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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Carlisle United's Peter Murphy testimonial attracts star names and 2,500 fans

For a few golden seconds it was 1997 again, as Matt Jansen collected the ball, performed a step-over and glided towards the penalty area at the Warwick Road End.

Murphy testimonial photo
Former Carlisle Utd player Matt Jansen on the ball

Then time caught up fast. Jansen’s run descended into a stumble, as he lost the ball, fell over, and broke into laughter at his misfortune.

These enjoyable cameos were breaking out all across Brunton Park yesterday. This was Peter Murphy’s day, naturally, but the eye fell on so many other favourites for an hour-and-a-half of pure nostalgia.

Some of the little episodes had only occurred in the most imaginative Cumbrian minds, until yesterday. For instance: in the seventh minute, Murphy found Grant Holt, who fed the ball left to Danny Graham, before the Chrises Lumsdon and Billy traded passes so that Tom Cowan could cross.

Later, Ben Marshall ran at pace down the left hand side. His marker? Greg Abbott. Marshall eventually crossed, and Jansen rose to head wide. And so it went on.

All this was brilliant fodder for 2,500 people who came to salute Murphy but also to say hello and goodbye to a big cast list of old favourites.

Brunton Park will probably never see such a gathering again.

Every touch from the ‘All-Star’ XI transported us back to a happy place in United’s recent history. There were some decent contributions from the present-day heroes, too, and every man connected by Murphy, for whom the supporters raised the roof when he first appeared through a guard of honour, and then again, when he was subbed for the final time in the 85th minute.

“It was brilliant that the fans came to say thanks to me,” Murphy later said. “I hope I’ve given something back.”

For 10 years of steadfast service, featuring some spectacular moments, Murphy was the guest and chief organiser at a special party. Ex-players from the 1990s lined up with more recent idols, with a small sprinkling of Premier League class (Graham, Holt, Keiren Westwood, Ian Harte) to raise the tone further.

In the main it was one team with their glory years behind them and another side still striving. The pace was gentle, the mood friendly, the entertainment value high.

First, Joe Garner indulged himself with a goal, shooting past Matty Glennon in the eighth minute. This was cancelled out with the moment everyone wished to see: a fine Murphy finish, curled past Mark Gillespie.

Minutes later and the old boys struck again: showman Lumsdon finding Billy, the old warhorse slotting Graham through, and the Swansea hitman rounding Gillespie to score from an angle.

Amusement levels were always high, as Lumsdon performed pirouettes on the ball down the wing, Kevin Gray executed a fine rugby tackle on Kallum Higginbotham (no penalty, said ref Joe Simpson) and Abbott, wearing number two, took the field to pantomime boos and set about trying to contain Jansen, who is now, impossibly, 34.

Let the record show that United’s manager, himself 48, acquitted himself rather well with boots on. Behind him, Westwood was an amused spectator, as Simon Hackney put the all-stars 3-1 up, before Andy Welsh and Graham Kavanagh drilled shots past Glass to level things.

Keeping shots out was never Glass’s best discipline, of course. And so, after Marc Bridge-Wilkinson had chipped the old boys back in front, an injury-time corner kick was cooked up.

Forward, to roars, came Glass. A painstaking attempt to recreate the wonder of 1999 then followed, with Graham Anthony over the set-piece, Scott Dobie looking for the header, and then, at perhaps the third attempt, Glass’s right foot planting the ball into the Waterworks End net.

Lovely. “I wanted the fans to go home happy,” said Murphy, explaining the plot to give Glass the final touch. Earlier, the testimonial man had taken the microphone and told the crowd: “I really appreciate you all coming. It’s been a great day.”

A great career, too.

Carlisle United squad: Mark Gillespie, Adam Collin, Tony Caig, Brad Potts, Graham Kavanagh, Josh Todd, Chris Chantler, Paul Thirlwell, James Berrett, Kallum Higginbotham, Matty Robson, Danny Cadamarteri, Joe Garner, Frank Simek, Alessio Bugno, Peter Murphy, Liam Noble, Dave Symington, Andy Welsh, Mark Beck, Ian Arnold, Derek Walsh, Ian Dalziel, Mike Gair (prize draw winner)

Goals: Garner 8, Welsh 69, Kavanagh 71

All-Stars squad: Keiren Westwood, Matty Glennon, Paul Arnison, Kevin Gray, Danny Livesey, Tom Cowan, Brendan McGill, Chris Billy, Chris Lumsdon, Peter Murphy, Danny Graham, Grant Holt, Billy Barr, Evan Horwood, Ian Harte, Ben Marshall, Graham Anthony, Paul Murray, Simon Hackney, Andy Watson, Matt Jansen, Jimmy Glass, Mark Birch, Stuart Whitehead, Darren Edmondson, Neil Dalton, Tony Hopper, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, Paul Simpson, Scott Dobie, George Oghani, Craig Allinson (prize draw winner)

Goals: Murphy 10, Graham 12, Hackney 57 Bridge-Wilkinson 90, Glass 90.

Crowd: 2,546

Ref: Joe Simpson

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