Bradford City 0 Middlesbrough 2: A week is a long time in football as Teessiders' mentality is transformed to sweep Bantams away
Granted, with Michael Carrick's XI having a very "League Cup" feel on Tuesday night, this was quite a different side on paper to the one which drew at Sheffield Wednesday a week earlier.
But the real difference at Valley Parade was the self-belief of the team. Save for a 20-minute spell in the second half at Hillsborough, Boro had looked utterly bereft of confidence. A win – their first of the Championship season, against Southampton at the weekend – made all the difference.
The 2-0 scoreline flattered them deeply but cup competitions are not about the margins, just who gets into the next round.
Bradford knocked Championship Hull City out of last season’s competition but from very early on, it seemed pretty clear which side would be Yorkshire's last representatives in the League Cup in this the 20th anniversary of them lifting the trophy in Cardiff.
The first move of the match showed what the Bantams were up against.
There were less than three minutes gone when Lewis O'Brien popped up at centre-forward and spooned a cross from Tommy Smith.
Summer signing O'Brien is a midfielder by trade but has spent the last couple of games at left-back, a job he has done in the past for Huddersfield Town. A Carrick full-back, though, is not just expected to sit back and defend.
Left winger Riley McGree, one of three Australians in Boro’s starting line-up, was the next player to appear in a crossing position at the right byline, but failed to make the most of the opportunity.
Right winger Sammy Silvera cut in from the left wing to curl a shot wide having been fed by his compatriot McGree from the opposite flank.
It must have been a dizzying time for the Bantams defenders. All those attacks were in the first 15 minutes.
Dan Barlaser played some lovely pass, one down the middle just out of Emmanuel Latte Lath's reach, another pinged out to the right wing which Smith could not control.
All that liquid football needed some froth, and Latte Lath provided it.
Hayden Hackney broke through a weak tackle just inside Bradford's half and drove on before slipping the ball to the striker, who scored his second goal for the club under Harry Lewis.
If his first chance at a save was disappointing he quickly made up for it with a save on his line from the same player.
In between a good O'Brien tackle stopped Clarke Oduor making anything of the hosts' first incursion in to the Boro penalty area.
The only encouragement for Bradford came from Boro's third Australian, cup goalkeeper Tom Glover.
When he came for City's first corner without taking it, McGree played an extravagant switch from deep on the left out to Silvera on the right which came to nothing.
And when he dropped a deep free-kick from Brad Halliday in the 39th minute, O'Brien came across to sweep up the danger.
If half-time substitute Ryan Tulloch teased the home fans by having Bradford's first shot of the night, Morgan Rogers soon put them in their place.
McGree's simple square pass got the simple, efficient finish it deserved, and with 54 minutes gone, the contest looked to be over.
It took another quarter of an hour for Bantams manager Mark Hughes to tacitly admits as much, withdrawing Andy Cook, Jamie Walker, Clarke Oduor and Liam Ridehalgh to res for the bigger challenges ahead in a quadruple substitution.
By then Barlaser and O'Brien had failed in attempts to further buff up their confidence, the former putting a free-kick narrowly wide, the latter forcing Lewis to save from a tight angle.
At the other end, Oduor had volleyed into a crowd of Boro defenders, raising optimistic penalty appeals Tim Nield gave short shrift to.
To their credit, Bradford kept pushing to the end to try and give the more than 11,000 home fans in a crowd of 15,754 the goal they deserved whilst their visitors took the foot off the gas. But substitute Alex Pattison’s 85th-minute shot, saved by Glover, was their first – and last – on target.
It had been a comprehensive beating. Hopefully Bradford can take one look at the two divisions between the sides and shrug it off, but for Boro this needs to be the start of some overdue confidence and form building.
Bradford City: LLewis; Halliday, Platt, Stubbs, Ridehalgh (Kelly 71); Oduor (Wilson 71), Oyegoke, Gilliead, Afoka (Tulloch 46); Walker (Pattison 71), Cook (Smith 71). Unused substitutes: Smallwood, Osadebe, Doyle, Pointon.
Middlesbrough: Glover; Smith, Fry, McNair, O'Brien; Barlaser, Hackney; Silvera, Rogers, McGree (Gilbert 71); Latte Lath. Unused substitutes: I Jones, Howson, Coburn, Coulson, Lenihan, Engel, J Jones, McCabe.
Referee: T Nield (Huddersfield).