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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Exeter sub keeper Lenny Pidgeley returns to frustrate Carlisle Utd

Exeter 0 Carlisle United 0: The feeling when Lenny Pidgeley pulled on his luminous yellow jersey and gloves and jogged on for the last 10 minutes of this tight skirmish was that it would either end with something spectacular, or something best viewed through the fingers.

Jeremy Helan photo
Jeremy Helan

This, to Carlisle United’s regret, was one of the days when their former goalkeeper’s mind did not go a-wandering. Two minutes after replacing the stricken Artur Krysiak between Exeter City’s posts, Pidgeley put his big frame in the way of a goalbound Lee Miller header and killed the Blues’ top chance of snatching a late victory from their long mission to Devon.

Pidgeley’s year-long Brunton Park career was a short soap opera of upstanding performances, high-profile ricks and a moment of off-field shame, before Adam Collin’s rise caused the ex-Chelsea man to drift into anonymity.

Nearly two years to the evening at Milton Keynes when Collin nabbed his place and refused to let go, Pidgeley’s fifth appearance for his seventh club was a little blow back against United, who released the 27-year-old in the summer of 2010: a departure that wasn’t much mourned by supporters, after his occasional habit for absent-minded bloopers was followed by the more serious aberration of a drink-driving conviction.

A naturally able custodian cursed with imperfect concentration, Paul Tisdale’s second-choice keeper had to switch on his mental lights in the closing stages here as Carlisle made a persistent push for the points. Collin was able to spectate for greater time than either Krysiak or Pidgeley, during a game which saw the recent deluge of goals dry up at both ends.

Collin, beyond a couple of steam-releasing punches and catches and one vital early save, was not often engaged by Tisdale’s home team, for whom the in-form striker Daniel Nardiello was a disappointment. United were a piece of penalty-box devil short of nailing a match to which they contributed the greater attacking imagination.

As it was, Miller’s near-miss was as close as they got. After slapping in six goals in their two previous home matches – and conceding five – Greg Abbott’s team became both defiant and impotent at the same time in this sunlit West Country arena.

The first outcome, a clean sheet against a side who had themselves scored four times in their last game, was a welcome arrival and a tribute to United’s powers of readjustment, after Peter Murphy’s third-minute withdrawal with a back problem. Danny Livesey, dropped to the bench, quickly rose back off it and contributed to a tight and watchful defensive effort.

That was the counter-point to the Blues’ inability to find a killer touch against the Grecians, who also shed four goals in a thrilling draw at Sheffield United last weekend and had clearly been subjected to some tightening-up procedures by Tisdale and Rob Edwards, the former Carlisle player on their coaching books. Troy Archibald-Henville at centre-half was one giant reason why seven-goal Miller had so few opportunities to improve his enviable scoring tally.

“In times gone by we’d have lost a game like this,” argued Abbott, who need apologise to no one for taking some satisfaction from a point gained at a notoriously tricky venue, on a day when the Blues had to rearrange other bodies due to Tom Taiwo and James Berrett’s bans even before Murphy had hit the turf in agony.

The Dubliner collapsed onto the grass during a footrace with Exeter’s nippy teenage striker, Jake Taylor, whose attempt to profit from his sudden opportunity was thwarted by Lubo Michalik’s first firefighting gallop across the box. Murphy duly took his slow walk towards the tunnel and Livesey threw off his disappointment, and his bib, to rejoin Carlisle’s campaign.

With Paul Thirlwell back on midfield sentry duty, Matty Robson restored at left-back and Francois Zoko rewarded for last week’s Oldham goals with a start on the right of a front three, Carlisle set up early camp in Exeter’s half as the hosts struggled to make passes stick. Robson ran confidently onto one Zoko pass and was almost rewarded for his optimism when his inaccurate shot spun off Archibald-Henville’s foot and flew a fraction wide, with Krysiak wrongfooted.

Five minutes later, Liam Noble accepted a short corner and put a cross on Rory Loy’s head, only for the Scot to glance it off-target. These were useful early openings but they did not come so easily for the Blues from here on, as Exeter finally rose into the contest.

One poor pass from James Tavernier on his last United appearance required captain Thirlwell to step in with a shrewd interception. Then the young right-back lost possession again, allowing James Dunne to send Taylor scampering through the middle, but Collin dashed to the front of his area to deny the 19-year-old Reading loanee.

Moments later, Matt Oakley drove into the box and shot over. United replied with a Noble shot that skimmed past the post. Then Nardiello burst into space and shot across Collin. The half ended with a 25-yarder from the lively Loy, a badly sliced attempt from Dunne, and a dominant sense that neither side was looking especially deadly behind enemy lines.

Half-time saw Zoko brought infield to support Miller, and McGovern dispatched to the right-wing. The move did not yield any dramatic improvement in United’s quest for more penetration but the extra width appeared to suit McGovern, whose 52nd minute cross after another short corner was glanced on by Miller and then headed over by Livesey at the back stick.

Exeter offered a combative approach in midfield, with David Noble prominent, but no dynamism as Livesey and Michalik protected the castle with familiar strength. United’s Noble, Liam, was offering greater invention, but an attempted lob from distance failed to catch Krysiak out and then a wicked cross from the Sunderland man obliged Danny Coles to slide in ahead of Miller.

These decent deliveries were the exception, as United otherwise struggled to apply a convincing final ball. Several gallops forward by the Blues died with a hasty pass to a non-existent runner. It was Noble who appeared most likely to work the trick, and after Tavernier had dealt with a dangerous cross in the Blues box, the midfielder showed nimble footwork to accept a Thirlwell pass, shift into space and curl a right-footer millimetres past the left post.

Jeremy Helan’s pace was then added to the chase, in place of Zoko, as Coles flashed a header wide for the hosts. Krysiak then succumbed to pain after a clearance, as Pidgeley began his cameo with his save from Miller, after an attack prompted by Loy and pursued by Helan, McGovern and Noble.

When the ball bounced back off the 6ft 4in keeper you felt for certain that this was not a day for the assassins. Before the end, Taylor wriggled through two bodies but scuffed tamely at Collin and then Miller swiped at a shot from the right: both finishes in keeping with the afternoon’s theme.

A scoreless outcome against last season’s eighth-placed finishers enables Abbott to aim for this weekend’s FA Cup test at Alfreton with a certain momentum. One defeat from their last eight outings is a record the Blues will happily stretch in Derbyshire before the following Saturday throws up the sort of match-up Carlisle traditionally enjoy: against Sheffield United, at Bramall Lane.

Here it wasn’t so much the blokes in red-and-white stripes who reduced their returns, but an enigmatic goalie from their past wearing a neon top.

ADAM COLLIN – Made one vital first-half stop to thwart Taylor, and commanded his box against hosts’ limited threat.

JAMES TAVERNIER – A couple of first-half slips put Blues in peril, but he was much more secure after the break on final appearance.

MATTY ROBSON – Got forward to decent effect early on, less enterprising in second half but generally safe at the back on his return.

PETER MURPHY – His day ended three minutes after it started, and Blues will hope his back problem isn’t serious.

LUBO MICHALIK – A sharp and error-free display, the Slovakian killed off many Exeter attacks with strong interceptions.

PAUL THIRLWELL – On a good comeback from injury, the skipper used his experience to get the Blues out of some scrapes.

LIAM NOBLE – Sunderland loanee was bright on the ball and usually Carlisle’s most creative player.

JP MCGOVERN – An industrious effort in central role and then found a few openings down the right.

FRANCOIS ZOKO – A couple of bright flashes, but last week’s hero didn’t have enough impact over the game.

RORY LOY – Lively and persistent as ever, but will rue his misdirected header that could have given Blues early lead.

LEE MILLER – Thwarted late on by Pidgeley, top scorer was otherwise well-marshalled and under-served.

Subs: Danny Livesey (for Murphy 3) – Fine response to the axe; Jeremy Helan (for Zoko 75) – Plenty of pace. Not used: Mark Gillespie, Craig Curran, Christian Ribeiro.

Exeter: Krysiak (Pidgeley 80), Tully, Golbourne, Coles, Archibald-Henville, Oakley (McNish 40; O’Flynn 68), Sercombe, Dunne, Noble, Taylor, Nardiello. Not used: Logan, Bennett.

Ref: James Adcock (Nottinghamshire)

Crowd: 4,245 (178 Carlisle fans)

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