Carlisle Utd 1 Stoke City Under-21s 1 (Stoke U21s win 5-4 on penalties): So let us put this in its proper place. It was not a record, in the end. Enough people eventually filtered into Brunton Park to keep 859, against Hartlepool in 1992, as the low watermark of Carlisle United first-team attendances.

Yet it was close enough. Close enough, were sanity to surround the Checkatrade Trophy, to ram the message home once more.

In reality, the rotten old thing will plough on regardless, undeterred by opinion or its many empty terraces.

Carlisle last night did not join several other clubs who have achieved historic low gates. They can thank Stoke’s 71-strong travelling contingent for that, given that the overall gathering, 882, was only the Blues’ second smallest. The match? A 1-1 draw, which put United out of the competition even before they had to take part in a pointless penalty shoot-out, which they lost.

A suitably farcical finish, then. Yet how can the result honestly outweigh the big picture? How, when so few people still want to come to the game, can the game be said to count for much, when set against the depressing politics?

Nobody inside Brunton Park’s corridors is entitled to be surprised by last night’s tally at the turnstiles, which means six of the stadium’s lowest 10 all-time gates have come since 2016 under this competition format. And none of those who decided to vote in favour of B Teams, convinced by the cash, has any right to be affronted.

United, after all, asked their fans, and their fans said no. Ninety-eight per cent in a 2017 survey said they did not want this. This is what they got regardless, and 882 is what they gave in return.

In simple language that would appear an emphatic message - not that it should take this to assure those in power, particularly the brains running the EFL, that watching Stoke City’s second-string, with respect to those players, was not going to be an exciting pull.

It is, you have to keep concluding, a depressing competition of our times, an unstoppable drive towards legitimising B Teams, however loudly the game’s chiefs protest it is not.

How else, after all, are folk meant to see it? As a good thing that hordes of young footballers, gathered up like Lego pieces by the rich, are getting some limited version of “game time” against “men”?

As a satisfying notion that their proud lower-division clubs are being diluted, and here’s a few quid to make the bad feelings go away?

No, and no. They want to watch meaningful football, not overspun training exercises. Hence the reserve-game atmosphere last night as United began against Stoke’s, well, reserves, the under-21 side playing some neat under-21 football but Carlisle supplying the League Two force that got them in front.

That does a disservice to Jack Sowerby’s goal, in truth, since it was a genuine peach – wasted on this competition in fact. The Fleetwood loanee received the ball from Hallam Hope to the left of centre and curled it with great style in off the crossbar.

If only a few more had been here to see it. That 23rd-minute moment was the highlight of opening stages which saw, for Stoke, Oliver Shenton have a couple of attempts and Gary Liddle – starting on the right of a defensive three that had Gary Miller in the centre - bail out a Macaulay Gillesphey mistake. Thibaud Verlinden skimmed one into the side-netting after some more expansive visiting play, before Carlisle improved, Hope having a header saved, Liddle surviving what looked a blatant handball appeal in his own box, then Sowerby’s cracking goal.

Hope nearly added a second, lobbing over the bar when keeper Daniel Gyollai strayed from his line. The striker then rifled wide after a Jerry Yates flick - another feature of off-target finishing that riled John Sheridan - and then the visitors hit back, Tyrese Campbell finding space to bullet a header past Adam Collin.

Verlinden, minutes later, fired over as United lost impetus, before Sowerby almost gave them it back, his low shot saved by Gyollai and rearing up against the bar.

The second half did not begin with great quality and Carlisle’s progress was not helped by an injury to George Glendon six minutes after the restart. Some end-to-end play died with poor final balls and finishes with United closest to the lead in this period, Ashley Nadesan heading a Yates cross at Gyollai.

For Stoke, Daniel Jarvis curled a free-kick over. For United, Yates served Nadesan, who smashed against the post. For Stoke, Campbell saw a shot blocked by Grainger and Harry Souttar somehow failed to head a free-kick home. On it went, the tiny home crowd also aggrieved by some of ref Martin Coy’s decisions, sub Mike Jones then drilling wide, before the final whistle, and then the humiliation of a shoot-out – won 5-4 by Stoke - which meant the square root of nothing, given the Potters were already through and Carlisle's race was run.

Over for another year, then, but there will be more, you can be sure, of this genius creation which is, it can be conclusively said, about money in the bank, not people through the gates - and no less disgraceful for the fact Brunton Park history survived, just about, in the end.

United: Collin, Miller, Grainger, Liddle, Gillesphey, Slater (Bennett 70), Glendon (Jones 51), Sowerby, Hope (McCarron 83), Yates, Nadesan. Not used: Gray, Devitt, Campbell, Egan.

Goal: Sowerby 23

Stoke Under-21s: Gyollai, Thandi, Souttar, Wara, Tymon, Jarvis, Dunwoody, Verlinden (Pemberton 59), Shenton, Clucas, Campbell. Not used: Deczki, Niakate, Waddington, Kyeremateng, Forrester, Toure.

Goal: Campbell 34

Ref: Martin Coy

Crowd: 882 (71 Stoke fans)