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Friday, 29 August 2014

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Wembley villain turns Brentford hero to deny Carlisle Utd victory

Carlisle United 2 Brentford 2: Toumani Diagouraga’s name posed so many problems for Carlisle United’s stadium announcer that Stephen Dunn eventually resorted to breaking it up into syllables, just to get it out there.

Brentford v Carlisle photo
Toumani Diagouraga scores

Then Brentford’s most distinctive midfielder slammed one through Adam Collin’s legs to complete a comeback that also arrived in instalments.

Diagouraga, who is so gangly it might well be his middle name, has waited six months to create a happier scrapbook item against the Blues. Red carded at Wembley in the previous confrontation – the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final – the Frenchman loped out of Brunton Park on Saturday as his team’s late saviour.

Carlisle are not used to Diagouraga making it through to the last couple of minutes of a game, which might explain why he was able to slalom into space in the 88th minute and wash away United’s hopes of victory in the October rain.

What didn’t trickle down the drain with those two lost points was the memory of a full-throated League One contest which did these north and south foes credit.

Manager Greg Abbott described it as among the most entertaining battles involving the Blues since he took office even as James Berrett, United's first goalscorer, was complaining that "it feels like a defeat."

Berrett, a north-west player of the year nominee for Carlisle’s division, returned to influential form here and United came with him, to the extent that Uwe Rösler, Abbott’s dugout rival, had to sift through all his resources to tease a draw out of the day.

Rösler, the former Manchester City goalscorer who returned to these shores in a summer shake-up at Griffin Park, recently recalled his playing days with the vivid observation that “English football was like two boxers hitting each other until one fell down.” That was true of this boisterous match-up apart from the last bit.

Neither side was too keen on staying on the canvas, both enjoying periods of attacking appetite and hastiness further back, the latter having been mainly forced by the other team.

The result was a proper ding-dong that scored immeasurably higher for entertainment than most other games witnessed at Brunton Park this term.

The only criticism from Carlisle’s own lively and committed showing was their failure to provide Lee Miller with any scoring chances. United’s leading marksman contributed heavily to his team’s attacking play but had no opportunity to show off his finishing skills, which we already know are there in abundance.

Had the Blues managed to drop a cross on to his head in the box, or put a half-chance on his toe, they might have been less susceptible to the staged recovery which Brentford finally completed with Diagouraga’s close-range drive, the result of which was a silent slump in an otherwise noisy home crowd.

This didn’t, though, feel like a day to be hammering away at United’s deficiencies. “When you get so close [to victory] there’s always a niggle in you,” said Abbott. “But we played our part in a good game, and if we are like that through the season we are going to be more than fine.”

With a steady downpour replacing last weekend’s heat, and Tom Taiwo and JP McGovern returning to the team, Carlisle went in early pursuit of gaps in Rösler’s starting line-up, which contained two Wembley survivors compared to United’s five. In the first minute, Peter Murphy’s floated ball was glanced by Miller to McGovern who, operating on the right of a front three, swept a shot across goal and wide.

Abbott’s latest formation tweak saw Miller operating as a lone central hunter, with Rory Loy shifted out to the left. Carlisle adjusted manfully to this new arrangement but only after Brentford had passed and moved their way into their territory and taken the opening goal.

Sam Wood’s weak, free header came after one Bees attack which had been easy on the neutral eye. In the ninth minute they applied a finish to their purposeful work, as Adam Thompson got away from Loy and crossed for Jonathan Douglas, whose headed lay-off was slapped home by David Clarkson.

The striker’s arrival into scoring space suggested United had lost a little grip on their opponents in the formative early stages, but the adjustment came with pleasing haste. Loy, drifting infield, clipped a 30-yarder wide, and then Carlisle’s increased bite took them closer to the target through Liam Noble, who spun onto a Miller flick and was thwarted by a fine Richard Lee save.

Miller’s streetwise presence was causing bother for Rösler’s centre-halves. Marcel Eger was over-eager in one aerial challenge with the Scot, earning a booking and conceding a free-kick which Matty Robson wobbled just wide. Then Miller claimed a loose ball on the left and laid it back for Robson to cross deeply, allowing Noble to tee up Berrett for a simple finish.

This really put some petrol in the Cumbrian tank. Moments later, Taiwo bombed beyond the visiting back line and set up Noble for a rising attempt. A cluster of corners and free-kicks were then inflicted on the visitors, who scrambled to survive. Carlisle’s extra hustle kept them in the Brentford half until the break, by which time Noble, again, had gone close with a deflected blast and Miguel Llera had failed with a dismal penalty shout in a rare foray to the other end.

An open game stayed open into the second spell. From the second-half whistle, United almost panicked a chance out of the retreating Eger. Douglas and Kevin O’Connor then shot over as Rösler’s men re-emerged. But then Carlisle’s vigour took them back downfield as Berrett galloped onto a McGovern through-ball and shot wide, and then Loy tormented a foul out of Eger which ought to have seen the centre-half walk.

Referee Rob Lewis flunked that call, and then the error-prone spirit seized the visiting team, as Berrett flung over a testing free-kick which cannoned off one Brentford boot into the shins of Clarkson, flying back past Lee and into the net.

Both managers now reached for their options. Abbott brought on Francois Zoko for Loy, who earned a big ovation for his Trojan work down the left, while Rösler sent on Myles Weston and then Clayton Donaldson. The home intention was that Zoko’s elusive running would enable Carlisle to defend by attacking, while the visitors did away with a defender in the chase of a point.

United’s advances did not stop, but Brentford’s started to come with greater frequency. From a Weston corner, Llera won a header and Diagouraga applied a finish, only to be thwarted by Zoko on the goalline. Then Carlisle succumbed to tension in the closing stages as Murphy and Danny Livesey, otherwise excellent, went for the same ball and conceded an avoidable corner which Collin eventually claimed.

The resistance could not last and finally Clarkson, seeking one last contribution to an eventful day, entered a hectare of space on the left and fed Diagouraga to dance around Taiwo and equalise. Collin then thwarted the Londoners’ audacious, late bid to plunder all the points, tipping wide a Sam Saunders free-kick and then beating away a Llera header.

It was mainly breathless stuff which, when inspected, will have Abbott keen to cork a couple of leaks but doing so in the knowledge that his team appear in otherwise healthy fettle after the first quarter of term: a conclusion which, unlike the name of Brentford’s second scorer, rather trips off the tongue.

ADAM COLLIN - Not always secure on crosses, but the keeper stayed alert to deny Brentford a late winner.

JAMES TAVERNIER - Was wholehearted in all his defensive work even if he was less influential than normal in attack.

MATTY ROBSON - Caught upfield as Brentford scored their first, otherwise watchful in defence and bright on the ball.

DANNY LIVESEY - Put in his usual no-frills performance alongside Murphy, was solid and responsible for most of the game.

PETER MURPHY - Looked on top form for the majority of the match until Brentford snatched their late leveller.

TOM TAIWO - Carried the battle well to the experienced Douglas and co, an energetic return to the side.

JAMES BERRETT - Used the ball well, claimed a good goal and was bright in most of his contributions.

LIAM NOBLE - A frequent danger around the Brentford box, set up Berrett’s goal and close to one of his own.

JP MCGOVERN - A good showing down the right, he did some good work both in defence and attack.

RORY LOY - A manful effort down the left which often had Rösler’s defenders on the back foot.

LEE MILLER - Led line superbly and at heart of so much of Carlisle’s attacking, shame he had no scoring chances of his own.

Subs: Francois Zoko (for Loy 70). Not used: Mark Gillespie, Graham Kavanagh, Craig Curran, Stephen O’Halloran.

Goal: Berrett 23

Booked: Livesey

Brentford: Lee, Thompson, Woodman, Eger (Donaldson 73), Llera, O’Connor, Douglas, Diagouraga, Wood (Weston 57), Adams (Saunders 78), Clarkson. Not used: Moore, Osborne.

Goals: Clarkson 9, Diagouraga 88

Booked: Eger

Ref: Rob Lewis (Shropshire)

Crowd: 4,184

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