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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Leyton Orient boss 'disgusted' as Carlisle Utd rip his team apart

Carlisle United 4 Leyton Orient 1: The season could stop now and Greg Abbott and his players would be deserving of serious plaudits. Carlisle United’s campaign might end with high thrills or heartbreak but at least the journey is being conducted with a boldness not seen at Brunton Park for some years.

Zoko photo
Lee Miller, left and Francois Zoko

The memory is today challenged to think of the last Blues team to go about its work with such vigour, such panache. Neil McDonald’s pass-and-move collective of 2006/7 is the probable answer. After the Geordie manager departed in August ’07, a more functional era set in.

McDonald’s assistant is now the boss and has taken some fearful grief over his three years in the chair. Now it’s right and proper to applaud the way Abbott is sending his team out on to the lawn with a brief to attack and to entertain. Wherever this season now leads, Carlisle’s budget troops have put fun back on the menu this winter.

This daring philosophy is not shared by every team in League One, or higher, and so it is worthy of serious credit. The walk down Warwick Road is now conducted with a greater skip than at any other time during Abbott’s reign because of the way the blue shirts are fanning out to all parts of the opposition half before working the ball towards the net.

This comfortable dismantling of Leyton Orient – no mugs they, with two losses from 14 prior to their futile jaunt north – leaves United averaging 2.5 goals from each of their last six fixtures. That such a high-scoring run has parked the Cumbrian bus in the play-off zone says the commitment to enterprise is working in the right way.

It’s not style without substance, in other words. It’s the best of both worlds and should be relished for however long it lasts. The force of Carlisle’s attacking is leading to some splendid goals and also, now, a couple of freak ones, such as Matty Robson’s free-kick here which skipped into the net off an Orient boot, or Tom Taiwo’s 20-yard attempt which looped and dipped, unstoppably, under Lee Butcher’s crossbar.

This time last week, Sheffield United’s manager, Danny Wilson, was grumbling dubiously about a lack of fortune in his team’s 3-2 Brunton Park defeat.

On Saturday, Russell Slade took the reverse approach – lacerating his own side after they had conceded a pair of flukes. “Disgusted,” “appalling,” “ridiculous,” and “I feel sick,” were among the visiting manager’s chilling soundbites as he got stuck into Orient’s iffy defending.

It’s possible to observe Carlisle’s second and third goals and argue that the gods of luck were indeed with the Blues. Possible, yes, but don’t also neglect to mention the brightness that took United into those places to begin with.

Without Francois Zoko’s skills and persistence, there would have been no free-kick for Robson to take, or no corner for James Berrett to bend over (the latter leading to the scramble from which Taiwo scored).

In other words, United are frequently forcing their way into areas where good things can happen. A seven-game unbeaten run suggests this is something more than a purple patch, hence the collective desperation for January to hurry up and end, so that fans can stop worrying about the danger of losing some of Abbott’s brightest buttons in the transfer window.

If Lee Clark, the Huddersfield manager, was at Brunton Park with the intention of studying the surging form of Zoko or Lee Miller (such was the assumption on Saturday), then his pad will have been filled with approving notes from the 57th second onwards. For it took the Ivorian such a stupidly short period of time to make his latest contribution to a fruitful winter, by controlling Lubo Michalik’s high ball, putting the Orient defender Terrell Forbes into panicked retreat and then clipping a shot in off the left-hand post.

This was a cheerful way to start proceedings, and it only got better. In the seventh minute, United stitched together a one-touch passing move which was simply too good for their guests. Zoko’s one-two with Lee Miller led to a Robson cross which Taiwo, arriving, failed to convert. But the statement was being made.

Put simply, United were sharper, brighter – “oozing confidence”, in the words of Phil Thompson, the former European Cup winner watching for Sky Sports. Robson, next, skinned Leon McSweeney down the wing, and then returned to base and tackled back against McSweeney after a brief scare. For Orient, Lee Cook’s left-foot always looked a possible danger but the ball was more often than not racing down the other end, with one wasteful Cook pass allowing Miller to slide Zoko through on goal again.

McSweeney intervened there, but Leyton’s luck went again on 15 minutes, when their captain, Stephen Dawson, was fouled by JP McGovern on the break. This resulted in an injury which led Dawson to be subbed. This did nothing for Orient’s general well-being and, after United swept on through Taiwo, who volleyed a Miller flick wide, they scored again.

First, Zoko made hungry pursuit of a lost cause down the right, the African’s presence leading Scott Cuthbert to handball and then crash the ball into the Story Homes Stand when the offence was called by ref Chris Sarginson. The centre-half's rage earned him a yellow card, and Robson’s daisy-cutting set-piece earned him a goal, via a rival player’s boot.

The defender was almost too ashamed to celebrate, holding his hand to his mouth as United trotted back for the restart. Orient, it’s safe to say, were not in on the joke. Next, Zoko earned a brace of corners, the second one leading to a Michalik shot which Orient hacked off the line. Seconds later, Peter Murphy’s challenge saw the ball pop up for Taiwo just outside the box, and the midfielder’s dipping attempt outfoxed Butcher.

The Os’ sudden three-goal deficit contributed to a noticeable shoulder-sag amongst several of their players. With their central striker David Mooney reduced to irrelevance by Michalik and Murphy, and Kevin Lisbie threatening only in limited bursts, it fell to the crafty Cook to have their best attempt of the half, but this – a direct free-kick – was curled straight down Adam Collin’s throat.

By then, Miller had had two further Carlisle goals disallowed. Identifying the pattern of superiority was not a brain-taxing challenge. The second half begun less openly, with Orient’s ball-retention a little tighter, but once it was established that the men from the capital were not going to locate their teeth, the Blues went hunting again.

Down the right, McGovern fed the flying Frank Simek for a cross which Zoko couldn’t quite convert. Another smooth move saw Robson tear down the left for an intercepted delivery. Berrett then piled into a shot which went a fraction over the bar, and Zoko was thwarted at the last by McSweeney after Berrett, Miller and the relentless Taiwo had got United out of some midfield congestion.

McGovern, next, flicked a peach of a pass over an Orient body for Simek to chase.

A minute later, Zoko cut in sharply from the left and shot over instead of squaring to the handily-placed Miller. When the visitors reappeared downfield, Murphy made a superb last-ditch slide to deny Mooney. And then, finally, the game was nailed for good, when Miller held up play for Berrett, and the midfielder slalomed past two challenges to finish nicely across Butcher.

United’s fourth goal came with a certain swagger and might be the best indicator so far of their current mood. Orient eventually salvaged something, as the veteran sub Jamie Cureton nodded in a Dean Cox free-kick (another set-piece glitch which Abbott ought to address) but their own day was better summarised by Jimmy Smith’s last minute drive, which clattered Cureton in the back and bounced to safety.

You know it’s been a good day when the other lot do your defending for you. But the extra assistance wasn’t really needed.

Just now Carlisle are helping themselves in all respects and the output is a joy to behold, wherever it now goes, however long the fun can last.

ADAM COLLIN - Did not have a great deal to do, but caught and punched confidently when required.

FRANK SIMEK - Slotted back in with no trouble and was often a lively attacking outlet as Blues swept forward.

MATTY ROBSON - His goal may have but fortunate, but this was an excellent all-round display from Robson.

LUBO MICHALIK - Did all that was required at the back, and can claim a rare assist for Zoko’s opener.

PETER MURPHY - Won his contest with Mooney and looked in peak form at the heart of the defence.

PAUL THIRLWELL - Typically unshowy display from the skipper, whose screening work and distribution was sound.

TOM TAIWO - This was Taiwo near his best, tackling hungrily, passing well and adding a rare goal to his tally.

JAMES BERRETT - A lively member of an impressive midfield unit, and his seventh goal of term was full of class.

JP MCGOVERN - Some of his deliveries were of high quality and he used the ball shrewdly throughout.

FRANCOIS ZOKO - Another virtuoso display. His sixth goal in six games, and so much vibrant forward play.

LEE MILLER - No goals again, but so what? His line-leading influence on Carlisle’s play is immeasurable.

Subs: Chris Chantler (for Taiwo 77) – Bright cameo for new signing. 6; Paddy Madden (for Berrett 83) – Fresh legs towards the end. 6. Not used: Mark Gillespie, Danny Livesey, Andy Welsh.

Goals: Zoko 1, Robson 30, Taiwo 37, Berrett 73

Booked: McGovern, Murphy

Leyton Orient: Butcher, McSweeney, Chicksen, Forbes, Cuthbert, Spring, Dawson (Smith 20), Laird (Cox 62), Cook, Lisbie, Mooney (Cureton 77).  Not used: Porter, Cestor.

Goal: Cureton 85

Booked: Cuthbert

Ref: Chris Sarginson (Staffordshire)

Crowd: 4,954 (128 away fans)

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