by James Bennett

In order to make up for not doing a round-up on the weekend, I thought I might as well cover this week’s League Cup Third Round ties instead (giving no words over to any credit card corporations), in the hope that I could talk about some Football League clubs upsetting the odds and turning over Premier League clubs. In the event…well, you can see for yourself. It’s pretty grim.

The major shock of Tuesday’s matches was Leeds beating Everton. This isn’t really that much of a shock if you think about it, though. While Everton put out a side that wasn’t weakened enough to be considered a proper weakened side, they never really got going at Elland Road, while Leeds, in typical Neil Warnock fashion, ran around a lot, closed the Toffeemen down and made it difficult for them. Aidy White jinked past a few Everton defenders to put the home side ahead early on and never looked like being beaten. Rodolph Austin added a second, and while Sylvain Distin looked to have got the visitors back into the game, even that failed to spark them into something approaching life. It was a very disappointing performance from a side that have been not far off unbeatable in the Premier League this season.

The other main shock of the first round, of course, was Aston Villa defeating Manchester City, with club legend Gareth Barry leading them to glory. But Football League is my focus so I’ll skip to the only tie involving League Two clubs, the dramatic match between Bradford City and Burton Albion. Burton led 2-0 after 29 minutes with goals from Billy Kee and Aaron Webster, and held this until the 83rd minute. All seemed good for a historic result for Burton until Nakhi Wells decided he wasn’t going to let the Bantams go down without a fight, scoring 2 in the last 7 minutes to take the match to extra time. This gave Bradford the momentum to push on for a winner, which they duly got in the 115th minute courtesy of Stephen Derby. They last reached the last 16 in 1988-89, when they went on to reach the quarter finals – a draw against Wigan will give them a glimmer of hope of progressing to that stage again.

There were only two other matches between Football League clubs in this round, and one saw an upset. Swindon Town have been strong at the County Ground over the last year and claimed another scalp with a 3-1 win over Burnley, their eighth win over a higher division club since Paolo Di Canio took over, and their third of this competition after beating Brighton and Stoke in the first two rounds. Villa will be wary ahead of their visit in the next round.

The other all-FL tie was between Championship side Middlesbrough and League One’s Preston North End, enduring an up-and-down start to the season. This would prove to be another down for Graham Westley’s side – it wasn’t an entirely straight-forward win for Middlesbrough, who led 2-0 after 18 minutes but let North End back into the game with a 40th minute goal for Jack King. But weakened Boro secured progression with a goal from academy graduate Richard Smallwood.

Other Football League clubs suffered at the hands of the big boys. Wolves and Coventry both conceded 6 against Chelsea and Arsenal respectively. Stale Solbakken decided to make 10 changes for the trip to Stamford Bridge, so there’s little sympathy for the Norwegian here, while to demonstrate how bad struggling Coventry must have been, Theo Walcott got TWO actual goals, and even Andrey Arshavin scored – I mean I didn’t even know he was still alive, let alone at Arsenal. Carlisle went down 3-0 at home to Tottenham despite Spurs not starting with any strikers, which must be frustrating for the Cumbrians, while Andre Villas-Boas will avoid media taunting for a few more days.

Doncaster and Crawley, on the other hand, were only edged out by the odd goal, by Norwich and Swansea respectively – the latter only just scraped through after the Red Devils led 2-1 after just over an hour, with club captain Garry Monk sealing a 3-2 victory in stoppage time. At St Mary’s, Southampton beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 in what sounds like a 1998 Premier League tie (when both were sponsored by, while at stadium:mk, the worst-named stadium in the world, MK Dons must have been hopeful of an upset when Lee Cattermole (who else?) was sent off early on, but Sunderland still managed to see them off with goals from Craig Gardner and James McClean. A north-east derby with Middlesbrough awaits the Wearsiders.

In other news, Reading and QPR served up an entertaining all-hoops encounter, ending 3-2 in the Royals’ favour – no doubt their fans went cock-a-hoop at that outcome (I’ll get me coat) – while Wigan made Sam Allardyce angry (and you won’t like him when he’s angry) by demolishing West Ham 4-1, with two goals from Mauro Boselli. Meanwhile, in the all-Premier League mid-table club clash, Liverpool surprisingly actually beat West Brom for a change, with Nuri Sahin scoring his first goals in English football. That result is about on a par with Walcott scoring for me.

And finally, some other club called Manchester United or something won. You probably won’t have heard of them. They’re not a Football League club anyway. But they were alright, I guess. Played a few kids and won at home against Newcastle – not really all that remarkable but they are through. They play Chelsea in the next round which I guess no one will be really interested in. Never mind, I guess the League Cup isn’t for everyone.