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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Carlisle United fail to shine against Aldershot upstarts

Aldershot 2 Carlisle United 0: In a town known as the Home of the British Army, Carlisle United’s players suffered what is probably best termed as a kick in the barracks – and it hurt like hell.

Aldershot, the first-round conquerors of Championship giants West Ham, once again produced another upset in the Carling Cup after a display which was as clinical and well-executed as a military operation.

The defiance and determination in Carlisle’s armoury which has earned them praise so far this season went AWOL on a night when there were too many loose cannons in their weakened line-up.

But most disappointing of all for Greg Abbott was that fringe players, who have been crying out for their chance, failed to prove to him that they’re worthy of a run in the team even when regular troops return from injury, international duty and ineligibility.

Even without the likes of Lubo Michalik, Peter Murphy, Lee Miller, Frank Simek and James Tavernier, Carlisle should have been strong enough to see off Dean Holdsworth’s League Two upstarts.

Aldershot haven’t won at home all season and nor have they kept a clean sheet at the EBB Stadium in what has been a tough start to their League Two programme.

But, of course, this is a cup competition when form books are frequently thrown out of the window and the lesser lights enjoy their moment of glory.

It is a type of sporting torture which left Carlisle humiliated in front of nearly 200 of their fans, many of whom had made a round trip of 700 miles to Hampshire and deserved better than seeing players’ heads go down.

Abbott at least had the good grace to apologise for his side’s display and admitted he was as bewildered as anyone why his players had looked so lacklustre and unwilling to roll their sleeves up and fight.

In his enforced absence through having appeared for Middlesbrough in the first round of the competition, the cup-tied Miller underlined how crucial he has suddenly become to his new club after starting his Blues career with two goals in Saturday’s victory over Leyton Orient.

Craig Curran, Francois Zoko and sub Rory Loy failed to make any kind of impression with a collectively bloodless display by United’s strike-force as Aldershot were given a comfortable passage into the third round.

The only blood spilled was that of United defender Stephen O’Halloran, who along with Danny Livesey in a new-look defence, was among only a handful of players to emerge with much credit.

O’Halloran needed six stitches in a nasty head wound he suffered in a clash with Luke Guttridge, which earned the Aldershot man a booking.

And you had to feel for Livesey, who impressed on his return to the side but then suffered the ignominy of scoring an own goal.

But the real damage was done in the first half when Carlisle failed to take advantage of the chances presented to them.

Aldershot were clearly in the mood to cause another upset as they made a bold start.

After dominating the opening exchanges, they nearly shocked Carlisle when Danny Hylton fired over the bar from 23 yards.

But the new-look Carlisle defence didn’t look flustered under the bombardment – and O’Halloran was nearly a hero at the other end.

The Irishman got on the end of James Berrett’s corner but his header was cleared off the line by Darren Jones. O’Halloran threw his arms in the air to protest that the ball had crossed the line but referee James Linington ignored his pleas.

Zoko then saw his effort soar over the bar and then the Ivorian unwittingly managed to block a chance for Berrett, whose fierce drive cannoned off his team-mate in the six-yard box.

For all their possession, Aldershot hadn’t looked like making the breakthrough but the home side gave themselves the perfect confidence boost heading into the break.

Just seconds after the fourth official indicated there would be one minute of injury-time, Michael Rankine fired his side into the lead with a beautifully struck angled shot which squeezed into the bottom corner past a helpless Adam Collin.

You then expected Carlisle to come out for the second half looking like they meant business. There were enough seasoned campaigners in their side who should have known what it takes to turn things round.

But they seemed utterly bereft of ideas. Even when Abbott made changes – summer signings Welsh and McGovern were both hooked after poor performances and inspirational skipper Paul Thirlwell and Loy were thrown on – the spark was still missing.

United paid the price on 75 minutes when Aldershot sealed their place in the third round at home to Rochdale.

Anthony Straker raced away and his cross-cum-shot from the tightest of angles took a deflection off the shin of Livesey into the back of the net.

It was a car keys-down-the-drain moment for the popular defender and it perfectly summed up Carlisle’s fortunes as they blew the chance of a home tie with Rochdale – a golden opportunity to have reached the fourth round for the first time in 41 years.

ADAM COLLIN - Comfortable and composed and couldn’t be faulted for goals.

MATTY ROBSON - Caught out in build up to opening goal and never look himself.

STEPHEN O’HALLORAN - Couldn’t be faulted and showed courage by playing on with bandaged head after suffering a nasty gash.

DANNY LIVESEY - Accomplished performance and real shame it was marred when he deflected ball into his own net.

TOM TAIWO - Badly missed in midfield and never looked comfortable filling in as an emergency right-back.

JON-PAUL MCGOVERN - Failed to make an impact with crosses or attacking play.

ANDY WELSH - Disappointing night for winger who is capable of far better than this.

LIAM NOBLE - Disappointing night for the youngster who failed to catch the eye.

JAMES BERRETT - Worked hard and full of energy in midfield but couldn’t fashion anything with set-pieces.

FRANCOIS ZOKO - Provided a threat in the first half but failed to make impact.

CRAIG CURRAN - Willing worker but lacks the killer punch in front of goal.

Subs: Paul Thirlwell (for Welsh, 74) – Failed to inspire revival. 6; Rory Loy (for McGovern, 62) – Didn’t make any impact. Subs (not used): Gillespie, McKenna, Swinglehurst, Todd.

Aldershot: Worner, Herd, Straker, Guttridge, Jones, Collins, Rankine, Hylton (Mekki, 94), Rodman (McGlashan, 46), Morris, Vincenti (Pulis, 68), subs: Bubb, Montgomery, Worner.

Goals: Rankine 45, Livesey (OG) 75

Bookings: Guttrdidge (foul)

Referee: James Linington (Isle of Wight)

Attendance: 2,809 (199 Carlisle fans)

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