So for the fourth successive season Mansfield Town made a first round League Cup exit last night, but few fans will be too worried if they see their side achieve League success.
However, some fans were unhappy over boss Adam Murray’s surprising team selection that was the talk of the stands as Stags lost 3-1 to Championship outfit Blackburn Rovers.
Murray elected to start the game with none of his recognised strikers on the pitch and took the chance to see how electric-paced winger CJ Hamilton would handle spearheading the attack, backed by Ashley Hemmings and James Baxendale.
Click HERE to read the match report
Click HERE to read Adam Murray’s thoughts
Click HERE to read Owen Coyle’s thoughts
In truth they didn’t do badly against Championship opposition and Hamilton might have done better with his early chance that could have put a whole different complexion on the tie.
After the 3-1 defeat some fans were adamant Stags could have progressed had they started with the likes of Matt Green, Danny Rose and Kevan Hurst against a Rovers side hurting from their home hammering on Saturday.
The less-than-full-strength Stags were certainly the equal of Owen Coyle’s men for almost an hour, so there may be some truth in that.
So it all comes down to the question of how bothered was Murray about progressing or, with a small squad and packed League programme coupled with the infuriating EFL Trophy schedule, if an early exit would actually be beneficial to the club.
Also bear in mind, with Pat Hoban nursing a knock and Darius Henderson not yet match fit, Murray would not have wanted to risk losing Green or Danny Rose, his only two fit forwards, with two important home League games ahead.
The League Cup used to be known as the Coca-Cola Cup, but it has long since lost its fizz.
Once upon a time fans and clubs alike got very excited by our domestic cup competitions. But right now it seems they are dying on their backsides.
If your club doesn’t seem too bothered about progressing then it’s hard to get excited by the games – and last night’s atmosphere wasn’t much to write home about.
At least admission prices were reduced last night and Murray was adamant before the game and afterwards that, while he hated losing any game, the League was always going to be his priority. So a full strength first team was never going to be on the cards.
As with any cup competition these days, if you can scrape through a few rounds and you get a helpful few extra quid coming in, players and fans do get more excited as you’re likely to eventually land a plum tie with a top club.
We might even get excited about the newly-named Checkatrade EFL Trophy if Stags were to get to the semis, though we’d probably end up playing Reading’s Academy side at Wembley so even a trip to the ultimate footballing stage would feel a bit flat.
Early cup rounds can be slow, cagey affairs, used – as Stags did – for experimentation and fitness, as you would with a reserves game.
But last night was the first of three testing home games for Mansfield in eight days, and if they can take maximum points against Cheltenham and Yeovil, the murmurs of discontent over last night will soon be long forgotten.