Carlisle Utd end winless run by cruising to victory against Bristol Rovers
Last updated at 16:02, Monday, 17 January 2011
Carlisle United 4 Bristol Rovers 0: Gary Madine’s transfer fee might have been undisclosed, but his former manager’s emotions certainly weren’t after Carlisle United had scythed down Bristol Rovers in the wind and the rain.
“Don’t say I’m a great manager because we won 4-0, and don’t say I’m a bad manager because we lost last week,” Greg Abbott said. “Because I’m not. I’m bloody not.”
After a first victory in six attempts, which had the effect of a cork flying out of a bottle of shaken-up fizz, Abbott launched an animated appeal for a more measured public analysis of his team’s weekly affairs.
United’s leader concluded a sleep-deprived seven days, during which he made three signings, sold his leading scorer and defeated a league opponent for the first time since November 13, by sweeping into Brunton Park’s media room and swinging an axe at what he regards as a hysterical reaction to Carlisle’s recent five-match dip.
Your News & Star got it in the neck. Perceived doom-mongers in United’s support also saw their cards marked. Three nouns used by Abbott during his tirade failed to clear the usual censors on a family newspaper. This was the manager at full and furious throttle and, by the time he had concluded, it was just about possible to remember that a football match had taken place before he sat down to speak.
“In this town there is always a big reaction to things,” he said. “We have to get everybody not to over-react to winning or losing. Any praise that’s lumped on us should be balanced.”
With that warning in mind, it may be safest to report only that Carlisle scored four more times than their opponents on Saturday, acquired three additional points in the process and climbed three places in the League One table.
Except the praise has to come. United played rather well two days ago. Especially in the second half, when they were attacking the theory that teams are tougher to face when they’re a man down, the Blues didn’t much resemble a side that were winless in five and suddenly without their main source of goals.
Neatly, it became Carlisle’s biggest league victory since the night when Madine shot his way towards the Sheffield Wednesday move which is now complete. When the young centre-forward piled a hat-trick into Hartlepool’s net four months ago, the floor seemed to vibrate with the stampede of scouts. Wednesday duly came up with the readies on Friday (the precise amount being withheld by United at the Hillsborough club’s request) and Abbott was left to spin around his team’s worst run of form of 2010/11 whilst also tackling the extra problem of sourcing goals from other corners of his squad.
Out of Madine’s long shadow on a filthy winter’s day strode James Berrett, Craig Curran and Liam Cooper, the latter a young loan defender whose confidence and energy might be just what Carlisle need after the emotional blow of losing their 13-goal marksman.
Following an eventful first-half, which might easily have ended 4-4 but actually concluded with the Blues one-up, United cruised away from Dave Penney’s team, who were unable to regroup following the 51st minute dismissal of Danny Coles for a scything challenge on Francois Zoko. Carlisle scored highly on Saturday in their ruthlessness when their rivals were at their most downtrodden. Another gremlin attacked in the downpour was their recent struggles against occupants of League One’s lower positions.
Bristol Rovers started and ended play in 22nd position and looked decent value for their predicament.
United, who were also bolstered by Lubo Michalik’s stature in defence after his return from Leeds on permanent terms, often appeared vibrant and creative, words which were absent from most descriptions of their FA Cup stumble against Torquay a week earlier.
Michalik, who chipped the ball to no-one in particular in the first minute, hasn’t been recruited for his finesse in possession. But in the Slovakian’s various lunges, headers and blocks as the game progressed, there was ample evidence of why Carlisle spent “an absolute fortune” (Abbott’s words) to add him to the payroll.
Not that United, who fielded their 13th different starting back four of the term, were entirely watertight in that first half. Nor was Penney’s collective. This made for a flawed but open and watchable spectacle which Carlisle started the brighter, assembling half-chances for Ben Marshall, Curran and then Marshall again, who whistled a shot wide from 25 yards to get the 4,229 crowd’s volume up.
Carlisle, with Tom Taiwo an improved presence in midfield and Peter Murphy deputising capably at left-back, were not oblivious to danger from the Pirates. In the 18th minute a free-kick from Ben Swallow was attacked by Coles, and the ball clattered back off the crossbar. The busy Jo Kuffour then shot wide as United disputed Swallow’s blocking of a Murphy free-kick.
Will Hoskins and Jeff Hughes then took unsuccessful aim as the visitors entered their most impressive spell, which continued with chances for Hoskins, who rounded Adam Collin but shot weakly, and then fluffed a free header in front of goal.
Carlisle had themselves dotted this pattern with further attempts from Berrett and Marshall, whose attempted lob after a brisk one-touch move was just too low to clear Luke Daniels, the visiting keeper. And it was from another optimistic attack that they finally took the lead.
Murphy’s cross was inadequately cleared by the Rovers defence, and Gary Sawyer’s clumsy handball was too obvious for referee Paul Tierney to ignore. Berrett buried the penalty, and right there it felt like the kind of moment of fortune that can relaunch a season.
Six minutes into the second half, and the game’s second defining moment arrived. Taiwo won the ball on the right, fed Zoko, and the Ivorian was clattered by the flying Coles. The defender was dispatched with a straight red, Michalik heaved the free-kick towards goal (Daniels saved sharply) and United rapidly hit their straps.
Pinging the ball around attractively – perhaps because in Madine’s absence there was no longer a 6ft 4in target for unimaginative high balls upfield – they went for Rovers’ throat and soon had their second. First, Zoko chased back into Carlisle’s half to intercept a pass, and after Frank Simek, Zoko and Paul Thirlwell had worked the ball forward, Berrett threaded Curran through the middle and the recalled striker slid the chance clinically past Daniels.
Curran, now leading the line with the confidence of a striker with five times his goals tally (three), then blasted a shot from the left which Daniels got behind. Carlisle kept coming and when a Simek cross was headed behind by a defender, Berrett curled over the corner and young Cooper rose to dispatch a header.
United’s authority enabled Abbott to send on two young debutants (Liam Noble and Nahki Wells) while Penney tossed on a brace of defenders to limit damage. The upshot was simply further Carlisle pressure, as Stuart Campbell cleared a Curran effort off the line and then the beleaguered Sawyer tripped Marshall in the box, allowing Berrett to belt penalty number two down the middle of the net.
No significant touches in the second half by the highly-rated Hoskins were recorded. Rovers’ peroxide raider often waged a lone campaign against Carlisle’s superiority but was successfully shut down from minutes 46-90 by Michalik and Cooper, the Twitter-loving teenager who was sold the Carlisle challenge by Hull-bound James Chester on an outing to Nando’s.
The peri-peri chicken will keep sliding down nicely for as long as Cooper is able to perform this confidently, while Abbott’s “two lager shandies” – his reward to himself on Saturday evening – presumably hit the spot too.
So, perhaps, did his monologue about keeping hype under control, on a stress-releasing day when the power of the team was reasserted over one trailblazing individual. Madine is gone, money is in the bank, Carlisle press on, and it’s probably best if we leave it there.
ADAM COLLIN - Drawn off his line during early raids, otherwise well protected and as solid as was needed.
FRANK SIMEK - A little slapdash in possession early on but improved after the break both in defence and attack.
PETER MURPHY - United can be grateful for Murphy’s versatility. A fairly seamless and steady switch to left-back.
LUBO MICHALIK - When the new-look back four eventually knitted together, the big Slovakian was composed and dominant.
LIAM COOPER - A shaky start but quickly settled and nodded home a debut goal to cap a splendid debut.
PAUL THIRLWELL - Passing was of high quality and, one bookable lunge aside, organised the midfield well.
TOM TAIWO - Much brighter than in recent weeks, Taiwo was hungry and competitive all game.
JAMES BERRETT - Converted two penalties with aplomb and laid on two more goals – a highly-effective midfield showing.
BEN MARSHALL - Always persistent and dangerous, all that was missing from his livewire performance was a goal.
FRANCOIS ZOKO - Showed some flashes of magic to worry Rovers’ defence and linked plenty of attacks well.
CRAIG CURRAN - Took his goal impressively and looked confident and keen – an encouraging afternoon.
Subs: Liam Noble (for Thirlwell 73) – Good passing range; Nahki Wells (for Marshall 84) – Energetic debut; Kevan Hurst (for Zoko 89) Late introduction. Not used: Tony Caig, Danny Livesey, Ben McKenna, Marco Gbarssin.
Goals: Berrett 44, 81 (two pens); Curran 57, Cooper 73
Bristol Rovers: Daniels, Regan, Sawyer (Blizzard 84), Tunnicliffe, Coles, Campbell, Lines, Hughes, Swallow (Anthony 63), Kuffour (Brown 76), Hoskins. Not used: Green, Richards, Reece, Pell.
Booked: Sawyer. Sent off: Coles
Ref: Paul Tierney (Lancashire)
First published at 11:43, Monday, 17 January 2011
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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