Carlisle United 3 Morecambe 2: Here we go then. The difficult third album. The series too far. The jumping of the shark. The Checkatrade Trophy, back for more – whether you like it or not.

At this stage, the verdict is... not. For Carlisle United v Morecambe last night, a crowd of 1,213 turned up. Another entry into the Blues’ top 10. All-time lowest home gates, that is.

Not so few as to give us a new number one. This was only the seventh smallest. But still – another of those evenings when United playing a football match was not attractive enough to some of those who would normally have been there.

These early rounds have never been a major draw. Nor, though, pre-2016 were they the result of a boycott, or a sort of aggravated apathy, which now accompanies such ties.

Yet on it goes. Until the Cumbrian public get this year’s real treat – a mouthwatering encounter with Stoke’s Under-21s on a Tuesday night in November – they have games against those from their own levels, the way this cup traditionally used to be.

This first one, here, saw United twice come from behind before winning it through Jerry Yates’ second-half strike, and next comes a group fixture that would have been surreal in any past incarnation: Sunderland, at the Stadium of Light.

The difference is that, while the Black Cats may not wish to be a lower-league club for long, right now they very much are. They are among the 48 for whom this used to be an exclusive chance of Wembley. United’s visit to Wearside next month will be strange, but appropriately strange.

Stoke’s reserves showing up at Brunton Park – and other encounters like Swansea’s visit to Stevenage last week which attracted 470 souls, not to mention other obscure happenings last night - less so.

The old arguments, voiced angrily against the “B Team” format for the last couple of years, remain. They do not need to be repeated in detail. Nor, though, should they be forgotten, for that way lies complacency.

After another summer of official spin, which has again swerved the unfortunate fact that many third and fourth-tier supporters simply do not like their clubs being recast as useful idiots for the rich, the prospect of EFL chief Shaun Harvey and his “Category One” friends binning the thing seems as remote as ever. According to reports yesterday morning, a three-year extension to the current format appears likely.

Power, then, to the elbows of those sticking to their principles. A raspberry, again, to those giving loyal fans a decision to make. A jolly hand gesture, again, to those big cheeses who think the extra money makes it all OK; who might, you can be sure, be attracted by other ruses to give stockpiled young players “minutes”, such as Crystal Palace’s recent offer of free loan players to smaller clubs.

(Free as long as they are guaranteed to play, that is)

And on we go, further into this cycle of nonsense. In football terms, Carlisle of course have no option but to give it their best crack. The Blues, and John Sheridan, will understandably see the prospect of enhanced prize money, and progress in a cup, as something to drive at.

The bitter truth is that, as the Checkatrade weakens the status of clubs, it can also enrich them. Sheridan has been good at keeping a distance from political issues so far in his reign and will not find it difficult to keep minds on the pitch in this competition, which he admitted before kick-off was the club’s best chance of reaching Wembley.

That was reflected in a starting line-up of only three changes, and certainly no initial temptation to blood youngsters, even if the youth team player, Liam McCarron, was on the bench for the first time. Morecambe went more drastic, swapping eight, and, in the early stages showed the better form, scoring after six minutes.

With most shouts from the pitch audible and a reserve team atmosphere prevailing – other, in fairness, than a drum being beaten in the Morecambe seats – the visitors went ahead when Carlisle blocked a Kevin Ellison drive and Vadaine Oliver was first to the looping rebound to head in.

Carlisle took seven minutes to reply: a peach of a 25-yard strike from George Glendon which nestled into the far right corner for his first senior goal.

Morecambe’s keeper Mark Halstead went off shortly after this – not overcome by Checkatrade fever, it turned out, but injured – and a while later they went in front again. Jim Bentley’s side opened up Carlisle’s left side too often for comfort in the first half and this time James Sinclair fed the overlapping Oliver, whose cross was dispatched low by Joe Piggott.

Morecambe were bright with some of their attacking movement, yet while Carlisle looked defensively vulnerable at times, they were emphatic with the next big moment of the half: a meaty hit by Macaulay Gillesphey from distance, after a bright passing move, that brought the Blues level on 38 minutes.

Both United’s first-half goals would have graced a much bigger occasion. Jamie Devitt and Richie Bennett then had efforts scrambled clear, and at the other end Gillesphey nodded a cross away at the vital moment as the Shrimps neared a third, the half closing with further close attempts from Gary Liddle and Bennett.

The second half was calmer on the scoring front, although not in chances. Barry Roche, Morecambe’s sub keeper, saved a Gillesphey header from point-blank range, then Liddle superbly bailed Tom Parkes out with a covering tackle. Ashley Nadesan’s control then let him down after ambushing Sam Lavelle, and Carlos Mendes Gomes curled wide for Morecambe.

Eventually, the next goal came, and it was another first, for Yates, who sped infield from the left and drilled superbly home his maiden Blues goal after Bennett had won a decisive header.

The closing, eventful minutes then brought a Jason Oswell header against the bar for Morecambe, an excellent Adam Collin save, his opposite number Roche up for a last-gasp corner and, for the hosts, a cameo to treasure for Appleby’s McCarron, given a debut at 17: the sort of happening this competition sometimes ought to be about, and frequently was before this divisive format was born, whatever the credit-claiming B Team apologists care to say.

Those in the Paddock and Main Stand were enthused when the teenager got the ball and ran, and chased, in the dying stages: again, moments that deserved more of an audience than the Checkatrade, in its magnificent wisdom, has generated. Three more years, you say? Rejoice.

United: Collin, Miller, Gillesphey, Liddle, Parkes, Slater, Glendon, Devitt, Yates, Bennett, Nadesan (McCarron 82). Not used: O’Reilly, Gerrard, Etuhu, Adewusi, Egan.

Goals: Glendon 13, Gillesphey 38, Yates 75

Morecambe: Halstead (Roche 19), Lavelle, Yarney, Jagne (Wildig 62), Cranston, Fleming, Mendes Gomes, Ellison, Piggott, Oliver (Oswell 69). Not used: Mills, Old, Oates, Hedley.

Goals: Oliver 6, Piggott 24

Booked: Jagne

Ref: Andy Haines

Crowd: 1,213 (117 Morecambe fans)