Carlisle Utd put Huddersfield to sword in Johnstone's trophy northern final
Last updated at 12:52, Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Carlisle United 4 Huddersfield Town 0: A few minutes after watching his team throw a bucket of emulsion over “the Manchester United of League One,” Greg Abbott sat back and conjured one of the more unlikely quotes of Carlisle’s reborn season.
“If we had been a bit more clinical, we might have been slightly better off,” said the United manager, in the wake of this technicolour triumph in the penultimate round of the ‘Paint Pot’. “Maybe we had one pass too many at times and didn’t finish off a lot of moves.”
Come again? Perfectionists will bathe in that kind of analysis from Abbott but was it honestly narking the boss that United had not carried a five or six-goal advantage away from the first half of a supposedly-daunting contest against one of their divisional big cheeses? “Ok, that’s maybe being a bit over-critical,” he finally added.
Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday and the galloping leaders Brighton might take issue with Abbott’s description of last night’s opponents as the aristocrats of the third tier, but don’t doubt that a sizeable specimen was chopped down on Brunton Park’s green acres.
Abbott’s January mantra is to distrust hype either in victory or defeat, which probably explained his words of caution at full-time. But you don’t shove four goals into Huddersfield’s net these days without discharging at least a few internal party poppers.
Lee Clark, Abbott’s dugout rival in this two-legged Wembley decider, is said to resent the allegation that he is managing simply by chequebook from his corner of the White Rose county.
Nonetheless, with his club-colours scarf and enviable buying power, the temptation to cast Huddersfield’s boss as the Roberto Mancini of the lower leagues was too strong here.
And, with due apologies to the former Newcastle midfielder, it’s hard to find an alternative context for what Carlisle did to his team last night.
Until last weekend’s sale of Gary Madine, and the uncommon splurge on Lubo Michalik a day earlier, money was too tight to mention in the corridors of Brunton Park.
Huddersfield, by contrast, are one of the known spenders of League One. That they must now climb a giant heap of goals in order to get themselves to the national stadium in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tells you that cash doesn’t always have to be king.
Sometimes good scouting, preparation and esprit de corps can take you into unlikely places. In Carlisle’s case last night it took them to Huddersfield’s net four times.
Thanks to expertly-taken goals by Ben Marshall, Tom Taiwo, Peter Murphy and the relentless Michalik, the prospect of the Blues and their followers embarking on a pageant to the capital for a second successive year now depends on their ability to reduce February’s second leg to the season’s most uneventful 90 minutes.
Since that tends not to be the Carlisle way, eager Cumbrians would be advised not to stampede towards London hotel websites just yet.
But this display – the best of the season, according to Frank Simek, United’s captain in the injured Paul Thirlwell’s absence – was a tour de force which deserves to be matched by a completion of the job at the Galpharm Stadium.
“If we can replicate that performance we will have a great chance,” said Abbott, producing another understatement for the audience.
United’s back-catalogue of northern finals is full of unforgettable, nail-chewing spectacles, but last night was their most resounding statement in a competition they have embraced like no other lower-division club.
Clark was spotted sharing a gag with Tony Caig, Carlisle’s goalkeeping coach, before start of play, but then Abbott’s pumped-up players ensured that smile wasn’t witnessed again.
The early jousting was notable for some misleading Huddersfield possession, and then a few signs of Carlisle’s refusal to play the subservient hosts, as Marshall and Francois Zoko started shifting through the gears.
Liam Noble, on his full debut in midfield, clipped a shot over the bar in the 17th minute, and then two minutes later United’s persistence took them even further.
Their opener was a classic of simplicity. There was a heaved Adam Collin kick, a splendid leap by Craig Curran, a shrewd pass from Zoko and a determined dart from Marshall, and before Clark’s defenders could get back up to speed with the situation they were a goal down, courtesy of Marshall’s faultless, low finish.
The Stoke raider, a form player even through the iffy month from which the Blues have now emphatically emerged, was close to his unplayable best last night.
So, too, was Zoko, who showed his elusive pace to set up Carlisle’s second, tearing down the left and seeing his cross half-cleared to Taiwo, who dispatched the ball into the bottom left corner with fine technique.
Supporters now detected that another famous JPT night was unfolding.
Curran, who has grabbed Madine’s line-leading mantle, fancied his chances from 25 yards but missed by a fraction.
On the solitary occasion Huddersfield threatened Collin’s target, Scott Arfield dipped a volley wide; otherwise Abbott’s scampering midfielders and attentive rearguard were equal to the probings of Kevin Kilbane, the movement of Jordan Rhodes and the right-wing bursts of Lee Peltier, who was stopped in his tracks so often by Peter Murphy at left-back that he must have wished the Dubliner would clear off back to his real position of centre-half.
In the 45th minute, Tom Clarke made a brilliant, lunging tackle to deny Curran, and then, after absorbing some early second-half pressure – notable for a Murphy challenge on Anthony Pilkington – Carlisle stormed on.
One James Berrett free-kick led to a Michalik effort which Antony Kay hacked off the line. A minute later, Berrett bent over a corner and Murphy leapt to head home number three.
Berrett’s productivity from dead-ball areas remains one of United’s best weapons, and the former Huddersfield man wasn’t minded to hold back against his old friends.
Two minutes later and the visitors’ sub Gary Roberts handled a Simek cross.
Berrett duly bent the free-kick into tempting space and Michalik stooped to make it four.
Ian Bennett, the visitors’ second-choice keeper, may by now have wished that Alex Smithies had not succumbed to injury on the eve of battle.
As Michalik’s gleeful header hit the net, Clark retreated from his technical area and buried himself in the away dugout.
Meanwhile, United’s fans were in giddy mood, saluting “Lubo” one minute and singing of Wembley the next.
They almost had a fifth goal to toast, when Curran spun and shot in the box but was denied by Peter Clarke’s lunging leg.
When Clark then briefly re-emerged to make another substitution, one happy punter advised the visiting gaffer that he was “getting sacked in the morning”.
Unlikely, old chap. The Terriers, second in League One, may still be on their own personal glory path.
But unless they finish more convincingly at the Galpharm than they did in their closing salvos – Kilbane heading wastefully wide, Alan Lee failing to outmanoeuvre Michalik – they’ll be going not a yard further in the JPT.
Carlisle have one foot on the national stadium’s lush grass and the other leg is coming down.
Abbott tried to argue that righting last season’s wrong against Southampton under the arch was not a major motivation behind last night’s stunning triumph, and that “winning football matches” was his only incentive.
Pull the other one. If United’s manager is not in a significant way inspired by thoughts of wiping last March’s 4-1 collapse from the memory then let him sue us for making the suggestion.
One safe trip across the Pennines and back, and redemption will be just 90 Wembley minutes away.
ADAM COLLIN - Was barely required to make a meaningful save, but the keeper dominated his area when he had to.
FRANK SIMEK - Hard-working, gutsy effort from the American who stretched visitors with his attacking forays.
PETER MURPHY - An inspired performance, capped with a clinical goal; suddenly Abbott’s left-back hunt seems less urgent.
LIAM COOPER - Impressed with his aggression and responsibility at the back to keep Clark’s highly-rated frontmen quiet.
LUBO MICHALIK - A formidable show of strength from the big Slovakian, and a crowd-pleasing goal.
LIAM NOBLE - Was hungry for the ball, used it well on full debut, and played an unsung part in United’s impressive victory.
TOM TAIWO - In a superb team performance, the energy, determination and – yes – finishing of Taiwo stood out.
JAMES BERRETT - Tackled and passed with urgency, and expert delivery yielded two more goals against former club.
BEN MARSHALL - Started the rout with a fine finish, and caused havoc whenever he ran with the ball.
FRANCOIS ZOKO - Played a crucial role in first two goals and was often inspirational in his attacking work.
CRAIG CURRAN - The workaholic frontman led the line with vigour and brought others into play intelligently.
Subs: Danny Livesey (for Cooper 90) – Welcome return. Not used: Tony Caig, Kevan Hurst, Marco Gbarssin, Nahki Wells.
Goals: Marshall 19, Taiwo 23, Murphy 62, Michalik 65.
Huddersfield: Bennett, T Clarke, Peltier (Gudjonsson 88), P Clarke, McCombe, Kay, Kilbane, Arfield (Roberts 60), Pilkington, Novak (Lee 62), Rhodes. Not used: Allinson, N Clarke.
Ref: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).
First published at 11:41, Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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