Sutton United manager Matt Gray is eyeing a tie against a Premier League side in the second round of the Carabao Cup, following the club’s first-ever victory in the competition.
The U’s made it third-time lucky in the EFL Cup, after beating League One opposition Cambridge United 6-5 on penalties.
Cardiff City and MK Dons provided the stumbling blocks in their two previous efforts in this competition since their promotion to the Football League in 2021, but the South-West London side will be in Wednesday night’s second-round draw.
Gray’s side did it the hard way at Gander Green Lane, coming from behind twice with goals from Harry Smith and Harry Beautyman cancelling out a brace by Fejiri Okenabirhie.
Cambridge’s George Thomas and Sutton’s Ben Goodliffe both missed to send the shootout to sudden death, before half-time substitute Jack Rose saved the decisive spot kick.
The 12 Premier League teams not involved in European competitions will now enter the draw, which will see Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur become potential opponents for the League Two side, following their respective struggles in the Premier League last season.
As was the case with the first round, the second round will be regionalised into north and south to minimise travel for the midweek fixtures.
Southampton, Hull City, Watford and Sunderland are amongst those to have suffered shock exits from this year’s competition, with Sutton now hoping they will be next to inflict an upset of great enormity.
What’s been said?
“It’s nice to be in the hat for the second round after the last couple of years,” admitted the 41-year-old.
“It’s the first time we’ve won a League Cup game. The Premier League boys come in now so it would be great to get one.
“It’s nice to get another win on penalties and make sure we got through to the next round.
“I was pleased with a hell of a lot from the game.
“I’ve really noticed the team spirit ever since our pre-season trip. We showed great character to come from behind twice and I’m really pleased with the spirit in the group.
“We don’t practice the specific penalties. Everyone knows to pick their spot and commit to the penalty.”
For Sutton’s sake, I hope this achievement in the club’s history is rewarded with a mouth-watering tie. There is added interest in the southern section with the addition of two of the so-called ‘big six’ entering earlier than expected.
The visit of Premier League side Arsenal to Gander Green Lane in the 5th round of the FA Cup in 2017 became shrouded in controversary following ‘piegate’, so I do hope that a potential repeat of a special night would be remembered for the events that occur on the pitch, rather than off it.
However, confidence must be at an all-time high for the League Two table toppers, who will be looking to build on what has been a perfect week at the start of the 2023/24 season.