Carlisle United 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers Under-21s 4: This season’s EFL Trophy started on August 6. It also started on August 7, August 27, September 3, September 4, September 11, September 14 and, finally for Carlisle United, last night, September 24.

Way to trounce the sceptics who claim the competition lacks identity. Way to embed the rebranded trophy into the calendar. Way to make it look convincing, instead of something coped with when convenient.

That Carlisle began their campaign 49 days after certain other clubs makes the latest damning point about the wretched thing. In order to shoehorn in more top-flight B Teams, it has become even more shapeless.

The old saying that one is never more than six feet from a rat now applies to the old lower-league cup. In any given week there might well be a Trophy game taking place somewhere.

Whether several other ties are happening on the same night, and whether all the groups run concurrently, well, is there anything else you’d like? The moon on a stick?

The biggest entrants to the 2019/20 competition plainly take part only when other, more important engagements allow. Hence Manchester United launching their maiden Trophy voyage in the first week of the season, others later that month, others in autumn.

It is hardly the way to make a toxic idea work. It is certainly not the method to satisfy those who already feel this is all about Premier League power, rather than the future of English football, the viability of tiers three and four, or – don’t laugh – the strength of the national team, a claim spun by the EFL three years ago.

That sugary sales pitch was rejected again by many in these parts. It was not a record Brunton Park low but the official crowd of 893, the third-tiniest, must still be recorded before the score (4-2 to the visitors, thanks to Benny Ashley-Seal’s hat-trick).

That so few people wanted to come to the game is more important than the result. It is one more reason for regret, and so is the bigger pattern: that seven of Carlisle’s 11 smallest attendances have now come in this here competition since 2016 (year zero for the B Team experiment).

It could not be plainer. Yet the recasting of lower-league clubs and players as laboratory mice continues.

Yes, Carlisle gave debuts to certain players here, took a look at others from the fringe and no doubt learned a few hard lessons from defeat to a development side in the process. Everyone involved spoke seriously about it. Of course it mattered. We want to win every game, etc.

Strip that talk away, though, and what did we really have? A practice match for Wolves’ second rank. A club sharing a division with United just six seasons back now using them as training obstacles for their pups.

It’s not the thin end of the wedge, those behind it always argue, including the dearly lamented former EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey. B Teams in the league? Not on your life!

Why, then, persist with this caper if the red line is so obvious? Why acknowledge what people don’t want in one breath but keep nudging this Trophy forward the next?

It often feels, in making these arguments year upon year, that barking at the moon would be a better use of energy. In comes the money, up the clubs sign and on the shambles goes.

Yet object people still must, since the other way lies acceptance. To give in is to be content with English football’s warped structure; the hoovering nature of the Elite Player Performance Plan and the cold power of big money over traditions and community.

To celebrate the modern trophy is to remain open-minded to B Teams generally, and to take on the chin the idea that our own proud clubs don’t matter as much as we presumed.

Ah, but the early rounds were never popular before the under-21 era, some say. Entirely true. But never seven-in-11 unpopular. Never unpopular on principle to some who would normally fly to the moon to watch Carlisle United.

Wolves have a League Cup game tonight, a Premier League 2 fixture on Friday and a top-flight match at the weekend, so nobody should have expected a surge down Warwick Road with folk desperate to see those players dispatched from Molineux for this afterthought.

Steven Pressley, Carlisle’s manager, also used the game for his own ends, giving first outings to young defender Jarrad Branthwaite and keeper Louis Gray, and handing starts to other hopefuls such as Elias Sorensen, Jon Mellish and Canice Carroll. It was a souped-up reserve game for the Cumbrians too, and why wouldn’t it be?

Under heavy rain, Pressley's side went behind to Ashley-Seal’s opener, levelled through captain Hallam Hope’s dinked first of the season, went behind again to Tsun Dai’s deflected strike, and equalised again shortly before the break when Ryan Loft finished Sorensen’s pass on the run.

Afterwards, Ashley-Seal made it 3-2 to the visitors with a penalty, having been tripped by Gray after a weak Branthwaite backpass. The Wolves striker then completed his hat-trick in the 63rd minute. United were then unsuccessful in their attempts to find a way back in the closing half-hour.

The final whistle then blew, a few people booed, and one of the lightest footfalls in Brunton Park’s history was felt at the exit gates. The third most irrelevant spectacle the old place has seen – if you are measuring by public interest – was over.

It would have been a joke, had anyone been there to laugh.

United: Gray, Elliott, Iredale, G Jones (Hayden 61), Mellish, Branthwaite, Carroll, Bridge, Hope, Loft (McKirdy 77), Sorensen. Not used: Collin, Charters, Barnes, Kerr, Olomola.

Goals: Hope 35, Loft 45

Booked: Carroll

Wolves U21: Sondergaard, Taylor (Hanne 70), Nya, Thompson, Ashley-Seal (He 81), Samuels, Buur, Dai (Otasowie 85), Cristovao, Watt, Richards. Not used: Pardington, Wan, Csoka, Marques.

Goals: Ashley-Seal 20, 47pen, 63; Dai 40

Booked: Hanne

Ref: Seb Stockbridge

Crowd: 893 (72 Wolves U21 fans)