1. Oof, an unpleasant experience at Anfield, and that’s just when we have to listen to them sing You’ll Never Walk Alone before the game. Men against boys, a wanton disregard for the basics of defending and discipline and even the comeback threatened in the second half was notable for its brevity, courtesy of the home side being able to waltz through and restore the three-goal margin from the restart.
2. The arguments that could be made to mitigate the interaction between ball and Jake Livermore’s hand last week: it was blasted at him from close range therefore not intentional, the ‘keeper behind him may have saved it so a penalty and yellow card was punishment enough, could not be recycled this week. Elmohamady’s handball looked wilful, and Marshall was covering the other side of goal. It was a dunderheaded split-second decision and it cost us dearly.
3. We can understand a defeat at Liverpool, and even stomach a fairly hefty one too. They’ve spent tens of millions of pounds that just aren’t available to clubs in our position. It’s just disappointing that we didn’t make them work a little harder for that victory. Mike Phelan strikes us as an affable man with a little hidden flash of steel; he could do worse than administer a little jolt to his side in order to restore the very high standards we reached earlier in the season.
4. The prospect of staying in Stoke on Trent for longer than is necessary was very real well into injury time on Wednesday night, so the utter joy of a last-ditch winner was felt more enthusiastically than usual. Extra time avoided and a place in the fourth round once again. Let’s not forget that until last season the fourth round was the best we’d ever managed in the League Cup. Now our passage to the last 16 of the competition feels almost habitual.
5. They were two very fine goals as well, out of place in a Wednesday night League Cup tie in Stoke but ones that’ll stick in the memory. And yet…much of the first half was frankly dire, not wholly disimilar to the wretched first half at Anfield. Although Stoke weren’t good enough or confident enough to build an insurmountable lead upon initial dominance, Liverpool were. Others will be too.
6. Furthermore, an away tie at Bristol City in the next phase means we can quietly hope to progress into the last eight for the second year in a row, having never previously done it in the competition’s piffling 56 year history. It’s a long old slog to Ashton Gate as winter evenings start to approach but, well, it gives us a terrific chance to go a long way, especially as some of the biggest sides have been pitched against each other. And it isn’t as far away as Exeter.
7. Mike Phelan says he hasn’t heard from the Allams for a week since telling the press a contract for him to become the new manager of City was verbally agreed. This feels, still, like shoddy treatment of a decent man clearly putting everything into the job right now, though we should probably not be surprised.
8. Chelsea this weekend, at home. Though they are not the team of even very recent vintage, they will be runaway favourites to do us over at the Circle. Were that to happen, there should be no fretting. By the end of September, games against four of the obvious biggest clubs will already be boxed off, gone, out of the way. Bournemouth, Stoke and Watford await us in October. These fixtures are the ones to prioritise in the mission to maintain Premier League status.
9. Rumours about the third coming of Adam Pearson just won’t go away. He wasn’t perfect, but he created the modern Hull City and he would represent a colossal upgrade on Ehab Allam. Just imagine Pearson running the club, more experience to call upon, significant financial support, Mike Phelan in charge and this bunch of players. It could be alright, that.
10. By the way, were you wondering why Viking weren’t covering the League Cup tie at Stoke on Wednesday, despite their new contractual arrangement with the club to provide no-frills coverage of all City matches? You weren’t? Okay, we won’t tell you, in that case, that the club were unable to tell the radio station whether they were entitled to do League Cup matches because the contract has gone missing, possibly taken away by a recently departed member of staff heavily involved in the initial negotiations.