All Carlisle United need now is the touch of an assassin
Last updated at 12:20, Wednesday, 13 April 2011
Leyton Orient 0 Carlisle United 0: With 15 minutes of this pinball game remaining, Leyton Orient’s manager Russell Slade asked Jonathan Tehoue to shed his tracksuit and do unto Carlisle United what he had done against Arsenal in February, and a host of other opponents in his brief Os career.
The 26-year-old substitute is routinely inflicted on weary defenders to damaging effect. A remarkable 10 of Tehoue’s 12 Orient goals have been scored in the final five minutes of a game, including the bullocking equaliser he famously put past the Gunners in an FA Cup tie two months back.
Not this time, though. Carlisle’s defenders hustled the Frenchman into obscurity in the final quarter-hour of a rattling game which ended mystifyingly goalless.
Orient’s best late opportunity fell, in fact, to the tiny winger Dean Cox, who at 5ft 4in was perhaps not Slade’s preferred candidate to be arriving onto a cross in front of goal.
Skyward went his 86th minute chance. This red corner of East London, a javelin throw from the 2012 Olympic Stadium, howled in exasperation.
With Cox’s ballooned header went Orient’s one bankable chance to take three crucial play-off chasing points from an entertaining skirmish with Greg Abbott’s men.
By the time Carlisle had dealt with the home team’s desperate, closing salvos, they might just have easily been over the horizon with the spoils themselves.
The thickness of the crossbar denied Paddy Madden his first Blues goal 12 minutes from time, while at the end of the first half Francois Zoko failed to score from a golden close-range position.
Abbott’s side crafted a variety of other chances on an evening when their play was often brisk and positive.
All that was missing was an assassin’s touch. Story of their season, say the sceptical observers. To which the optimist replies: solve this final conundrum and United will be almost there.
If an average League One campaign could be distilled down into an hour-and-a-half, it would result in something like this: a 90-minute cabaret of energy and optimism, not to say quality, with a few clunking flaws thrown in.
There have been less entertaining six-goal thrillers than this set-to, which sprayed graffiti over the dull 0-0 stereotype.
In game 41 of another epic league season, Carlisle were pleasingly committed and strong.
Generous estimates (generous to Orient, that is) put their territorial dominance at roughly two thirds of this game.
To pitch up at the home of such a breezily confident side as Orient and have them flailing in your shadows for at least an hour requires a certain bravado.
United certainly brought that quality to the Matchroom Stadium, where the home chairman, snooker impresario Barry Hearn, might have balked at the absence of safety play and patient plotting.
While cursing the Blues’ inability to pocket just one of their scoring opportunities, instinct reminded you to applaud their vigour at the end of a 19-day, five-game away day marathon which has seen them tot up 3,050 motorway miles.
The Blues would not be human if fatigue wasn’t burrowing into certain bones. Yet they disguised their weariness well in Orient’s compact arena, which Hearn fears will be packing in even fewer locals than last night’s 3,228, once West Ham move into the nearby Olympic coliseum.
For the first 20 minutes United were obliged to sponge up the home team’s early thrusts, with Cox a sprightly presence down the left and Stephen Dawson providing the lungs in midfield.
One seventh minute cross from Cox brought a lashing clearance from Matty Robson which flew perilously close to his own target, and then a Peter Murphy mistake saw Andrew Whing belt the ball just over.
This edgy spell negotiated, United’s back line – the excellent Robson included – was generally secure.
It took a little time for Carlisle to impose their presence in the Orient half.
When Zoko, often double-marked, got a backheel wrong Abbott threw up his arms in frustration. Soon enough, though, United’s midfielders found a decent range and the result was a sudden stint of serious Blues pressure.
On the half-hour, Zoko challenged for a Liam Noble cross and allowed Curran to shoot. Jamie Jones met the attempt with a one-handed save, and the Os’ keeper was extended again with a sharp dive when James Berrett put a delivery on Zoko’s head.
When Orient tried to interrupt this period of Blue dominance, Robson galloped back to thwart Scott McGleish, the 37-year-old veteran whose strike partner, Harry Kane, is 17.
After that Robson returned downfield with attacking intent, which had the effect of pinning the Os’ right-winger Adam Chambers deep into his own half.
On the brink of the break, Robson skinned his opposite number and crossed for Tom Taiwo, whose swivelling shot dropped perfectly for Zoko. Regrettably, the Ivorian’s finish was poor, and the half-time fear was that Carlisle might eventually be made to regret such wastefulness.
Orient tried to exact punishment with an early second-half flurry, but Lubo Michalik’s telescopic limbs had already repelled many such attacks and the Slovakian extended a leg again, to clear a dangerous cross from the lively Charlie Daniels.
With Murphy reducing the wily McGleish to an irrelevant spectator, Carlisle soon came again.
Noble, with pleasing intent, whipped one 25-yarder a fraction wide.
Berrett then strode forward and tested Jones from range.
Frank Simek then joined the pursuit with a darting run and cross which Taiwo miscued. Orient stirred through the sporadically dangerous Dawson – Michalik intervened – but then United got painfully close to breaking the deadlock.
Robson, sensing an opportunity, picked out Curran in the box with a quick throw. The Scouser duly fed Madden, who had replaced Zoko.
The young Irishman swung his left foot, made clean contact and watched the ball batter the bar.
Seconds later, Robson uncorked one from a sharp angle, but Jones tipped it over.
By now Tehoue and another Spurs man, Paul-Jose Mpoku, had joined the Os’ campaign, but their closing efforts yielded similar frustration. In the 84th minute Chambers skied a handy Cox cross, then Taiwo yielded possession to Mpoku, whose centre was squandered appallingly by Orient’s pocket-sized number seven.
There was time for one, final scare – a Matt Spring shot, a flick from Tehoue and a heroic sliding interception by Berrett – before United could pack up and leave town.
This draining sequence of away jaunts has been Carlisle’s payback for a run of nine home matches out of 10 between November and January, when Brunton Park negotiated the harsh climate better than some other grounds (last night’s fixture was rearranged from early December, for instance).
In the next 48 hours the Blues players will parade their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at a civic reception and hopefully grab a few Zs before going again against Colchester on Saturday, when Abbott can claim a few managerial bragging rights over his predecessor, John Ward, in their first home game since March 19.
The odds on the United boss naming a weakened team for that little skirmish are approximately 500/1.
ADAM COLLIN – Wasn’t tested as often as his opposite number but dealt with most things well, a couple of minor fumbles aside.
FRANK SIMEK – Cox was a dangerous early threat down his flank, but Simek defended steadily and made some handy attacking contributions.
MATTY ROBSON – Back to his Wembley form with some excellent defending and plenty of high-quality attacking.
LUBO MICHALIK – Briefly looked at risk of a second booking in second half, but the Slovakian was generally a forbidding presence.
PETER MURPHY – Barely put a foot wrong all night, he silenced McGleish and read the game impeccably.
PAUL THIRLWELL – Did the dirty work well and his passing was always tidy and responsible.
TOM TAIWO – Another who improved from Saturday, he helped Carlisle get on top in midfield and got into some handy forward positions.
JAMES BERRETT – Corners didn’t hit the spot on this occasion, but he used the ball effectively throughout.
LIAM NOBLE – Bright and positive, the Sunderland youngster is becoming more important to United with each outing.
FRANCOIS ZOKO – Quiet for spells, came alive in flashes but finishing skills deserted him when one great chance fell his way.
CRAIG CURRAN – Helped Carlisle pin the Os back in their half for much of the game and he linked many attacks well.
Subs: Paddy Madden (for Zoko 76) – So close to debut goal. Not used: Mark Gillespie, Danny Livesey, Rory Loy, Nahki Wells, Josh Todd, Ryan Bowman.
Booked: Michalik, Thirlwell
Leyton Orient: Jones, Whing (Crowe 75), Daniels, Omozusi, Barrett, Dawson, Chambers, Spring, Cox, Kane (Mpoku 60), McGleish (Tehoue 75). Not used: Butcher, Forbes, Jarvis, Carroll.
Ref: Garry Sutton (Lincolnshire)
Crowd: 3,228 (238 Carlisle fans)
First published at 11:30, Wednesday, 13 April 2011
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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