Wednesday, 25 November 2015

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Carlisle Utd boss blasts players after dismal display against Walsall

Carlisle United 1 Walsall 3: If Sir Alex Ferguson truly believes that Carlisle United is a “well organised club” that looks after his loan players, then presumably the Old Trafford overlord won’t mind lending a little more assistance to his new friends in their hour of need.

Carlisle Utd photo
Greg Abbott, left and Peter Murphy

Nani, Vidic and Berbatov will do for starters. Send the hairdryer up the M6 too, if you would, Sir Alex, because the one discharged by Greg Abbott on Saturday afternoon has probably short-circuited through excessive use.

“Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words, but I found a right few in there,” said Abbott, who subjected his players to a fearsome verbal pummeling at half-time and then failed to emerge from the steaming home dressing room until 5.20pm after close of play. Ferguson’s warm appreciation of the Blues, relayed to home fans via our back page earlier in the afternoon, was replaced a few hours later by some choice managerial adjectives behind closed doors.

The reason for Abbott’s extended diatribe was that Carlisle laid on a tragi-comedy of slipshod defending and flawed attacking against League One’s 24th best team, which had the additional effect of bringing forward the nail-chewing ahead of tomorrow’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy trip to Huddersfield. United’s four-goal buffer zone in their northern final second leg looked less stable with each Walsall attack two days ago.

Dubious as it may sound in the wake of such a display, the Blues’ cross-Pennine cup jaunt could actually be rolling along in the nick of time. Booking a trip to Wembley, which even a 3-0 defeat at the Galpharm will allow, should put a quick stop to most of the navel-gazing that was brought on by what we saw on Saturday.

Abbott, crimson-faced in the media room after his boiling end-of-game address, reckoned he had never felt more dismayed at a United performance in his five years at the club. That was some statement in the context of previous surrenders and, if it didn’t quite stand up to the evidence (Stockport away, in the final game of John Ward’s collapsed tenure, was surely a much lower watermark) there was little doubt that Carlisle’s boss left Brunton Park under his own personal weather system.

After Friday evening’s rain, which put United’s main fans’ car park out of use, came a deluge of Walsall goals, and then a mediocre Carlisle response from which only Rory Loy, the purposeful substitute, emerged with his reputation much enhanced. A pre-game trickle of injuries forced Abbott to get by without Liam Cooper, Paul Thirlwell and Joe Dudgeon but, offered this disruption as a mitigating factor, Abbott’s reply was a firm “not interested”.

“Don’t go on about the injuries,” he continued. “So what? We had 11 bloomin’ good players out there. They didn’t perform. We got beat.

“People knock on your door and ask why they aren’t playing. Well, don’t knock any more.”

There was much more of this from Carlisle’s leader, including an assessment of Matt Gill’s 37th minute opener as “a joke goal”. That strike came after the recalled Matty Robson sliced the ball into the path of advancing Walsall attackers. It was the moment of slapstick that defined United’s day.

To think that happier tales were bursting to be told at 3pm, such as Danny Livesey’s return to the colours after 10 months of injury misery. But down the list that yarn went, behind a collective effort that chilled the bone. Carlisle’s odd habit of losing to League One’s stragglers was supposed to have been chased away with last month’s 4-0 hiding of Bristol Rovers. But back it came, powered-up, allowing Walsall to join Dagenham and Tranmere on the roster of under-performing teams who have profited from recent encounters with Abbott’s men.

When Livesey was putting his solid frame in the way of some early shots, the hope was that his re-emergence would hearten the audience and encourage his team-mates further upfield. It’s regrettable, then, to report that United – who went with Robson and Ben Marshall on opposite flanks – were an inspiration-free zone. Dean Smith’s side confidently committed bodies to the attacking effort, while hustling United into a glut of unforced mistakes.

Jon Macken, once of Manchester City, pre-Sheikhs, curled a shot over the bar during a particularly bright opening spell for the visitors.

Briefly, there was a response at the other end, when Craig Curran expertly worked a chance for Marshall to shoot wide, and then Peter Murphy met a James Berrett corner and was denied by the crossbar.

This spell of home pressure swiftly rose and died, with Carlisle unable to work further openings down the wings or through the middle.

Curran and Francois Zoko were well-monitored by the Saddlers’ rearguard and under-served by United’s distant (and often bypassed) central midfielders. Walsall duly came again; on the half-hour, Adam Collin charged to the edge of his area to punch away a set-piece, and moments later Murphy threw a desperate leg in the way of a Richard Taundry missile.

United were apprehensive in possession and often clumsy at the back. Robson’s miscued pass in his own half was snaffled by Macken, fed to the far post by Taundry, rolled astutely back into the area by Alex Nicholls and dispatched by the undetected Gill. “Shambolic” was another Abbott description.

Half-time saw Loy and the “rested” Tom Taiwo introduced, at the expense of both wingers, and the changes brought a little urgency back into the Blues’ play before their guests made further inroads. Curran ignored the overlapping Frank Simek and shot over, then Loy swapped passes with Taiwo, cut infield and tested Jimmy Walker with a low drive.

From United’s next attack, and a corner which Berrett swung into the box, Livesey crashed to earth under a highly-suspicious Oliver Lancashire challenge. Colin Webster, the referee, declined Carlisle’s appeals, and in a trice Walsall were making their getaway, launching the ball forward for Julian Gray to profit from a missed Taiwo header, gallop clear of the home defence and bury the Saddlers’ second.

Paddy Madden, the Irish forward signed at expense from Bohemians, then brought his exuberance to Carlisle’s retrieval mission. But United were unable to string a single attack along to a happy conclusion, their most dangerous players strangely subdued, and all that happened was that Walsall broke yet again through the outnumbered Blues defence via a Nicholls run which Collin palmed away to Macken, who fed Gray to head home.

At this point, fully 17 minutes from time, clusters of home supporters could be observed snapping upright in their seats and striding for home. All the traffic-beaters missed was another burst of sharp footwork from Loy which led to a Walker save, United’s token goal – headed in by Murphy from Berrett’s corner – and a final, aerial chance for Madden which Walker athletically repelled.

At most other points, the enterprise and daring came from their red-shirted opponents, who are now unbeaten in four in their survival campaign, which looked a sight more daunting than Huddersfield’s cup task against the Blues until events unfolded in Saturday’s rain.

Walsall, who leapt to 22nd place, are suddenly four points from safety and emboldened; United are 13th and anxious.

“At least you only lose three points when you get beat,” said Abbott, fishing ruefully for ‘positives’ in the gloom.

So now it’s on to Yorkshire, and the hope of an about-turn which will enable Carlisle and their followers to speed away from this colourless afternoon when they were left in the dark by their own bleak failings and a man called Gray.

ADAM COLLIN - Not culpable for Walsall’s goals, but hesitant in some of his decision-making and some iffy kicking.

FRANK SIMEK - Toiling, tired-looking performance in which his passing and defending weren’t up to his high standards.

PETER MURPHY- Was unusually slipshod in his passing and, a couple of good blocks aside, struggled defensively.

DANNY LIVESEY- Good to see the big defender back, even though Walsall gave him a demanding return to the side.

LUBO MICHALIK - Looked anxious and awkward throughout and United will hope for a more reassuring display tomorrow.

JAMES BERRETT - Passed a fitness test before kick-off but struggled to have any real influence on the game.

LIAM NOBLE - Some of his passing was inventive and gets marks for persistence, if not always quality.

MATTY ROBSON - Mistake led to Walsall’s opener and hooked at half-time, although needs more than sporadic outings to return to form.

BEN MARSHALL - One burst aside, he was nowhere near his best and was replaced at the break, nursing an injury.

FRANCOIS ZOKO - Frustrating afternoon for the off-colour Ivorian; nothing he tried came off all game.

CRAIG CURRAN - Plenty of hard work, little end product, and practically zero service.

Subs: Rory Loy (for Robson 46) – Looked dangerous and sharp; Tom Taiwo (for Marshall 46) – Added some urgency; Paddy Madden (for Livesey 68) – Tough introduction, close with late header. Not used: Tony Caig, Marco Gbarssin, Ben McKenna, Nahki Wells.

Goals: Murphy 90

Walsall: Walker, Westlake, Lescott, Butler, Lancashire, Taundry, Richards, Gray, Gill (Marshall 78), Nicholls, Macken (Grigg 85). Subs: Bevan, McDonald, Smith, Paterson, Bowerman. Goals: Gill 37, Gray 59, 73

Ref: Colin Webster (Tyne & Wear)

Crowd: 4,332


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