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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Lee Miller’s level best not quite enough for Carlisle Utd

Carlisle United 1 Middlesbrough 2: Lee Miller’s glancing header won’t live long in the memory – but it will be one of the sweetest goals the Carlisle United targetman has ever scored.

Lee Miller photo
Lee Miller

The Blues talisman equalised and at the same time settled a score against the club that showed him the door last summer after a frustrating time on Teesside following a £600,000 move to the Championship club that had held out so much promise.

Miller’s career has long since risen from the ashes following his explosive arrival at Brunton Park with 15 goals in his debut season, but last night the big targetman was on a mission to prove a point.

He achieved it in style but his goal wasn’t enough to secure a victory during a highly-competitive pre-season friendly which saw Miller and his team-mates leave the pitch to a standing ovation from the 1,988 crowd following an impressive display against a side with Premier League ambitions.

After Miller’s header early in the second half had cancelled out Curtis Main’s 29th minute opener, Cameron Park hit Middlesbrough’s winner 10 minutes later.

United’s first defeat of pre-season was far from a calamity as it was sugar-coated by an impressive performance which thrilled their manager and earned praise from his Middlesbrough counterpart Tony Mowbray.

With the big kick-off a week today in the Capital One Cup, Abbott was able to draw on plenty positives – a sturdy enough defensive display, a midfield bristling with energy and an all-round ability to create an abundance of chances.

Even without injured players like Danny Cadamarteri, Frank Simek, JP McGovern, Rory Loy and Paddy Madden, Carlisle will feel they should have enough in their armoury to go into the new campaign brimming with optimism.

While it was wily old campaigner Miller – handed the captain’s armband with Paul Thirlwell and Danny Livesey both on the bench – who scored the goal, young pretender Mark Beck could have joined him on the scoresheet after coming on as a sub.

Abbott insists he won’t be afraid to give youth a chance to shine next season and his starting line-up seemed to reflect the Carlisle manager’s new philosophy.

Rookie keeper Mark Gillespie was handed the gloves in place of regular No1 Adam Collin and another emerging young star Brad Potts was given an opportunity to show he is capable of piling pressure on Simek for the right-back slot next season.

Potts and Carlisle can be consoled that they won’t come up against a player of the calibre of Marvin Emnes next season as the Dutch striker tormented the home side and showed precisely why he has so many admirers in the top-flight.

Carlisle’s players can be proud of their display against their more illustrious neighbours and it is sure to have won them admirers.

As long as Abbott has anything to do with it, Carlisle will never be accused of boring football, but what they couldn’t escape last night was the charge that they needed to have more cutting edge, especially in the first half.

After playing their illustrious north east neighbours off the park in last summer’s friendly, Carlisle again showed they weren’t going to be over-awed during an enterprising start, but they lacked the killer-punch.

Andy Welsh made a great run down the right, before crossing for Liam Noble, and only the last-gasp intervention of Stuart Parnaby, who had a trial with the Blues last season, prevented a goal-scoring opportunity for the young midfielder.

Then a lovely build-up involving Miller and Chris Chantler found Matty Robson on the overlap and the winger dispatched a beautifully flighted cross for Welsh, but the winger couldn’t quite connect.

Gillespie’s confidence will have soared after he denied Emnes, who did really well to create space for himself and let fly from the edge of the area, before Nicky Bailey’s effort was deflected wide by the young keeper.

By now Middlesbrough weren’t so much knocking on the door as hammering on it with a battering ram and they made the breakthrough on 29 minutes.

A loose ball found it’s way to Main in space 12 yards out and he had time to swap feet and pick his spot, chipping the ball over the head of defender Mike Edwards, standing on the goal-line, and into the roof of the net.

Miller then had a string of chances to score against his former club. His first effort had both direction and power but it was tipped over the bar by Boro keeper Jayson Lutweiler.
From the resulting corner by Berrett, Miller then sent a header looping over the bar, before firing just wide from another corner after United finished the first half strongly.

Miller didn’t have long to wait for a goal though – and it came as Middlesbrough were still digesting their half-time cuppas. The fact it came from a set-piece will not have pleased Mowbray, as Welsh and Berrett worked a short corner between them and then Miller rose to nod home.

United almost increased their lead soon afterwards when Noble saw his shot blocked by the keeper, before the tenacious young midfielder collected the loose ball and tried his luck again, but he was denied by Lutweiler for a second time.

But then on 64 minutes Middlesbrough forced a second goal when they broke in numbers and Emnes cut the ball back from the byline for Park to run in and bury a shot past Gillespie.

The goal fired up Carlisle, who went in search of an equaliser in determined fashion as if points were at stake, showing a resilience which will have delighted their manager.

Miller and trialist Ryan Donaldson combined well to set up Berrett, whose volley was saved by the Boro keeper.

Gillespie’s resistance might have been broken but his spirit clearly wasn’t as he showed nerves of steel to palm away a shot from Dudu and then punch clear from Emnes.

It was exciting end to end stuff now with both sides in search of more goals.

Murphy hit the bar and then in the final skirmishes Beck came on for Miller and caused chaos for the Middlesbrough defence.

The towering youngster had Lutweiler at full stretch to tip away a curling shot, and then the Boro keeper had to dive full length again to repell the striker’s powerful shot.

Carlisle United: Gillespie, Robson (Hopson, 35), Murphy, Welsh (Donaldson, 52), Noble, Miller (Beck, 80), Edwards (Livesey, 52), Potts, Berrett, Chantler (Thirlwell, 52), Bugno. Subs (not used) Collin, Symington

Middlesbrough: Lutweiler, Parnaby (Oliver, 78), Hines (Jackson, 46), McManus, Friend, Leadbitter (Dudu, 55), Thomson (Park, 55), Haroun (Castelan, 12, Brobbel, 68), Bailey (Dolan, 75), Main (Correa, 55), Emnes

Referee: E Ilderton

Crowd: 1,988 (138 away)

Goals: Curtis Main (Boro) 29; Miller (Carlisle) 54 ; Cameron Park (64)

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