Let’s get it out the way first. The EFL Trophy is a shit competition. It was shit when it was the Leyland DAF Cup, it was shit when it was the Auto Windscreens Shield, it was shit when it was the Checkatrade Trophy, and it’s still shit now no-one wants to sponsor it, and the EFL try to drum up some interest in it by rigging the draw with fake derby games and inviting U23 teams from the Championship & Premier League to play in it.
We can debate all day long whether it’s good for the England national team (it isn’t), whether good attendances in later rounds mean fans like it (they don’t), and whether the EFL are using it to get B teams into the League structure (they probably aren’t, but who knows what they’re thinking at this stage?). However, for one night only, the EFL Trophy hosted the most important game in the world, as it marked the return of fans to professional football in England.
United were chosen for two test events, this game against Fulham in front of a maximum of 1000 supporters, and a proper dress rehearsal against Carlisle on Saturday with a whopping 2500 in attendance. The Abbey had received a COVID-friendly makeover for the game, ‘pass points’ on the NRE steps and red arrows painted on the floor helpfully directing fans to their seats. Rumours that the same red arrows have been painted on the pitch to direct Liam O’Neil to pass towards the opposition goal were sadly that.
We won’t dwell on the actual match itself too much, we at UTAS aren’t the biggest fans of this competition and to report on it as a first team game only helps to legitimise it. United played well, outplaying, outmuscling and outclassing the hardy assortment of kids Fulham had sent up to the Abbey. Debuts were handed to Adam May and Jack Iredale, and whilst the former had to go off with a head injury late in the first half, this opened an opportunity for youth team graduate Lewis Simper to make his first senior appearance for the club. Tom Knowles scored a great 25-yard free kick to send the U’s into half time ahead.
The second half saw the U’s continue to dominate, Digger Digby in particular relishing his role in the middle of the park. The win was sealed towards the end of the game when substitute Paul Mullin found the net.
A successful first test event for United fans then, and now the serious business of League Two starts. All eyes will be on United again Saturday as (our slapstick Government permitting) fans will again be watching the Cambridge aces from the Abbey terraces. Two games, two clean sheets, now it’s time to keep up the solid performances and try to translate them into points.
United: Burton, Knoyle (Mullin), Taylor, Iredale, Dunk, Davies, Digby, May (Simper), Knowles, Knibbs (Ironside), Dallas
Were you at the game? How did you find the experience? Is Paul Digby our next Paul Wanless? Is Tom Knowles better at free kicks than Beckham? Let us know on Twitter @abbeystandpod