The eerie atmosphere inside an almost entirely deserted Ricoh Arena spoke volumes about the apathetic attitude of many towards this wholly uninspiring competition, and that was further reflected in Northampton’s rather fittingly limp exit.
It resembled more of a pre-season friendly than a competitive encounter between two relatively local rivals, the distinct disillusionment with his terribly reformatted competition all too evident on another bizarre evening that couldn’t even a dramatic start couldn’t liven up.
It says a lot about the seriousness of a competition when the authorities feel the need to force managers into picking a relatively strong team or risk being fined, and even then clubs find a way around it.
For Northampton, there were nine changes from Saturday’s team and the understandably disjointed line-up were second best for much of a lacklustre affair against a close to full strength Coventry side.
Aside from a brief second-half flurry, the Cobblers went down to defeat without much of a fight, thus sealing their fate and crushing thousands of Checkatrade Trophy dreams.
Amazingly, though, they still have to go through the farce of hosting West Ham United U23s for the final group next month despite the fact neither team can qualify. Talk about a hard sell.
One wonders what the powers that be were thinking when they came up with a group stage format. Did they not foresee the fact that there will inevitably be dead rubbers? Where clubs will have to spend time, money and effort staging a game that is utterly irrelevant?
The idea of encouraging youngsters to play men’s football competitively is all well and good but not when it comes at the detriment of football league clubs, and this competition only serves to clog up the fixture list and degrade those outside the Premier League.
The problem is only further exacerbated by a combination of EFL rules, which dictate who managers can and can’t pick, and the new restrictions on loan deals.
The decision to abolish short-term loans is a particularly bewildering one because it has only resulted in clubs like Northampton stockpiling players, and mainly young players at that. In no way can that be beneficial for their development – which was the very point of shaking up the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in the first place.
The whole thing is counterproductive.
Take a trio of regulars from last season’s title-winning squad for example.
Rod McDonald, Lawson D’Ath and Joel Byrom have played a grand total of 370 minutes of football between them this term. How on earth is that good for player development? Yet there is nothing they can do and nowhere they can go.
Of course they could stake their claim for more regular game-time in the three Checkatrade Group matches... only for the EFL to decide that clubs should not be allowed to make full use of their resources.
The whole situation is a mess, and nothing highlighted that more than a 95 per cent empty Ricoh Arena.
At least we did witness a potential future star on show as fleet-footed teenager Jodi Jones pulled the strings and wreaked havoc throughout the first-half, his sharp movement and quick footwork too hot for the Northampton defence to handle.
He might well have had a first-half hat-trick on another day but his seventh-minute goal was added to by Daniel Agyei as Coventry led 2-1 at half-time.
Ruben Lameiras’ superb second-half lob then left Northampton’s Checkatrade Trophy dreams hanging by a thread, and indeed that would be enough to end their stay in the competition, much to the and relief delight of their own fans.
That in itself says everything you need to know. What a sad state of affairs.
How they rated...
David Cornell - Might have done better for the opener, needed a stronger wrist to palm the shot away. Got fortunate with another fumble too but handling was otherwise OK... 6
Aaron Phillips - The dangerous Jones gave him problems but he grew into the game and eventually found his feet to remind everyone he’s a more than capable back up for Moloney... 7
Lewin Nyatanga - Should have done better to close down Agyei when the Coventry man found too much space to score. Shaky first-half but did look more at ease in the second... 6
Rod McDonald - Rusty on his first appearance of the season and both Jones and Agyei took full advantage when waltzing through to score. Like Nyatanga, became more steady as the game wore on... 6
David Buchanan - The only ever-present left this season as once again he played the full 90 minutes while others were given the night off, though will be disappointed by how Lameiras got the wrong side for the third... 6
Emmanuel Sonupe - Full debut and looked a little lost in an anonymous 45 minutes. Replaced at half-time... 5
John-Joe O’Toole - Found himself too deep and too far away from the opposition goal to really make an impact... 6
Jak McCourt - No doubting his attitude as he threw himself around but was too careless in possession... 6
Kenji Gorre - Bright and lively as he picked up good positions and always tried to make something happen. Carried his side’s biggest threat... 7 CHRON STAR MAN
JJ Hooper - Did well to set up Richards and work himself into other promising positions but needs to get his head up more and work on his end product... 7
Marc Richards - Positive night for the skipper who scored his 50th goal for the club and got through over an hour unscathed which will help his bid for a regular starting berth... 7
Harry Beautyman - 6
Sam Hoskins - 6
Lawson D’Ath - 6