By noon on Tuesday mighty Manchester City were reported to have sold just nine tickets for that night’s Checkatrade Trophy match at Bradford.
The final total of fans willing to forsake City’s home Carabao Cup tie with Wolves in order to travel to Yorkshire with the under-21s was not revealed but as the final gate figure was 1,260 – and that at the ground where the average League One attendance last season was over 18,000 – it showed what many clubs in the north of the country think of this trophy.
As the statistics filtered through, Yeovil Town might have been wondering how many Chelsea fans would travel to Huish Park on Wednesday to watch their under-21s in action against Darren Way’s Glovers, especially as Chelsea’s first team were home to Everton in the League Cup.
The rather surprising figure is that 145 Londoners decided to watch Yeovil rather than Everton.
The explanation which carried some weight was that relatives and friends travelled to watch the youngsters.
With a decent home turn-out, the crowd was 1,896 and that was not far behind some of the recent League Two attendances at Yeovil.
It justified Way’s faith in this competition spurned by so many. He sees the Wembley final as a carrot worth chasing, and he is also well aware that with no reserve team it gives him the chance to play some of his squad who have spent a lot of time on the bench.
The outcome was a 2-1 win on points for Yeovil after the 90 minutes ended 1-1. The penalty shoot-out which earned the extra point saw Messrs Santos, Surridge, Khan, Olomola and Zoko all on target while keeper Artur Krysiak, who slipped up to give Chelsea a first-half equaliser, kept out one penalty to earn the 5-3 shoot-out win.
Had Yeovil won in normal time they would have clinched a place in the next stage. Even so, they have five points compared with Plymouth’s three and Exeter and Chelsea’s two. Their remaining game is at home to Argyle at the end of November.
Way, with a small squad, used the opportunity to bring Millwall loanee Sid Nelson back to the heart of his defence after injury, and later in the game swapped skipper-for-the-night Nathan Smith to bring in Keston Davies.
The 20-year-old Swansea defender led the Swans’ under-23 side to the Premier League Two title last season. He was an automatic choice for the opening game of the season at Luton, but with Yeovil heading for a massive 8-2 defeat, he was taken off at the break and since then has had only a short run out as substitute against Coventry. Apart from two games when he did not feature in the 18-man match squad, he has been unused on the bench.
Wednesday’s understandable tinkering by the manager must have left Omar Sowunmi pondering his immediate future. The then manager Paul Sturrock brought in the six-foot-six giant from Ipswich at the start of the 2015 season. He is still listed in some annuals as a striker, but just recently he has used that height and strength to partner Smith at the back.
However, like Keston Davies, he has become far too familiar with the substitutes’ bench. Last season, for example, he made four starts, being subbed each time, and was brought off the bench on seven other occasions. He was a non-playing sub 29 times.
Today, as he prepares to blow out the 22 candles on his birthday cake next week, his fingers must be crossed that his big chance is finally arriving. He has played the full 90 minutes in five games so far this season, including four of the five League Two matches before this week’s reshuffle.
No-one talks about him as a centre-forward any more, so with Nathan Smith seemingly certain to be in central defence, Sowunmi will be battling to pip loanees Davies and Nelson for a place in the starting line-up.