Red card for Carlisle United’s manager inspires timely win against Gillingham
Last updated at 12:40, Monday, 01 March 2010
Carlisle United 2 Gillingham 0: Greg Abbott’s staunchest critics will have feasted on the sight of Carlisle United scoring a goal the minute their manager was dispatched from the dugout on Saturday.
If this is the effect, they will doubtless argue, shouldn’t the club apply for an ASBO that keeps him away from his technical area on a weekly basis?
Forced to manage 49 minutes of this game by remote control from his perch next to United’s directors, Abbott watched his team cruise away from the moment of controversy which led referee Paul Tierney to send him into the gods at Brunton Park, leaving player-coach Graham Kavanagh at front-of-house by the touchline.
In a perfect world, Carlisle’s comfortable and timely victory would be today’s top story, not the competing noises off stage. Abbott’s selection changes for this tussle with Gillingham – the restoration of Tom Taiwo and Evan Horwood at the expense of Paul Thirlwell and Peter Murphy – were at the root of this first win in four attempts, along with a renewed defensive tightness. Those matters deserve recognition.
Since United lean towards melodrama like a flower reaching for the sun, however, our review of events cannot be that simple. At close of play we learned of the latest alleged misdemeanours of Gary Madine, the Blues’ injured teenage striker. Then, switching subjects, Abbott appeared to inform us that his red card-inducing march onto the pitch in protest at Rene Howe’s elbow-led challenge on Ian Harte in the 41st minute was premeditated.
Madine’s supposed indiscretions on Friday night had zero bearing on the pattern of this game, so on we go to Abbott’s take on his own dismissal. “I thought if I make a bit of a scene, it might get the fans and the players going, and it did,” said the manager. “It wasn’t without a little bit of prior thought.”
What cannot be denied is that the way Gillingham striker Howe’s elbow connected with Harte’s face merited far greater punishment than the mere free-kick awarded by Mr Tierney (“it was a shocking challenge – a jawbreaker,” said Abbott). Carlisle’s boss and players were therefore entitled to their fury. But Abbott’s hope for leniency when the Football League convenes to discuss his punishment might be dashed by his admission that he knowingly and willingly overstepped the line.
“I didn’t swear, but I stepped two yards onto the pitch which you can’t do,” added Abbott. “Maybe I need to be kept on a dog lead down there.” The fact he was in the mood to jest about his brush with authority tells you that it was otherwise a day of positive deeds from United. The pressure which had gathered after their slapdash run of three defeats was popped by Harte’s double salvo and a generally perkier performance from Abbott’s team.
With strikes 13 and 14 of the season, Harte is a goalscoring marvel from the back four. After nodding in so many of those goals from team-mates’ deliveries, this pair were from a more familiar menu: a trademark free-kick and an unstoppable penalty. The latter of Harte’s strikes killed the game in the 52nd minute and scattered recent anxieties down Warwick Road.
“The doubters and critics have had their say, but we will keep fighting,” said Abbott, who must have rolled out of bed in particularly combative mood two days ago. Critically, so did his team, which was freshened up by Taiwo’s return to the midfield after a nine-game exile on the subs bench and Horwood’s predicted comeback in defence.
In the early stages, before they were breaking clear of their visitors, United had reason to be thankful that last season’s League Two play-off winners had staggered into town with such an apologetic away record (four draws and 12 defeats from their 16 League One trips prior to Saturday). That might explain the conviction deficit displayed by Simeon Jackson when he sprinted onto Chris Dickson’s cutting third-minute pass, rounded Adam Collin but then sliced wastefully off-target from a wide angle.
From this point onwards, a rather edgy contest was played out, notable for token attacking forays and plenty of uncertainty in possession. Out of the confusion, Adam Clayton sent a seventh-minute missile down Alan Julian’s throat in the Gills goal and Richard Keogh mounted a number of surges from right-back, but clinical quality was scarce.
One Harte free-kick almost dropped for Scott Dobie, then Gillingham – operating a bold, three-striker system – emerged with chances for Dickson, who failed to lob Collin from range, and then Darren Dennehy, the defender who rose to meet Danny Jackman’s 25th minute free-kick and looped his header onto the crossbar.
Clayton then slipped a chance narrowly wide, before the game spun on Howe’s dangerous challenge on Harte. Once Abbott had been dismissed, on the advice of the fourth official, United took their sense of injustice downfield and scored. Garry Richards felled Darryl Duffy 25 yards from goal, and Harte bent a splendid set-piece out of Julian’s reach.
United, now emboldened, almost added a rapid second, when Dobie fed the raiding Taiwo and Julian saved. Happily, they maintained their newly-discovered vigour in the second half and after Taiwo had again been denied – this time by the sliding Adam Miller – they fashioned their crucial second.
Clayton, returning to influential form in the centre, sent a clever ball down the left for Matty Robson, who dropped his shoulder, went past Chris Palmer and was then caught by the Gills’ second-choice right-back. Harte blitzed the penalty and Carlisle swept on.
Chances now rolled off the production line. Taiwo, relishing his return to the side, again tested Julian, Robson went close after Dobie’s header, and after the visiting manager Mark Stimson made a frustrated triple substitution, United assembled the move of the match: Taiwo to Clayton, then a perceptive pass from Duffy to Robson, who tore to the byline and served Dobie, only for Julian to repel the Cumbrian’s finish.
This, at last, was Carlisle at their most fluent. Yet just as significant was their work further back. Danny Livesey led a wholehearted defensive effort which kept Stimson’s dangermen in their boxes, and the under-employed Collin remained alert to push wide a rare shot from one of the Gills’ replacements, Adam Barcham.
The visitors’ clumsiness almost provided Harte with a hat-trick – the defender whipped another free-kick a fraction wide after Richards had clattered Dobie – and then Robson and Keogh went close before matters were closed.
Or so we thought. Mention of the Madine incident launched Abbott into a monologue about “morals and principle” and “acting in a manner that is full of respect for the football club”, although the manager was careful not to convict the young striker before all the details of his latest alleged nocturnal escapade are known. Then came Abbott’s account of his calculated burst onto the pitch, which provoked his dismissal.
Discipline, or lack thereof, did not need to be up there on Saturday’s agenda when the most gratifying tale was of United’s leap further away from the relegation places – their buffer zone is now a healthy eight points – but it was hardly unusual for the Brunton Park club to offer up a range of plot-lines to jostle for our attention.
Maybe we should have expected such an eventful day when their opponents fielded a left-back called Nutter (John), their chairman goes by the name of Scally (Paul), and whose Latin motto translates as “home of the shouting men”. Abbott and Carlisle grabbed that title for one lively old afternoon. Probably best if they hand it back now.
ADAM COLLIN Rarely tested but made a couple of good saves, not always convincing at crosses.
RICHARD KEOGH Tried to give United some attacking impetus, and he defended strongly.
EVAN HORWOOD A tidy return to the side and got better as the game went on.
DANNY LIVESEY Dominated the Gills’ frontmen throughout with a towering display.
IAN HARTE Two classy goals and did all he needed to at the back.
TOM TAIWO Justified his return with a typically energetic display, and joined in plenty of attacks.
ADAM CLAYTON A return to form, dictated plenty of the play and had a clever role in United’s second.
MATTY ROBSON Really stretched Gills defence as United got on top, and won the crucial penalty.
KEVAN HURST Industrious rather than inspirational, did plenty of important work for the cause.
SCOTT DOBIE Helped United defend from the front and could easily have made it 3-0.
DARRYL DUFFY Led the line intelligently and used ball well despite enjoying few scoring chances himself.
Subs: Paul Thirlwell (for Taiwo 80) – Helped shore things up. 6; Ben Marshall (for Hurst 81) – Couple of surges. 6. Not used: Mark Gillespie, Peter Murphy, Graham Kavanagh, Richard Offiong, Tony Kane.
Goals: Harte 41, 52 pen.
Gillingham: Julian, Palmer (Lewis 62), Nutter, Richards, Dennehy, Jackman, Maher (Oli 62), Miller, Jackson, Dickson (Barcham 62), Howe. Not used: Royce, Gowling, Weston, Walker.
Ref: Paul Tierney (Lancashire).
First published at 11:28, Monday, 01 March 2010
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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