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Wednesday, 03 September 2014

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Classy trialist Zoko nets as Carlisle Utd ease to friendly win

Kendal 1 Carlisle United 4: Carlisle United drew the maximum value from their first pre-season loosener, offering manager Greg Abbott plenty of encouragement with the League One kick-off now less than a month away.

The bright second-half performance of Ivorian trialist Francois Zoko at Kendal’s Lakeland Radio Stadium was the evening’s top talking point, but Abbott will have been impressed with the general sharpness and appetite of his troops.

Along with Zoko, three of Abbott’s strikers registered their first goals of the July preparations in the south Cumbrian rain – Gary Madine, Jason Price and Craig Curran, the latter claiming his first goal for United.

Trialist winger Billy Gibson also shone in the first 45 minutes, while new recruits Sean McDaid, Frank Simek and James Berrett showed up well on their debuts against Lee Ashcroft’s Unibond Premier side.

It was enough temporarily to lift the gloom that had descended with news of Danny Livesey’s groin injury, which will sideline the influential centre-half for around two months. United’s paucity of fit centre-halves is now such that midfielders Paul Thirlwell and Graham Kavanagh had to deputise in the back four last night.

That neither was unduly extended says enough about Carlisle’s superiority against their non-league hosts. After a pleasingly competitive tone was set in the early minutes, with United’s Ian Harte and Kendal’s Paul Osborne involved in strong challenges, both sides swapped token chances before Madine took the Blues’ opening goal of pre-season.

Abbott, watching from the stand, will have approved of the quick-thinking displayed in the 15th minute by Gibson, who scented a short-corner opportunity, sped across to receive the ball from Kevan Hurst and laid it back to Marc Bridge-Wilkinson. When the midfielder’s shot rebounded off the home goalkeeper David Newnes, the alert Madine pounced to score.

Curran, an energetic presence in United’s attack, then ought to have made it two when he intercepted a backpass, but George Melling was able to clear the striker’s weak shot. Later, as Carlisle dominated, Madine drew a fine, diving save from Newnes and then saw another goalbound header bounce off the unsuspecting Curran.

Eventually, the ex-Tranmere man made a more decisive contribution. After a spell of careful Carlisle possession, Bridge-Wilkinson threaded Curran through to the right of goal and the summer signing clipped his scoring shot across Newnes.

After a first half also notable for right-back Simek’s willingness to contribute in attack, Berrett’s calmness in possession, Bridge-Wilkinson’s creativity, Gibson’s willingness to run at his man and young Steven Swinglehurst’s diligence at left-back, Abbott introduced a fresh 11 players for the second half as Zoko joined the fray along with fellow trialists Cregg and Simpson, the latter watched by his father, Paul.

After an unremarkable spell, notable for a few pacy Matty Robson forays and some strong line-leading from Price, Zoko duly illuminated the south Cumbrian venue with a classy 73rd minute goal.

Simpson, industrious down the right, cut the ball inside to Tom Taiwo, whose pass from midfield was expertly dummied by Price and snaffled by Zoko, whose run took him beyond the Kendal back line and whose finish with the outside of his right foot was a study in conviction.

Three minutes on, and another quality contribution from the Ivorian: Zoko revealing some sharp skill to change direction before pinging a fine ball out to Robson, whose low cross was dispatched by Price from close range.

Alex Taylor, with a deflected drive that Mark Gillespie just failed to keep out, earned Ashcroft’s men a consolation goal, while Taiwo, Zoko and Tony Kane might have increased Carlisle’s victory margin before the close.

Livesey, a frustrated observer from the stand, would have relished this cobweb-scattering contest. For Abbott and the rest of his reshaped squad, the first of many steps towards August 7 was taken with assurance.

Kendal: Newnes (Gardner 64), Walmsley, Warburton (Grundy 46), Melling (Fleming 61), Winters, Osbourne, Mulvaney (Maghan 64), Kilford (Tucker 46), Foster, Wright (Taylor 64), Wisdom.

Goal: Taylor 79

United (first half): Collin, Simek, Swinglehurst, Harte, Thirlwell, Berrett, Bridge-Wilkinson, Gibson, Hurst, Madine, Curran.

United (second half): Gillespie, Kane, McDaid, Murphy, Kavanagh, Cregg, Taiwo, Robson, Simpson, Price, Zoko. Subs not used: Bowman, Cook.

Goals: Madine 15, Curran 39, Zoko 73, Price 76

Crowd: 809

Ref: Alan Young

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