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Friday, 19 December 2014

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Carlisle Utd win penalty shoot-out to move on in Carling Cup

Oldham Athletic 1 Carlisle United 1 (United win 4-2 on penalties): The two old faithfuls of long-distance shooting and Adam Collin’s penalty-blocking expertise finally got Carlisle United’s campaign off and running, along with an effective tactical tweak that puts some credit back in Greg Abbott’s early-season account.

Carlisle Utd photo
Carlisle Utd players celebrate at the end of the game

JP McGovern’s equalising free-kick and goalkeeper Collin’s latest shoot-out feat were last night’s headline contributions, but these only became tie-winning acts because the Blues had at last found an effective tactical formula from the 46th minute onwards.

Abbott’s interval decision to smash up the ‘diamond’ midfield grouping may not necessarily go down as 2011/12’s most stunning act of managerial ingenuity. Most of Carlisle’s travelling supporters could observe well enough that United’s narrow formation was offering little in the way of imagination or thrust in the first half at Boundary Park.

Yet the Blues’ boss, criticised for the manner of his team’s opening-day slump against Notts County, nonetheless retrieved this assignment by sending on Andy Welsh to replace Liam Noble at half-time, with the order for his players to file out into a winger-led 4-4-2 arrangement.

The result was an improvement so dramatic that Carlisle were able to take their levelling goal and continue to press Oldham back with energy and pace, before Collin bashed away penalties from Chris Taylor and Josh Parker to seal victory, in the fifth consecutive shoot-out in which the big Cumbrian barrier has kept out two kicks or more.

United had so much success through stretching the boundaries at Oldham’s notoriously chilly ground that a cold revelation may be hitting Abbott, who turned up for work last night in a long black trenchcoat – ideal summer wear for this part of the world. Welsh, particularly dynamic, and McGovern were recruited in part for their versatility but both men are originally wingers by trade and it was from wide positions that this first-round tie was salvaged.

The record can show that Carlisle’s season began the moment Welsh skipped off the bench at the midway point last night. Suddenly creative and confident after a bleak first half which saw them a goal adrift, the Cumbrians forced their way past the 1990 finalists into tomorrow’s second round draw, and the prospect of a tie against famous opposition will get more fuel in the tank after an appalling start four days ago.

United fashioned more opportunities in the second 45 minutes here than they had mustered in the previous 135. It may be premature to suggest that some of the shine has duly been taken off the diamond, which will surely be polished up again by Abbott in the near future. But the tactical alternative he unearthed to winning effect last night will be tricky to ignore as he prepares for the first league trip of the season at Bury this weekend.

The hope is that Carlisle’s hunt for their first points of the season will end at Gigg Lane, a ground where Abbott tasted management for the first time as caretaker in 2007. Until then, it can be reported that their penchant for scoring from long distance has been carried over from the rear end of 2010/11, and will remain a vital asset until they find ways of scoring from more orthodox positions.

McGovern’s first strike in a United jersey was a picture: a curling shot from 25 yards after another Diamond failure: Zander Diamond, Oldham’s defender, who upended Craig Curran and gave Carlisle’s summer signing his chance to take aim.

McGovern’s impressive maiden goal followed long-range missiles from Noble, James Berrett and Matty Robson late last season and if Carlisle have unearthed another player capable of such acts then that deserves a salute. The accompanying grumble here is that supporters would prefer to see their team look more deadly when the ball is in the box. But admiring McGovern’s skill here needs no apology.

The last time Carlisle pitched up at this ground they were left bearing welts and wounds after a touchline set-to involving several players and the Latics’ assistant boss, Gerry Taggart. Paul Dickov’s accomplice was becalmed this time, leaving United to cope with another bruiser – Oldham’s 6ft 6in striker Matt Smith, fresh out of university with a business degree.

In the early stages, the raw, awkward Smith set Carlisle’s defenders a tough examination and in the fifth minute he steamed onto a corner and bashed a meaty header over the bar.

United, with Danny Livesey recalled and Tom Taiwo standing in at right-back for Frank Simek, were strangers to their rhythm at this point and after Taylor had wasted a volley after Peter Murphy had lost a grapple with Reuben Reid, the Latics scored: a throw from the left, Dean Furman’s dash into the area, Noble’s foul and Reid’s clinical penalty.

Oldham, while never appearing full of goals, offered greater movement and pace than their yellow-shirted opponents, who were sometimes reliant on Livesey’s sturdiness in the tackle and the block. One lively dash from James Wesolowski almost put Smith in for a second, and Carlisle’s late chances in the half – a Noble header which dropped just wide, and a shot from the midfielder which Alex Cisak saved – were against the general, drab pattern.

The home side’s wastefulness from promising positions nevertheless allowed Carlisle the hope of a revival. This scenario first required United to pull up their standards and it is a relief to report that they accepted the challenge. Francois Zoko, finally coming to the boil, started testing Dickov’s defenders with some persistent running while McGovern and Welsh found useful areas out wide, supported by Robson and the excellent Taiwo, who had coped well with the dangerous Taylor further back.

The 57th minute brought McGovern’s sweet leveller and this emboldened Carlisle, whose charges down the flanks were prompted by Paul Thirlwell’s excellent passing and had the effect of containing Dickov’s own attacking full-backs, Kieran Lee and Paul Black. Craig Curran went close from a Robson cross, James Berrett panicked Jean-Yves Mvoto into a hasty slice, and then Curran was denied on the line by Lee after Zoko and Berrett had linked.

Chances were now traded by tiring teams. One rare Oldham surge saw Taylor plant a cross on Smith’s head, the striker bashing the crossbar. Downfield, Taiwo cut out a poor Latics pass, motored forward and hit the post with a low missile.

Extra-time, with Rory Loy now in the mix, saw the Scottish sub draw a superb save from Cisak with a left-footed cracker, before Smith hit the bar again after another giant leap. Taiwo tested Cisak once more and Zoko nearly applied a finish to a McGovern centre before United’s scorer sent them on their way with the first penalty of the shoot-out which, handily, took place in front of the 224 travelling loyalists.

Welsh and Berrett buried their kicks and Robson’s was saved, but Collin is nothing less than remarkable in these scenarios and his twin stops from Taylor and Parker allowed Loy to pummel home the winner, which set last year’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy winners on another cup trail and enabled Abbott to take a small but welcome step away from Saturday’s clunking false start.

ADAM COLLIN - United’s penalty marvel does it again. Two crucial stops after a steady 120 minutes.

TOM TAIWO - Grew into the right-back challenge and deserves plenty of credit for his efforts.

MATTY ROBSON - Became a serious asset with his second-half running and support of Welsh.

DANNY LIVESEY - No-nonsense return from the defender, who staked his claim for a league start in Michalik’s absence.

PETER MURPHY - Outmanoevred by Reid early on but recovered his poise as the game went on.

PAUL THIRLWELL - After a quiet first half, his passing accuracy helped the Blues get back at Oldham.

JAMES BERRETT - Couldn’t fashion anything with his set-pieces but showed good energy from midfield after break.

LIAM NOBLE - One of United’s more positive players in first half but conceded penalty and subbed in tactical change.

JON-PAUL MCGOVERN -  After frustrating start, scored a fine debut goal and caused problems for Oldham down the right.

FRANCOIS ZOKO - Got his season going at last with some persistent and dangerous runs after the break.

CRAIG CURRAN - Showed some of his line-leading value after the break and close to a goal.

Subs: Andy Welsh (for Noble 46) – Lively impact; Rory Loy (for Curran 86) – Looked a threat. Not used: Mark Gillespie, Stephen O’Halloran, Steven Swinglehurst.

Goals: McGovern 57.

Booked: Berrett, Taiwo, Livesey.

Oldham Athletic: Cisak, Lee, Black, M’voto, Diamond (Mellor 101), Furman, Wesolowski (Winchester 86), Taylor, Morais (Parker 71), Smith, Reid. Not used: Gerrard, Brooke, Millar, Carr.

Goals: Reid 23pen.

Booked: Furman, Taylor.

Penalty stats:
McGovern scored 1-0
Furman scored 1-1
Welsh scored 2-1
Smith scored 2-2
Robson saved 2-2
Taylor saved 2-2
Berrett scored 3-2
Parker saved 3-2
Loy scored 4-2

Ref: Mark Haywood (West Yorkshire).

Crowd: 1,786 (224 Carlisle fans).

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