interested in Eisa as I think the impact players from the lower reaches of the non-league spectrum can have is significant. Nicke Kabamba is one I championed along with Jamal Lowe, and both are now settled in the Portsmouth side. Danny puts belief in players from that level, and I wonder if our fourth striker might be someone from the lower reaches of non-league, a rough diamond like Mo Eisa is threatening to be.
I had to mention our friends over at Field Mill as well. Rochdale were 1-0 victors there, with Lee Angol and unused sub. Angol is rumoured to have ben unhappy at coming of in the season opener, and Evans opted to start with Omari Sterling-James, a late capture from Solihull Moors. Whatever he did, they lost 1-0 and already I imagine the brash Scot is feeling the pressure.
Our opponents on Saturday were involved in a thriller, a 4-3 reverse away at Barnsley. It had all looked bleak for the Shrimpers as they found themselves 3-1 down just after half time, but they showed resilience to battle back to 3-3. City will have to be aware of the attacking threat offered by another team I have tipped to struggle. Vadaine Oliver, a name familiar to Imps fans grabbed a late equaliser which looked to be pushing the game towards an energy-sapping spell of extra time. Sadly for Morecambe (and us) Ryan Hedges bagged in the fifth minute of injury time to snatch a win. Although little can be gleaned from matches in this competition, I think it demonstrates that Morecambe are susceptible at the back.
Carlisle pulled off a shock too, they won 2-1 away at high-flying Fleetwood. It was Fleetwood that beat Rotherham 2-0 in the opening game of the season, and a Tom Miller brace, the second in extra time, put paid to the hosts. Miller scored a header after 104 minutes, and any chance of a revival by the home side was dashed when they were reduced to ten men in the second period of extra time. Miller had been linked (erroneously) with City this summer, and he is undoubtedly one of the better players to have featured for us in the last six years.
Accrington and Barnet grabbed the headlines with wins against Preston (3-2) and Peterborough (3-1) respectively. I did tip Akpo-Akpro to shine this season for Barnet, and he’s grabbed two in two so far. Shaquile Coulthirst grabbed their third against Posh, he only left London Road in the summer and doubtless will have savoured his strike.
Another side earmarked as potential strugglers in League Two sprung a surprise, Newport County beat League One Southend at Roots Hall. Theo Robinson started for Southend but wasn’t able to find the back of the net, whilst summer signing Shawn McCoulsky hit a brace for Newport. Again, very little can be gleaned from results of this nature, but it will give the Welsh side a boost. There is an argument that cup games this early in the season can tire small squads quickly too, but given a choice I’m sure all would rather progress than go out.
Yeovil managed to retain their dignity for the first time this season, fresh from the 8-2 opening day hammering by Luton, they kept Wolves down to just 1-0. It was a much-changed Wolves side from the one that beat Middlesbrough, but even so the Glovers will be happy to have bounced back and will be looking forward to retiring to the serenity of Huish Park after a tough opening few days.
Forest Green met MK Dons in what is surely one of the most soulless matches ever to take place in the competition, FC Franchise versus the kings of unsustainability. Pains me to even report there was a result, but the franchise won 1-0.
Luton lost to Ipswich, apparently not in a mood to repeat our heroics from last season, the Tractor Boys winning thanks to a David McGoldrick double. There were defeats for Exeter (2-1 at home to Charlton) and Cambridge (4-1 Bristol Rovers), as well as a brave defeat for Swindon. They went down 3-2 at Carrow Road, new-signing Paul Mullin was on target for them.
The League Cup offers a chance for big ties early in the season, but it can be a distraction from the important issue of the league season. From our own point of view, the match against Rotherham was a great test of our current level as a team, but going out does mean we avoid an early season fixture pile up.