It was a busy night of Capital One Cup action on Tuesday with 23 games played. The night’s action was full of drama and a few upsets and while Swindon Town’s fantastic win at Stoke City stole the headlines, I’d like to start with a special mention for Burton Albion after their 4-2 victory against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
The Foxes may not be a Premier League scalp these days but it was still a great result for Gary Rowett’s League 2 side and, whatever happens in this week’s two remaining games, Burton will go into the hat for the Round 3 draw as the lowest-ranked side in terms of current league position. Bradford City joined them as League 2’s only other confirmed representative after beating Watford 2-1 and both sides are doing the division proud.
Northampton Town could make it three if they can beat Wolverhampton Wanderers at Sixfields on Thursday night, which would be a further boost for League 2 football.
But, back to the Swindon game, and what a game it was. Manager Paolo Di Canio divides opinion but I love his passion and enthusiasm and that was definitely in evidence at the Britannia as the match headed for injury time and a few more unbelievable twists.
What impressed me most about the Robins was the way they held their nerve even in those last 30 minutes. As a Premier League side, you’d probably think Stoke would be both mentally and physically stronger at the end but, despite being pegged back to 2-2 in normal time, and 3-3 in injury-time, it was Swindon who did the business and it was fairytale for James Collins to grab the winner at the death and complete his hat-trick.
And don’t forget, Stoke only lost four times in the league at the Britannia last season, which puts Swindon’s achievement into a bit of context.
It was also a good night for Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers. They would have been most people’s favourites to beat Tranmere Rovers and Walsall respectively but, after making poor starts to their league campaigns, Paul Lambert and Mark Hughes will be delighted to have got their first win of the season under their belts.
There’s an argument that early rounds of the Capital One Cup mean more to the lower league sides but try telling that to relieved Villa and Hoops supporters this week.
Overall, it was a good night for the Premier League boys. Other than the aforementioned Stoke, and Fulham, who lost to Sheffield Wednesday, the other 10 in action on Tuesday are safely through, meaning there will 17 or 18 Premier League clubs in Round 3.
Oddly enough, the npower League 1 sides have outperformed their Championship counterparts, which tells me two things. Firstly, the gap between the two divisions is really not that big in terms of quality and, secondly, the League 1 teams have identified the competition as a realistic opportunity to make money and help balance the books.
So what can we look forward to in Round 3?
The likes of Burton and Bradford, not to mention Carlisle United and Crawley Town, will certainly be dreaming of an once-in-a-lifetime trip to Old Trafford or Anfield and there’s sure to be some mouth-watering Premier League contests to enjoy.
I hope the less-fancied side get their wish but I’d also love to see some of them progress further in the competition. Recent seasons have seen the likes of Cardiff City and Burnley go a long way in the tournament and the sense of unpredictability they bring with them is always welcome.