A deluge of goals for Carlisle Utd as Michael Raynes has a reunion to forget
Crewe Alexandra 0 Carlisle United 5: When it Raynes, it pours. Carlisle United, aided by an error-prone former player and their own highly effective performance, gained a deluge of goals at Crewe - and, hopefully, got some of their mojo back in the process.
It was a lonely afternoon for Michael Raynes, who conceded a penalty and then scored an own-goal for the team he represented from 2015-17. United's players, though, were in good company as they came back to raid Crewe's penalty area time and again.
As Keith Curle said at full-time, a scrappy 1-0 would have done. This, though, was a much more elaborate way to claim a first win in six. It came with such emphasis that you have to feel better things are now within reach after some trying weeks.
From the moment Danny Grainger fizzed them in front, United were superior to David Artell's team. Curle's tactics and selections hit the spot, Clint Hill enjoyed a reassuring debut and there were all sorts of cheery moments in front of a travelling support who deserved this much more satisfying trip.
After the rainswept defeats at Accrington and Coventry, this away-day was gratefully received. While some home fans were leaving with 20 minutes to go, and lots more had departed before 90 were up, United's faithful found their voice.
At times, their tunes were aimed at poor Raynes. Otherwise they saluted Curle's team, who might have had even more goals than those taken by Grainger, Reggie Lambe, Hallam Hope and the other that bounced in via the misguided boot of Crewe's number six.
An eight-goal swing, then, from the stinker at Stanley. Unearthed in this display were some of the qualities many have assumed were still in there, but had been hidden by a handful of haphazard afternoons and nights.
Now to keep them at the forefront. "It's not about me - it's about the players, the unity, the strength and the belief," said Curle, who has not liked some of the criticism that has come United's way this month.
If this proves a platform for further good results, the manager will be entitled to leave those weeks behind as a bad memory. Carlisle rose to 15th at full-time here and can consolidate a climb back to mid-table against Stevenage tomorrow.
Expect Hill to be front and centre of that attempt. The 38-year-old was wearing a new shirt on Saturday but his performance looked as though it was plucked from a long personal archive. Crewe were not exactly menacing, but Hill was in all the right places, as well as being an organisational presence and even, at times, a threat in the opposition box.
Others registered good individual showings and at the end there was little time to waste worrying about Crewe's problems, which on this evidence are many. United had enough of their own, form-wise - yet Curle found a good method here, a 4-3-2-1 formation seeing Kelvin Etuhu fan out to the right to help contain George Cooper, the home side's creative threat.
It worked, while Carlisle's other midfielders were on top. Crucially, too, the lone striker, Shaun Miller, received positive support from Lambe and the recalled Nicky Adams. There was greater substance about United's forward movements throughout, once they had survived some pressure that saw Ryan Wintle's cross elude Chris Dagnall, Shamal George badly slice a backpass and then Chris Porter bundle the keeper and the ball into the net (illegally, reckoned ref Ross Joyce).
Crewe's passing patience appeared constructive in these early stages but it was United who had the sharper edge. Their opener was one from last season's annals, as Miller peeled to the right, drawing Raynes, before Lambe and Mike Jones worked it left. Grainger, attacking space, drilled it mercilessly past Ben Garratt.
Carlisle's captain thumped the badge as he celebrated this 13th-minute boost. From there, United pressed Crewe well and also found gaps behind their wing-backs where Lambe and Adams often lurked.
Hill, at the back, mopped up a few minor spills and also made some positive contributions, once swinging a peach of diagonal ball onto Grainger's chest, then peeling into space at a corner to set up Grainger as the Cumbrian shot wide.
United, for the first time in a while, had a lead to protect and consolidate. Crewe were meagre in their attempt to rise to the challenge. One Brad Walker pass out of play brought derision from the travelling support while Adams, tackling back in the box, typified Carlisle's growing belief.
Miller, with his eyebrows, put an Etuhu cross wide against his former club. Tom Parkes and Miller then almost profited from a scramble. Chris Porter and Eddie Nolan engaged George with routine attempts but the fact Carlisle's fans were already beckoning Curle to give them a wave was a good guide to the way things were going.
In the second half, the Blues then glided into another gear. Two minutes in, Lambe got the wrong side of Raynes, courtesy of a mistaken pass from the defender, and was brought down. Grainger dispatched the penalty - and already it appeared a case of how many.
Luke Joyce and Miller shot over as United retained their tempo. Lambe was in the thick of the danger and boos were heard when Crewe balls landed aimlessly beyond Dagnall and Porter - and also when Grainger swept into two successful 50-50s.
Artell used up all his subs before the hour mark. It made little difference, for the best chances remained Carlisle's. Etuhu fed Lambe with a purposeful pass, the Bermudan seeing his shot deflected behind. A few minutes later, Grainger swung in a corner and Raynes blundered it into the corner of his own net.
It felt, now, that all United's misplaced luck was coming back in hand with their positive play. Two minutes later, Joyce outfought Crewe in the air and Jamie Devitt - on for the cramp-affected Etuhu - guided Lambe through on goal where he clipped home a confident fourth.
"Raynesy, what's the score?" asked the travelling numbers in the Whitby Morrison Ice Cream Van Stand. The answer then changed again before the end. Lambe hit the post, Hope (on for Miller) tested Garratt, ironic cheers greeted a tame Ainley shot at the other end and then, with the last move of the match, Hope pounced on more defensive discord and went through to slide his shot past Garratt.
This was another about-turn: Hope running to the triumphant fans, arms outstretched, seven days after his substitution against Barnet had been cheered. A week must have seemed a long time to many of those on the pitch and also those looking on. Raynes, meanwhile, must wish he could wind back the clock.