PLAYING Liverpool behind closed doors is overrated anyway.

What’s the point of hosting Jurgen Klopp’s Premier League kings with nobody there to see it?

City will never know, of course, as Lincoln have the honour next week after a thumping victory in their Carabao Cup second-round tie at Valley Parade.

The Bantams were buried by a first-half salvo from Michael Appleton’s Imps who were 4-0 up and absolutely cruising by the break.

Paudie O’Connor had it right after the fourth goal flew in. “This is a XXXX joke” bellowed the Irishman across the empty stage.

But it was far from a laughing matter for Stuart McCall after an uncomfortable night that will throw up some awkward questions after an encouraging opening week.

McCall had made four changes from the weekend – but two only lasted 45 minutes.

One of them, Ben Richards-Everton, was part of a collective shocker at the back – and was put out of his misery by being hooked off at half-time.

Tyler French, whose own goal had begun the landslide, suffered the same fate.

The team that had conceded only one goal in their first three games were in tatters by that stage.

The pre-match focus had been on the frontline after McCall’s prediction that his three mainline strikers will top double figures this term.

But all the early goal-mouth action was focused on the other end – with Richard O’Donnell picking the ball out of his net twice in the opening six minutes.

The first was a horror moment for French as he sliced Jorge Grant’s free-kick past his keeper from eight yards out.

And worse was to follow two minutes later when Harry Anderson fed Conor McGrandles on the edge of the box. He scuffed his shot which O’Donnell pushed on to the post and Anthony Scully was lurking for a tap-in.

It was a terrible start for the Bantams and a real shock to the system having defended so solidly in their previous games.

Connor Wood had to be alert to prevent Lincoln threatening a third, whipping the ball off Callum Morton as the striker bore down on the box.

West Brom loanee Morton, a key part of Northampton’s promotion, almost dealt City another blow when he careered into O’Donnell. The keeper stayed down but thankfully recovered after some treatment.

City were at least clocking up the corners and, as they started to have a go, Callum Cooke forced Alex Palmer into a low save before the keeper smothered at Guthrie’s feet as he looked to convert a scramble in the six-yard box.

It was a reasonable response - which should have brought a reward on 23 minutes. Wood’s cross slipped through the Lincoln ranks but Donaldson skied his shot on turn from six yards out.

That miss got even bigger when Lincoln struck again from another poorly-defended free-kick. Nobody dealt with Grant’s inswinger as centre half Lewis Montsma knocked in – the “social distancing” in the City penalty area burying that faint hope of a fightback.

Donaldson had a penalty shout waved away but Lincoln continued to wreak havoc whenever they attacked. O’Donnell saved from Grant but was left clutching thin air from a curler into the top corner by James Jones.

The agony was still not done and O’Donnell had to scramble to deny Scully a second and a Lincoln fifth before Geoff Eltringham’s whistle brought some half-time respite.

There was no escape from McCall’s displeasure as his voice rang out and there was at least a bit of urgency when they returned – minus Richards-Everton and French.

Richards-Everton was replaced by Reece Staunton, who is clearly the first choice for that left-sided defensive role now even with the season in its infancy.

The teenager’s second-half effort showed an improvement in a side where only Wood and Elliot Watt could escape criticism.

Guthrie almost nabbed a scant consolation from a corner but his back-post header was well kept out by Palmer.

With the tie long since done and dusted, Lincoln had shifted down to play it out in first gear. But they still conjured up one more, Grant claiming a third assist when he set up Morton in added time.

CITY: O’Donnell 5, A O’Connor 5, P O’Connor 4, Richards-Everton 3 (Staunton 46min, 6), French 4 (Mottley-Henry 46min, 5), Cooke 5, Watt 6, Wood 6, Pritchard 5, Guthrie 5, Donaldson 5. Subs (not used): Longridge, Novak, Ismail, Clarke, Hornby.

LINCOLN: Palmer 7, Eyoma 6, Montsma 7, Jackson 7, Melbourne 6, McGrandles 7, Grant 7, Jones 7 (Bridcutt 84min), Anderson 8 (Hopper 72min), Morton 7, Scully 7 (Howarth 67min). Subs (not used): Ross, Edun, Howarth, Elbouzedi, Roughan.