Carabao Cup round-up: Welsh ‘big two’ bow out, seven shootouts and Harrogate delight

Steve Cooper
Swansea manager Steve Cooper was not happy with what he saw from his side in the derby against Newport

Six Championship teams suffered defeats by lower league opposition in the first round of the Carabao Cup on Saturday.

It is not easy going straight into a knockout competition with only pre-season friendlies behind you, and especially after a campaign disrupted by a global pandemic, as was the case in 2019-20.

Cardiff and Swansea, who both reached last season’s second tier play-offs, were knocked out by League One Northampton and League Two Newport respectively.

BBC Sport rounds up all the of the talking points from a day when seven of the 28 ties ended in penalty shootouts.

Bluebirds and Swans have wings clipped

It was an especially disappointing day for Cardiff and Swansea, who have both reached the final of this competition in the past 10 years.

The Bluebirds, beaten on penalties in the 2012 final by Liverpool, were thumped 3-0 at promoted League One side Northampton despite naming a strong starting XI.

Rivals Swansea, winners in 2013, fared little better as a first-half double from Tristan Abrahams sent hosts Newport through.

There were also opening day blues for two new Championship managers.

Aitor Karanka’s Birmingham City suffered a 1-0 home defeat by Cambridge United and Carlos Corberan’s Huddersfield Town lost by the same scoreline at home to League One Rochdale.

Rotherham scored a last-minute equaliser to force penalties at Salford, but it was the League Two side who held their nerve to win from the spot, while QPR lost an entertaining clash 3-2 at newly-promoted League One side Plymouth.

The Millers’ defeat on penalties was one of 10 ties to go to spot-kicks across the entire first round – the most in a single round of the competition, although it must be remembered that extra-time is no longer played unlike in previous years.

Harrogate make hay, Barrow beaten and Wigan woes

Tranmere Rovers
Tranmere find shootout defeats are tough to take even in the first game of the season

Harrogate Town’s first game as an English Football League club ended with a dramatic victory as they beat fellow League Two side Tranmere 8-7 on penalties after the game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.

The North Yorkshire team were back in action just five weeks after going up through the National League promotion final, while opponents Tranmere had not played a competitive game since March.

“We’re delighted to get through. The reaction to conceding spoke volumes of the spirit in the camp,” boss Simon Weaver told BBC Radio York.

“We played some good stuff and when we got things right we looked like a good football team.

“They were unlucky to have been relegated and they’ve got a lot of League One players in their team. I can’t speak highly enough for how the players have bridged the gap today. I’m very proud.”

Last season’s National League champions Barrow took Championship side Derby County to spot kicks but missed three of their five efforts to go down 3-2.

Meanwhile, administration-hit and managerless Wigan made a great start to their tie at Fleetwood with Joe Garner’s double giving them a 2-0 lead after 31 minutes.

However, given the upheaval at the club over the past two months it was perhaps unsurprising that they could not maintain that level of performance and the hosts came back to claim a 3-2 win.

Hat-trick heroes and Friday night lights

Lucas Joao
Lucas Joao took home the match ball after his hat-trick for Reading

There were two hat-tricks on Saturday, with Luton’s James Collins and Reading’s Lucas Joao giving their sides 3-1 wins over Norwich and Colchester respectively.

Friday’s ties saw Middlesbrough claim a first home victory since Boxing Day thanks to a goal-laden 4-3 win over Shrewsbury and Burton Albion eke past fellow League One side Accrington 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

They join Championship sides Blackburn, Preston and Stoke and League One outfit Portsmouth in the second round draw after they won their first-round ties last weekend.

When is the second-round draw?

The draws for the second and third rounds of the competition will be held on Sunday after Brentford’s game against fellow Championship side Wycombe (12:00 BST).

The 13 Premier League sides not in European competition, plus Bournemouth and Watford, will enter the competition in round two, with those competing in Europe coming in in the third round.