Carlisle Utd slip to sixth after errors of old reappear
Last updated at 12:30, Monday, 18 October 2010
Exeter City 2 Carlisle United 1: Mistakes from a previous era returned to infect Carlisle United’s play in this ancient city.
While Exeter were fielding a defender so mature he feels like his career started “about 40 years ago”, the Blues were reaching back into their back catalogue of handing out cheap goals.
From his position in the home back line, Rob Edwards – the 37-year-old former Blues stopper who kicked off his slippers to answer an injury and suspension crisis at St James Park – may have slumped into an armchair and lit a Montecristo while Richard Logan was punishing United’s lapses upfield.
As Edwards enjoyed an entertaining young-versus-old contest with Gary Madine, Carlisle succumbed to the type of rearguard errors that were presumed to have been chased out of their system as they assembled League One’s tightest defensive record. If United were to concede this campaign, opponents would have to summon all their strengths to prise the Cumbrians apart.
So we had concluded, in any case, from United’s opening 11 league engagements. Not here, though, as a scuffed kick and a misguided dribble enabled Logan to plunge Greg Abbott’s team into a two-goal deficit by the 21st minute.
The authors of those consecutive gaffes – Adam Collin and Frank Simek – are rarely so generous to rival players. Simek, in particular, has negotiated his first three United months with enviable consistency. Neither man need be pilloried today.
Nor should violins be coming out of cases in Cumbria on account of the Blues’ slide from second to sixth. The strength of Carlisle’s start to the season has enabled losses like this to be absorbed without the ache of defeat reaching the marrow. This, of course, shouldn’t be confused with an avoidance of the reasons United suffered their third loss in five outings: namely, a sluggishness about their first-half play, a laborious attempt to create chances in the Exeter box, and, of course, those damaging slips.
Logan, a nine-club journeyman striker whose last staging post before joining the Grecians was Weymouth, must have felt giddy at the brace of opportunities that fell his way in three kamikaze minutes. First, the 28-year-old steamed through to score after Ryan Harley had pounced on Collin’s weak clearance. Then he led a one-man counter-attack after Simek was dispossessed, racing from his own half to the heart of the Carlisle area to double United’s pain.
Logan has steadied his winding career in Devon recently and shouldn’t be dismissed as a frustrating nomad. The point, though, is that the gifts United sent his way would have been accepted by even less heralded hitmen. That the Blues themselves were only able to score through a long-distance Matty Robson free-kick puts their own creative efforts in dim light.
Exeter’s unbeaten home record was enough to suggest a thorny afternoon lay ahead for the Blues, whose second-place status and forbidding back line offered the travelling supporters insurance against any pre-match concerns. Yet the Grecians duly opened up with some snap and purpose, operating confidently in their wing-back system which frequently unsettled United on a hard, sandy pitch.
In the first minute, one of their lively flank-hoggers, Scott Golbourne, forced a corner off Simek which led to a headed chance for Liam Sercombe. Moments later Steve Tully surged down the right and saw a fine cross miscued by John O’Flynn. Logan then drew a cheap booking for James Chester on the edge of Carlisle’s area, as Harley whipped the free-kick wide.
United themselves were offering bursts of tidy one-touch passing but with minimal penetration, while Oliver Norwood, deployed at the base of midfield, toiled to keep the flitting Harley in check. Carlisle had fashioned half-chances for Madine and Francois Zoko but the hosts’ pace and persistence remained a concern.
Then, in a trice, they punished United. Collin, under no discernible pressure, failed to reach the centre-circle with his floor-kick, allowing Harley to feed the raiding Logan to score. Visibly unsettled by this, the Blues came under further fire and after James Berrett had been ambushed by James Dunne (who shot over), they conceded again.
This one started at the Exeter end, as a Berrett corner was cleared but returned to Simek in decent space. The right-back danced past one challenge but ran straight into another, allowing the alert Dunne to steal possession, before Golbourne sent Logan charging down the left and the striker turned past the retreating Sean McDaid and belted the chance past Collin.
The shambolic nature of Logan’s brace did nothing for United’s self-assurance. More home pressure followed: Sercombe firing over from 20 yards, Berrett slicing a hasty clearance towards his own area, and Harley jinking into space and putting his effort narrowly off-target. Too many blue-shirted performers, meanwhile – such as the strangely off-colour Simek – were dipping too far below their personal peaks.
Hope was reignited at the end of the first half, when Chester went close from a corner and Curran put a bicycle kick just wide. Abbott then encouraged further positivity by replacing Norwood with Mike Grella, the striker borrowed from Leeds three days earlier, and later shifting to a winger-led system.
The result was a general improvement in their play, even if the clinical end product remained absent. Early in the second period, Tom Taiwo ambushed Billy Jones and Zoko fed Madine to the right of goal, but the striker’s touch was heavy and allowed Richard Duffy to make a sliding block.
Logan then passed up a hat-trick opportunity – trying to cross instead of shooting after showing Chester his heels – before Carlisle found their startling goal. Madine was felled by Sercombe 35 yards from goal, and Robson (on for Curran) approached the ball with minimal run-up and smacked it past Paul Jones in the home goal.
This strike from nothing, which may well hasten the winger’s return to the starting line-up, preceded further set-piece opportunities for Peter Murphy and Robson, who couldn’t work the trick again from similar distance in the 81st minute. By then, Zoko had collected a booking for dissent after a dubious decision to penalise him for a challenge on Dunne.
Frustration hunted the Ivorian down in injury-time, when goalkeeper Jones and defender Duffy collided, Robson shifted the ball to Zoko and Golbourne kept out his equalising attempt with a goalline clearance. By that stage, Grella had displayed a promising array of runs and touches but failed to divert his only scoring effort past the Exeter ‘keeper, while Logan fluffed his final treble chance when he dribbled a shot towards Collin from O’Flynn’s cross.
Failing to scoop up the match-ball was the only regret of Logan’s day, the striker having earlier filled his boots against unusually generous visitors while Edwards – who began life as a 17-year-old Carlisle defender – completed an agreeable afternoon of his own.
It will bite away at the Blues’ frontmen that they were unable to pierce a defence whose Kendal-born kingpin was launching his own career before Madine was born. Veterans everywhere will rejoice at Edwards’ autumnal resurgence, while Abbott and his troops set about ensuring that Saturday’s aberrations remain bolted away in the archives, left to gather dust.
ADAM COLLIN – Unforced error gifted opening goal, the keeper otherwise performed steadily.
FRANK SIMEK – Below-par afternoon for the American, whose efforts ended only in frustration.
SEAN MCDAID – Couldn’t prevent Logan’s second goal, the left-back toiled to keep the Grecians at bay.
JAMES CHESTER – Given a testing afternoon by Exeter’s goalscorer, Chester wasn’t as secure as usual.
PETER MURPHY – The pick of a faltering back line, Murphy stood up well to most of the hosts’ forward play.
OLIVER NORWOOD – Didn’t look comfortable against the elusive Harley and was sacrificed at the break by Abbott.
TOM TAIWO – Former Chelsea man competed and battled honestly without fully winning the midfield battle.
JAMES BERRETT – Linked United’s play well at times but couldn’t find the creative spark.
FRANCOIS ZOKO – Only came to life occasionally, but could have been Carlisle’s saviour with last-minute chance.
CRAIG CURRAN – Work-rate stood out in a poor first-half, later replaced by Robson as Abbott chased the game.
GARY MADINE – Became more influential in the air as game went on, but frustrated in the area with scant service.
Subs: Mike Grella (for Norwood 46) – Looked bright; Matty Robson (for Curran 53) – Stunning goal. Not used: Tony Caig, Kevan Hurst, Ben Marshall, Tony Kane, Ben McKenna
Goals: Robson 71
Booked: Chester, Zoko
Exeter: P Jones, Duffy, Edwards (Noble 72), B Jones, Tully, Dunne, Sercombe, Golbourne, Harley, O’Flynn, Logan. Not used: Krysiak, Nardiello, Cozic, Stewart, Thomson, Heath.
Goals: Logan 19, 22
Booked: Edwards, Sercombe
Ref: Steve Rushton (Staffordshire)
Crowd: 5,324 (216 Carlisle fans)
First published at 11:35, Monday, 18 October 2010
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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