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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Carlisle Utd fire blanks as Orient grab points

Carlisle United 0 Leyton Orient 1: Song of the year, hands down, goes to the Carlisle United fans who greeted the substitution of Leyton Orient’s 5ft 4in schemer Dean Cox with a tune more commonly associated with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Matty Robson photo
Matty Robson, right, tussles with Elliot Omozusi

“Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go,” bellowed the Paddock as diminutive Cox shuffled off the pitch and climbed into his tracksuit top in the 84th minute.

The armies of the politically correct can hold their weapons. Out there on the grass the joke was on the Cumbrian audience. With his neat pass which allowed Jonathan Tehoue to shoot the Os to victory, the skilful Cox had already reminded home spectators that big isn’t always best.

By the time Orient’s number seven was taking his leave, Carlisle had already displayed the system flaw that Greg Abbott needs to repair if the Blues are not to remain among the small men of League One. When more chances went up in smoke in the closing minutes, the day’s theme was underlined.

Their manager identified it easily enough. “That is probably the biggest reason why we are not right at the top end of this division,” Abbott said. “I’m talking about the inability to score and be clinical in the last third, when we are playing so well.”

United’s boss told reporters he had responded to his team’s 1-0 defeat by “hammering” his troops in a dressing-room “ding-dong”. The message was plain: fail to put away opponents during such periods of lively pressure as we witnessed from the Cumbrians yesterday, and you are destined for a lifetime of mid-table irritation, or worse.

Carlisle have advanced too far this season for 2010/11 to be written off as a campaign of underachievement, even though the tiny mathematical prospect of a play-off push was finally ended here. If Abbott can put a top-10 finish on the table alongside the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy then it would hardly be fair to record the latest August-to-May adventure as a wasted trip.

No: what Abbott was driving at with his critical words was that one major issue needs tackling if this term can eventually looked back on as one of preparation for an even greater ascent. To lift themselves into proper contention, the Blues must show an ability to find one moment of goalscoring clarity through such a fog of half-chances and tough opposition defending.

This defeat was an old photocopy: one team dominates but fails to add a clinical edge to their supremacy. The other lot file most of their men behind the ball, daring to break downfield only occasionally, but manage to snaffle a goal which enables them to drop back and frustrate the daylights out of their rivals.

Orient’s counter-attacking strategy duly worked a treat. At times you suspected Russell Slade’s players required detailed directions and a sat nav to find their way to Carlisle’s half. All the Londoners required, though, was one moment of daring to win the day. It came when Cox slipped Tehoue through to clip the ball across Adam Collin in the 37th minute.

United duly hurled all their energies back at their seventh-placed guests. As at Rochdale two days earlier, they took various pot-shots from distance, but unlike their successful long-range hits at Spotland, there was no happy conclusion. What was needed here was a crafty finish in a congested penalty box. There came none, and the result was Carlisle’s third home defeat in 2011. “The Orient staff commented on what a fantastic group we have, and they are right,” added Abbott. “But let’s be a fantastic group that wins games.”

From the outset, such a speech from their manager seemed a distant possibility. Carlisle took Saturday’s vigour into their Easter Monday duties and their early persistence yielded an eighth-minute penalty, when Terrell Forbes shoved the airborne Craig Curran at a Frank Simek cross.

James Berrett, normally dead-eyed from the spot, drilled the ball low but too close to the diving Lee Butcher, who marked his first start since last November with a save. Despite this early setback, Carlisle’s attractive play always seemed likely to give Butcher further tests. One smart turn from Francois Zoko led to a cross which failed by millimetres to reach Curran, then Butcher made a comical hash of controlling a Forbes backpass: evidence that United’s pressure was starting to get into Orient heads.

More attacks came, more crosses were delivered, but the satisfying finale of a goal did not. Liam Noble, always hungry for possession, hung over a centre which Zoko could only head at Butcher, then the Ivorian tried and failed to beat the keeper with a backheeled flick. Noble was next, with a 25-yard curler which flew just wide. From the next burst, Matty Robson, growing in pace and confidence, almost supplied Curran. Simek then nutmegged Stephen Dawson and flashed the ball through Butcher and across the goalline.

Orient’s own forays were infrequent to say the least. Their state of territorial inferiority seemed to perturb Elliott Omozusi the most, when the right-back took angry aim at an advertising board after failing to keep a pass in play. Then, though, came their startling goal.

First, they retrieved possession in their half before Dawson mounted a gallop down the left. He fed Cox, who duly spotted Tehoue in space behind the returning Robson, and the French striker found the net via the post.

Seconds before half-time, after more Carlisle attacks had come and gone, Cox flicked the ball right for Tehoue to pummel another shot millimetres wide. This repeated the fear that United could very well suffer for their inability to score from positions of strength.

Despite their second-half efforts, notably the left-sided persistence of Robson, so it proved. United’s left-back netted a peach of a free-kick at Rochdale but couldn’t clear the wall with a similar attempt in the 53rd minute here. Then the former Hartlepool man revived last season’s memories of penetrating left-wing play by repeatedly skinning Omozusi and Jason Crowe and sending over handy crosses from which Zoko, chiefly, was unable to profit.

After the hour, Peter Murphy took his turn to curl over a nice cross which Zoko headed too high. Orient re-emerged through Adam Chambers, who battered a Lubo Michalik clearance against the post, and United’s committing of additional bodies forward (Paddy Madden, Ryan Bowman and Rory Loy were duly introduced from the bench) left behind extra gaps into which the Os sub Scott McGleish dashed, drawing blocks from Paul Thirlwell and Michalik.

But the main narrative concerned Carlisle’s continued wastefulness, with Zoko failing to convert two more Robson deliveries, Simek sending a miscued cross a foot wide of the post, young Bowman drawing a spill from the error-prone Butcher, and then Loy squandering a final, headed chance in stoppage time.

Loy, who in mitigation may have been blunt from so much recent bench-time, is one of the men who may enjoy a greater role next season, if Abbott decides the goalscoring problem can be solved from within. Otherwise, it's off into the transfer market the manager will have to go.

In the longer-term this loss might prove more instructive than the fun-packed Rochdale win. In the absence of successful 30-yard shots, United yesterday were a collection of many good things, minus an assassin.

ADAM COLLIN - Could do little to prevent Tehoue’s winner, the keeper was steady in his few other duties and distribution was positive.

FRANK SIMEK - With United attacking, Simek took on plenty of responsibility down the right and put over some useful deliveries.

MATTY ROBSON - Could not be doing much more to earn a new contract. Was sharp and dangerous down the left all game.

LUBO MICHALIK - Put in some important blocks to deny Orient and tried to add his giant presence to late attacks.

PETER MURPHY - Long-serving defender always looked to use the ball positively and sensibly from the back.

PAUL THIRLWELL - Captain was good on the ball and competed strongly to set numerous attacks off and running.

TOM TAIWO - On his 100th Carlisle appearance, this was a typically energetic effort without the careful final touch.

JAMES BERRETT - After his uncharacteristically weak penalty, tried to be positive in advanced role without setting game alight.

LIAM NOBLE - Close with a couple of efforts, Noble was always hungry for possession and searching for openings.

FRANCOIS ZOKO - Ivorian’s close control helped give Blues a platform, but his finishing wasn’t up to the mark.

CRAIG CURRAN - Used the ball well to bring others into play, but chances wouldn’t come his way.

Subs: Paddy Madden (for Taiwo 62) Couldn’t inspire late revival; Ryan Bowman (for Noble 80) – Some decent touches; Rory Loy (for Zoko 85) – Will rue injury-time miss. Not used: Mark Gillespie, Danny Livesey, Nahki Wells, Ben McKenna.

Booked: Noble

Leyton Orient: Butcher, Omozusi, Daniels, Forbes, Barrett, Crowe, Dawson, Spring, Cox (Jarvis 84), Chambers, Tehoue (McGleish 71). Not used: Lovelock, Carroll, Odubajo, Kane.

Goal: Tehoue 37

Booked: Chambers, Daniels

Ref: Mark Brown (East Yorkshire)

Crowd: 4,685 (174 away fans)

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