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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Mackay double sinks young Carlisle United hopefuls

Annan 2 Carlisle United 1: Pre-season yes, friendly no. This was no stroll in the sun for Carlisle United’s young hopefuls, far from it.

Football photo
Carlisle’s Pat Brough gets a shot in

It is true that the Blues crossed the border with a team that remains some distance away from being what Greg Abbott will field against Leyton Orient on August 3.

Annan, though, ensured that the gap would not be closed by many of the teenagers hoping for a breakthrough year at Brunton Park.

In an extremely feisty start, the home side claimed two goals and hit the post with a third attempt, with only 12 minutes gone.

United took a while to regroup from this early shock. Their comeback was restricted to a Mike Edwards reply, while Galabank shook once or twice with some forceful tackles, such as the firm but fair challenge that left the Blues’ youth team prospect Kyle Dempsey wincing in the second half.

Dempsey is no timid teenager, but he knew he was in a contest at that hard moment. In fairness the young west Cumbrian, along with his fellow half-time sub Connor Thomson, was among the brighter players in a green shirt last night.

But none really made strides; certainly not enough to expect soon to unseat any of the more hardened group of pros Abbott will field against Burnley today.

From the off here, Annan began with a sharpness that seemed designed to remind some of Carlisle’s raw teens how it can be when the opposition are drilled and ready from minute one.

Only seven had passed when they took the lead, Kenny Mackay displaying good pace to reach a ball from midfield, and after keeper Lewis Brass parried his first attempt, the big striker pounced on the rebound.

Carlisle almost replied when Mark Beck and Lewis Guy combined in the box, but Steven Swinglehurst, Annan’s former United defender, intervened. Moments later the Galabankies and Mackay had another: this time the forward poaching a header before Brass could reach a cross that Edwards had deflected towards him.

These were some hard early lessons being dished out for United, who had to find some more purpose about their play. After a fashion, they did, with Dave Symington, on the left wing, warming the hands of Kenny Arthur in the home goal.

At the back, the experienced Edwards cleared one off United’s line, and then had further impact at the other end, scissoring home his second goal in four days on the volley, after Connor Hammell had displayed quick feet and a good inswinging cross from the right.

Guy, along with Edwards, was often trying to pass on his experience to the many teenagers around him as he went in search of service. Eventually, he earned an immediate chance to level. As at Garforth on Tuesday, though, the Cumbrian could not complete some purposeful approach work with a finish.

As he linked with Beck and then found a favourable deflection, Guy twisted his way into the box, but his shot was weak enough for Arthur to make the save.

The sides traded half-chances as things went on, the ball often skipping off Annan’s artificial pitch and testing the alertness of both defences. Midway through, one of several testing corners by the tricky Ally Love was almost headed in by Swinglehurst, before Hammell’s tracking back denied Mackay his hat-trick.

After Edwards had gone close again, Mackay had a better opportunity, when ref Lloyd Wilson spotted a grab by Brandon Gwinnutt on Love in the box. Brass, however, did not recognise the Annan number 10’s script, and went down sharply to his right to save it, and keeping out Love’s follow-up for good measure.

The second half was a tighter contest, overall, as United threw on four subs at the break – including, for the second friendly in succession, assistant boss Graham Kavanagh at centre-half.

As Kavanagh, 39, cajoled players less than half his age to a more secure 45 minutes’ work, scoring chances became fewer. Patrick Brough’s near miss from 25 yards was a rarity, as was the ever-willing Mackay’s burst past Jake Chisholm, again to be denied by Brass.

Later, Dempsey and Thomson linked up brightly down the right, but first Arthur raced off his line to grab the ball, and next Thomson had a cross intercepted.

A better chance to level came 15 minutes from time, when Frankie Wallace rode a tackle and Alex Salmon’s cross deflected for Jordan Deacey, but the trialist made poor contact in front of goal. Later, Deacey made a cleaner connection with a half-volley towards the end, but couldn’t keep his shot accurate.

Annan’s supporters will have been pleased to see their own team in such decent heart here. Swinglehurst, once on United’s books, was excellent at the back.

Abbott, who watched this one from the stand, will return to the dugout this afternoon hoping for a more polished showing from his regulars. The young ones waiting in the wings will be no poorer for this experience but it was Annan who ticked more boxes on this occasion.

Annan: Arthur, Black (McCrudden 87), Bradley, Watson, Swinglehurst, Sloan (Graham 76), Love (Thorburn 62), Moffat, Weatherstone, Mackay, Trialist (Chan 89). Not used: Wood, Mitchell, McAnespie, Caldwell, Woolnough.

Goals: Mackay 7, 10

Carlisle United: Brass, Gwinnutt (Thomson 46), Brough, Edwards (Kavanagh 46), Chisholm, Deacey, Hammell (Wallace 46), Symington, Salmon, Beck, Guy (Dempsey 46). Not used: Eccles, Marshall, Hodgson, Eccles.

Goals: Edwards 26

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