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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Peter Murphy sets new record in Carlisle Utd's exhausting duel by the sea

Bournemouth 1 Carlisle United 1: Greg Abbott claims to detest the word “nearly”, in which case he should look away now. For this was nearly one of the great rearguard victories of Carlisle’s season.

Lee Miller photo
Lee Miller

As it was, Miles Addison’s 83rd minute equaliser meant the Blues nearly made the play-off places, but not quite. And that is nearly the full story.

United are advancing upon the top six in painstaking instalments, and would be there now but for the feisty closing stages on Saturday, which saw Abbott controversially ordered from the touchline and then Bournemouth crack the Cumbrian defiance with one aerial attack too many.

It’s not known whether this was another occasion in Dorset when the wife of the club’s rich investor stormed into the dressing-room to issue a few half-time truths. If Irena Demin repeated her recent trick two days ago, it’s likely the advice was the Russian for “get it in the mixer”, for the bombardment that followed the interval was sustained and powerful, and every missile was successfully defended by Danny Livesey and his defensive troops other than the corner which Addison climbed to convert.

Only the most partial Blues watcher could dispute Bournemouth’s right to their point at this moment, however much late goals always sting, and however contentious were some of Phil Gibbs’ second-half decisions, not least the call to banish Abbott in the moments before the Cherries scored.

Why Carlisle’s manager was the only one to walk, when the home boss Lee Bradbury had contributed richly to the outbreak of shoving and arguing after Liam Noble had tussled with Harry Arter, is for the officials to explain. Abbott’s version was that he was probably dismissed for manhandling the fourth official, in which case it may be hard to attack West Yorkshire ref Gibbs for that particular judgment.

But Bradbury and his assistant Russ Wilcox can consider themselves fortunate to have been allowed to remain in situ down by the technical areas at a time when Abbott was left to stew in the stands. Suitably enraged, Carlisle’s manager argued further with home supporters as, down below, Adam Collin kept out Marc Pugh’s free-kick with spectacular reflexes before Addison headed in Pugh’s resulting corner.

The Blues boss later alleged that the Cherries contingent had been campaigning for Noble to be dismissed (the United midfielder was booked). Again, if true, this reflects poorly on the often animated Bradbury, whose eventful day began with a swipe against “vitriol” from the local media in his programme notes and ended with him disappearing in a merry scrum of his own players after Addison finally cancelled out Lee Miller’s fourth-minute opener.

Lashing out at media critics, whose voices may, at a guess, have risen after a £1.6 million January transfer outlay was followed by five straight defeats, is the classic behaviour of a struggling boss. Football seems to harbour fewer angels than ever these days but desperation should not overlap into imaginary card-waving and ref-agitation (if Abbott’s claim is accurate).

From this view it seemed the yellow card brandished at Noble, whose temper briefly boiled after a coming-together with substitute Arter, was one Gibbs decision that seemed fair, just about. His many others contributed to a stop-start spectacle which was not always easy on the eye but fascinated all the same, as Bournemouth exerted much the greater pressure but struggled for penetration as Carlisle manned the barricades.

This was not United at anywhere near their most fluent. Darryl Flahavan in the Cherries goal was scarcely tested. Instead it was an afternoon which probably appears in Livesey’s dreams, with aerial tests aplenty and tackles required by the bucketload. Tom Taiwo, another of Carlisle’s most combative customers, earned his corn when the defending needed to be hard and raw.

This said, the early stages saw the hosts hesitant and United – chasing their first away returns of 2012 – pleasingly clinical. In the fourth minute they took the most emphatic lead, when Miller flicked on a Peter Murphy ball for JP McGovern, whose shot was pushed behind by Flahavan. McGovern’s corner was cleared but then lofted back into the box by Chris Chantler, where Miller profited from a defensive misjudgement to crash the ball into the top left corner.

The hope at this point was that Murphy, setting an outfield appearance record on his 440th Carlisle outing, would have a victory to celebrate his feat. When Donal McDermott wasted a free-kick and the talented Pugh passed out of play, unchallenged, it seemed United’s opponents were indeed for the taking. Upfield, James Berrett shot narrowly wide and Miller won a hatful more contests with Bradbury’s centre-halves.

Then, though, the balance shifted. Bournemouth, who appear a talented collection of players in need of some cohesion after Bradbury’s January splurge, finally came out of their shells with a Charlie Daniels surge from left-back which led McDermott to shoot just wide.

This near-miss perked the Cherries up further and led to more chances for Wes Thomas, who scuffed an inviting Simon Francis cross; for Pugh, who skinned Frank Simek but couldn’t pick out his team-mates; for Steve Cook, whose header was cleared off the line by Chantler; and for Daniels, who was gifted a free shot after a corner but pulled his 12-yard attempt wide.

United’s own attacking threat was diminished by this stage, with Francois Zoko in the margins and Miller’s further flicks unproductive. Yet the half-time booing from some home fans confirmed the lingering unease around the Seward Stadium, suggesting that one more cutting raid from the Cumbrians would be enough to get the points in the can and continue their bid to be remembered as something more than 2011/12’s “nearly men”, as per Abbott’s pre-match warning.

It didn’t come. Instead, Bradbury added Jayden Stockley’s willing frontrunning in place of McDermott, and Bournemouth came again. Collin had to be alert to intercept a Thomas gallop after a Noble error, and then Simek put in a crucial defensive header when Wes Fogden fed Francis for a cross.

Arter, a Carlisle loanee last term, was next to leave the bench, with Scott Malone Bournemouth’s third sub. This added more width and running to Bournemouth’s team and upped the pressure on United, who seemed willing enough to put bodies in harm’s way, with Murphy making a couple of strong interceptions after successive outbreaks of pinball in the box.

It was while Abbott was briefing a replacement of his own, Andy Welsh, with accompanying fist-pumps, that proceedings heated up. By the time Welsh made it on (for Zoko), Noble had been booked, Abbott had been sent off and the noise levels in the stadium had risen. Then the volume soared when Collin executed a superb, flying tip-over to keep out Pugh’s free-kick, only for Addison to lift his giant frame onto the resulting corner to bring the Cherries back on terms.

Even with the debris still flying from the earlier dust-ups it was not hard to see that the hosts’ persistence had earned this equaliser. But the fun wasn’t quite over yet. In a trice, Noble made a rare incursion into Bournemouth’s territory and saw his cross cushioned by Welsh a few inches the wrong side of Berrett. Paddy Madden, another Blues sub, then crashed a shot into a home leg, and United’s sudden resurgence continued when Miller teed up McGovern for another blocked blast.

That was the 90th minute. The 91st saw Arter almost bring the house down with a sweet strike from 25 yards which just cleared post and bar, but that was one “nearly” United could savour at the end of an exhausting old duel in a seaside town known more for retirement and reflection than all those handbags at dawn. At least we can all cool off with a nice, gentle kickabout with our friends from Preston tomorrow night.

ADAM COLLIN – His save from Pugh’s free-kick was magnificent, could not be blamed for Cherries’ leveller.

FRANK SIMEK – Tested to the full by the tricky Pugh, the right-back got stuck in and made some important interceptions.

CHRIS CHANTLER – Had a hand in Miller’s goal, was given an examination by Cherries down right, kept battling.

DANNY LIVESEY – At the heart of United’s rearguard effort with plenty of no-nonsense defending.

PETER MURPHY – Record-breaker had to put himself in harm’s way on plenty of occasions and didn’t disappoint.

TOM TAIWO – As Bournemouth swept forward, Taiwo’s battling qualities served the Blues well.

JAMES BERRETT – Industrious in the middle of the park but couldn’t quite inspire anything in attacking third.

LIAM NOBLE – Covered most blades of grass without producing a moment of magic, later embroiled in Arter flashpoint.

JP MCGOVERN – Use of the ball was always sensible and he certainly did his bit to help out defensively.

FRANCOIS ZOKO – Struggled to get going down United’s left and was subbed on a frustrating afternoon.

LEE MILLER – Buried his goal superbly, tried to make other things happen with occasional success.

Subs: Andy Welsh (for Zoko 81) – Almost involved in late drama; Paddy Madden (for Noble 86) – Full of running. Not used: Mark Gillespie, Lubo Michalik, Stephen O’Halloran.

Goals: Miller 4

Booked: Noble, Simek

Bournemouth: Flahavan, Francis, Daniels, Addison, Cook, Cooper (Arter 67), MacDonald, Pugh, Fogden (Malone 67), McDermott (Stockley 46), Thomas. Not used: Gregory, Zubar.

Goals: Addison 83

Booked: Thomas

Ref: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands)

Crowd: 5,240 (326 Carlisle fans)

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