Schlupp sinks Carlisle Utd in Wembley dress rehearsal
Last updated at 12:45, Saturday, 26 March 2011
Brentford 2 Carlisle United 1: Carlisle United have a week to think of some solutions to an unexpected problem – a teenage problem in a red-and-white shirt with a surname that sounds like a new brand of fizzy drink.
Jeffrey Schlupp, 18 years and three months old, has increased Greg Abbott’s tactical headscratching in the countdown to next Sunday’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.
The memo delivered by this swift-footed loan striker, whose first two career goals were nervelessly dispatched into Carlisle’s net last night, is that any slackness at the back under Wembley's big arch is liable to be subjected to some clinical punishment by a youngster whose dot was unlikely to be on the Cumbrian radar until very recently.
The instinct upon viewing the strikes that did for Abbott’s men at Griffin Park is to howl at the shoddy defensive work that allowed them to happen. Fair enough. A couple of ungainly moments in their own box certainly cost the Blues, along with a rash of wasteful finishing when the ball was in the Brentford box.
But it’s also necessary, with next Sunday’s glory tilt in mind, to dwell on the chap who put the home side’s goals away. Schlupp, who snubbed a Germany Under-19 call-up in order to hurl himself at Abbott’s back line here on his full debut, was remarkably cold-blooded at the moment of truth for one of such tender years.
First, in minute 74, the Ghana-born Leicester loanee bustled his way through a suddenly-gaping Carlisle defence, accepted an attempted clearance off Frank Simek’s boot, and then lasered a close-range shot past Adam Collin before the audience could blink.
Ten minutes later, he made the tricky look enviably easy: connecting with a meaty, scoring volley from the edge of the box after Collin and some of his colleagues had made inadequate work of dealing with a free-kick.
This was supreme finishing, free from the hastiness with which many young sprites attack inviting chances in front of the target. Executing this work on the biggest stage in eight days’ time will be a more daunting test of Schlupp’s courage, but what he did in the cosier confines of Brentford’s home ground will surely occupy a high place in Abbott and Graham Kavanagh’s pre-final addresses to their players.
Time to run a knife through the politically-correct readings of this game which say it had little or no bearing on the impending cup final. Anyone in the 4,365 crowd (and in the technical areas, to be frank) who says they weren’t scanning the arena for clues can pull the other one. With that in mind, Schlupp is certainly the new entry in the chart of potential Wembley match-turners but some more familiar messages were written on this plot of patchy west London turf, as United’s ambitious play-off hopes took a probably fatal wound.
One was that Carlisle will imperil their hopes of cup glory if they follow up so much encouraging build-up work with such neglectful finishing, of which Craig Curran (who often led the line heroically) was the chief culprit. Another is that Brentford possess a number of sizeable specimens who will try to outmuscle United in the middle ground and at set-pieces.
In the credit column for the Blues is the manner of their second-half dominance, which grew impressively until Curran’s 73rd minute miss prompted a home surge from which Schlupp took the opener. And of the individual battle which is assumed, in many quarters, to hold the key to victory at the national stadium, Frank Simek’s upstanding effort against Myles Weston last night allowed the American to put down a personal marker against his dangerous foe.
The resting of Francois Zoko here may be another concession from Abbott that his Ivorian dynamo, more than anyone, needs to be at his freshest for the battle for medals next weekend. Harry Arter, the Bournemouth loanee, stepped up for his second start in a reshaped attack which had Ben Marshall on the right and Curran at its centre, battling manfully with the giant Leon Legge and Pim Balkestein, who replaced the virus-hit Karleigh Osborne in the home defence.
It was United’s rearguard who were first engaged, though, with Lubo Michalik forced to slide to deny the darting Schlupp before minute one was through. Curran then unsettled the hosts’ keeper Simon Moore by charging down a clearance but the early pace was unquestionably set by Nicky Forster’s men, whose passing came with sharpness and width, and often from the gangly form of Tounami Diagouraga at the base of their midfield.
Weston saw a couple of promising runs snuffed out by Simek, then the winger jogged over to hit a 40-yard free-kick which caught Collin on his heels and dipped a couple of inches wide. It took more than 20 minutes for United to fashion anything meaningful, and when their first opening came – Arter breaking down the left and feeding Curran – Moore’s intervention took the sting out of the Scouser’s shot, allowing Craig Woodman to clear.
At other stages United did not have the close-control or calmness in possession to make good on Curran’s excellent hold-up play. Brentford swept back with an off-target Gary Alexander blast and then a Marcus Bean header which Matty Robson smuggled off the line. Arter almost opened the door with a pass for Curran, and then argued his way into Roger East’s notebook after a tangle with Robbie Neilson as Carlisle otherwise ended the half in decent heart.
After the break, the Blues hit the gas. One early second-half attack saw the overlapping Simek cross for James Berrett, whose flick was blocked by Balkestein. Arter then made a hash of a volley after a Marshall cross. In the moments that followed, Berrett was thwarted by a last-ditch Brentford boot and Tom Taiwo took one touch too many after a Curran pass.
We then watched right-back Neilson being stretchered off with a leg injury that must cast doubt on his Wembley involvement, before United’s surges resumed. Taiwo hurled himself at a Simek cross and went close, then the young midfielder galloped onto a Paul Thirlwell pass, flicked the ball inside for Curran, but the frontman – close-in, to the left of goal – lifted his shot across goal and wide.
From this reprieve came the unexpected Brentford lead, which saw Schlupp play an unintended one-two off Simek before smacking the ball low past Collin. Abbott then introduced Zoko and Rory Loy, but Brentford were buoyed and, after Diagouraga almost made it two after a mazy run, Schlupp stepped up and finished the job, driving hard and true through a cluster of players after Collin had failed to apply a clean punch to Sam Wood’s free-kick.
At a stroke, the lead was then halved, when Loy was felled on the edge of the box and Michalik drilled the dead ball into the bottom corner of Moore’s net.
This, though, was the final twist, with Danny Livesey’s injury-time arrival as an auxiliary striker unable to spook Brentford into conceding again.
Livesey, back from injury just in time to heal last season’s personal cup anguish, can save his heroics for United’s return to the capital in a few days. In the meantime the Blues head for a Tuesday night engagement at Yeovil where they must heed Abbott’s demand not to “turn off the taps” of their league campaign.
Only after taking a swipe at the Glovers can United bend their minds back to Wembley, where a fresh conundrum now awaits, one that can be watered-down to two short words: stop Schlupp.
ADAM COLLIN – Was often a spectator, but was unable to deal with set-piece that led to Bees’ winner.
FRANK SIMEK – Relished his contest with Weston but had unfortunate role in opener. Put in some decent attacking contributions.
MATTY ROBSON – Workmanlike effort from the left-back who made a handful of forays down the flank.
LUBO MICHALIK – Was solid enough at the back and his clinical free-kick gave the Blues late hope.
PETER MURPHY – Limited Alexander’s threat for most of the game, but Schlupp posed United greater problems.
PAUL THIRLWELL – Did some decent work at the base of the midfield and his use of the ball was sound.
TOM TAIWO – Tackled well and made some promising bursts into the box but final ball often wanting.
JAMES BERRETT – Set-pieces not as dangerous as normal. Steady but unspectacular in midfield battle.
HARRY ARTER – Always looked to create when he got the ball, a decent showing from the loan man.
BEN MARSHALL – Dealt with by defenders in first half but pace made him a growing threat after break on difficult pitch.
CRAIG CURRAN – Gains marks for expert hold-up play against towering opponents, loses them for his finishing.
Subs: Rory Loy (for Curran 81) – Put himself about; Francois Zoko (for Berrett 81) – Couldn’t find late inspiration; Danny Livesey (for Robson 90) – Back as emergency late striker. Not used: Tony Caig, Liam Noble, Liam Cooper, Nahki Wells.
Goals: Michalik 86
Booked: Arter, Murphy
Brentford: Moore, Neilson (O’Connor 64), Woodman, Balkestein, Legge, Diagouraga, Reed (Byrne 61), Bean, Weston (Wood 74), Alexander, Schlupp. Subs: Carson, Spillane, Grabban, Wright.
Goals: Schlupp 74, 84
Ref: Roger East (Wiltshire)
Crowd: 4,365 (360 Carlisle fans)
First published at 09:01, Saturday, 26 March 2011
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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