Carlisle United 2 Everton Under-21s 0: Just what we all needed to cheer us up: the return of the Stockpiling Shield, the Empty Ground Cup, the Everything-That’s-Wrong-With-Modern-English-Football Trophy. Roll up, roll up. 

Or...stay at home, as a great many did last night. Carlisle United moved on from their thrashing at Sutton into this: a training exercise for Everton’s up-and-coming players, rebranded as a credible competition.

Don’t be fooled by the sell. This wasn’t about the Blues. It was about ‘men’s football’ for the young Toffees. All else irrelevant. 

United’s first game since the debacle at Gander Green Lane brought a Brad Young-inspired 2-0 victory in front of an official crowd - if you can call it that, of 875: the second lowest in Brunton Park’s history.  

We must keep totting up those latter figures, I'm afraid, because, in football’s data age, they tell the story of the Pizza Trophy better than anything else. 

In EFL and Premier League towers, where bosses continue to insist the revamped Trophy is worth the candle, they perhaps sit studying xC charts: expected crowds. 

If only people did what they were supposed to, tens of thousands would show up for these enticing games between lower mid-table League Two sides and some glamorous top-flight sort-of reserves who have bought their way in.

In the world of xC, men like Pep Guardiola would be king – the Manchester City boss the latest to advocate entry into the EFL system, at “Championship or League One” level, for his legion of young stars.  

In the world of xC, men like Ferran Soriano would be emperor – the Manchester City chief executive having also recently proposed B Teams should flood the system. 

In the world of xC, aC – actual crowds, fans, people, clubs – wouldn’t matter. They don’t now, actually, otherwise this persistent debacle would no longer be allowed. 

And this is why many people who care about the standing of the lower leagues keep crying foul at this competition. They listen to the EFL and others insisting that the Trophy is not the “thin end of the wedge” regarding B Teams in the league.

They then observe those at elite clubs, those with all the money and the power, continuing to propose exactly that. They regard the Trophy, and other initiatives (hello, EPPP) as ways of consolidating top-level hoarding of players and attempts to ask smaller clubs to solve problems not of their making.

So continue to take this bird’s eye view of Trophy ties we must.

At ground level, Carlisle boss Chris Beech made nine changes to his team, including a debut for Jonathan Dinzeyi, second starts for Lewis Bell and Young, the captaincy for Morgan Feeney and fellow teenagers Sam Fishburn and Jack Ellis in the squad to face David Unsworth’s young Toffees, whose 18-man squad had a total combined squad number of – deep breath – 1,015. 

Everton made the early running through Rafa Garcia, who almost scored inside 15 seconds, before United’s Feeney had a close-range goal against his former club disallowed for offside. 

Chances were intermittent, Bell carrying the ball brightly at times, Dinzeyi largely comfortable alongside the composed Feeney, and Young denied by Jack Barrett when attacking a low Zach Clough free-kick.

United played more football than they had at Sutton and imposed themselves on the young visitors in stages. Everton’s energetic team almost countered through Sean McAllister, but should then have gone behind when Young met Jack Armer’s cross, but Barrett saved and Young scuffed the rebound wide. 

The Aston Villa loanee was more successful next time, though, neatly turning right-back Joe Riley’s cross home for his first senior goal. 

Young, in his other work, produced a gritty display that encouraged United’s fans and did his case for a league call-up no harm. Both he and Gime Toure could have added goals early in the second half, Armer also going close with a powerful hit from distance. 

Everton almost glanced their way back in via Ryan Astley’s header, but then Young did get his second, heading smartly past Barrett after Feeney had helped on a long Riley throw from the right. 

That was Beech’s cue to introduce Sam Fishburn for his debut against the tiring visitors, 20 minutes from time, and the 17-year-old was almost on the end of a driven Taylor Charters cross in the closing stages, before Bell and Manny Mampala also tried their luck.

And that wrapped things up: another game in a warped competition; another quiet night of Premier League intrusion; another occasion swerved by many; another evening at the thin end of a wedge that, according to some, doesn’t exist. Yeah, right.