Brave Carlisle United push Peterborough all the way
Last updated at 12:08, Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Peterborough 1 Carlisle 0: As he delivered his post-match verdict, Greg Abbott wore the look of a man who didn’t quite know whether to bask in his team’s performance - or go home and kick the cat.
Abbott’s dilemma came after watching his side go toe-to-toe with high-flying Peterborough in a pulsating game, run the home defence ragged with a bold, attacking display during 90 minutes of endless endeavour and force his opposite number Darren Ferguson to change his formation not once but twice.
In the end, United could have sprung a shock and emerged from the game with all three points.Yet they trudged out of London Road empty handed after striker Aaron McLean hit his sixth goal in seven matches to take Peterborough to within a single point of second placed MK Dons.
“The dressing is low at the moment – it’s hard to be pleased after we’ve just lost even though we played terrifically well,” admitted the United boss.
When the dust settles, Carlisle and their rookie manager can take heart that if they perform like this for the remainder of the season, they’re likely to win far more games than they will lose.
The harsh reality is that another defeat leaves them peering nervously over their shoulders in case they’re sucked into a relegation tussle – though on the evidence of last night’s confident, energetic display, that shouldn’t be a problem if they can discover some consistency and string a few decent results together.
They now need to start turning performances into points – and forthcoming games against Bristol Rovers, Crewe and Yeovil should give them hope of achieving that. It’s no exaggeration to say that the next three games could shape United’s destiny this season.
The only way they will do that is if Abbott’s strikers rediscover their goal touch.
Danny Graham and Scott Dobie will probably still be playing over and over in their heads the moments they could have sealed it for Carlisle last night.
In first half stoppage time, Graham was presented with a great chance to fire Carlisle ahead when he got on the end of Paul Thirlwell’s beautifully-struck free kick but the Blues top scorer mis-hit his effort from five yards out.
His reaction, head in hands, told the story.
Then, in the dying embers of the game, sub Scott Dobie, sent on by Abbott along with Michael Bridges to try to secure a late point, took delivery of a perfect cross from Graham right in front of goal three yards out. But he couldn’t get any power on his header and Posh keeper Joe Lewis grabbed the ball.
It was the second time in four days that United proved they were a match for a promotion-chasing team but last night they showed a greater dynamism than they did in the 2-1 home defeat to Stockport County on Saturday.
They responded magnificently to the defeat. They were purposeful and positive from the first whistle, showing an abundance of drive, desire and collective self belief, with Graham Kavanagh directing midfield traffic and Joe Anyinsah and Graham carrying the fight to the home defence.
Peterborough suffered an early blow when central defender Gabriel Zakuani went up to head clear from Anyinsah and suffered a neck injury as he landed awkwardly on the edge of the box.
The game was held up for eight minutes as the player was tended to by paramedics, before being taken to hospital by ambulance.
The serious-looking injury did nothing to overshadow the home side and play swung from end to end, although it wasn’t until the nine minutes of stoppage time that things really got cooking.
There was a heart-in-mouth moment when skipper Paul Thirlwell conceded a free kick 20 yards out after sending George Boyd sprawling, but Russell Martin sent his effort into Row Z behind Ben Williams’ goal.
Craig Mackail-Smith then got past fullback Tony Kane but looped his header over the bar from six yards.
Williams, who has answered his critics in emphatic style by rediscovering form and confidence, comfortably saved from Charlie Lee – the first of a number of impressive stops by the young Blues keeper.
Both sides raised the tempo in a fast and furious second half. Peterborough were responding to the hairdryer treatment at half-time from Fergie Junior – andCarlisle matched them, man for man.
It was thrilling end-to-end stuff. You couldn’t take your eyes off it.
Such was the intensity, you almost had to feel sorry for Posh sub Chris Whelpdale for losing his composure and slicing a shot wide.
Then Graham had another good chance when his powerful, right-footed shot looked destined for the bottom corner … but it flashed agonisingly wide.
Boyd’s cross needed only the slightest of touches from Mackail-Smith to give the home side the lead on the hour, but still the goal wouldn’t come.
Given that the last encounter between the two sides in November resulted in a 3-3 draw, there was anticipation of another goal-fest, but it took just one goal to settle it in the end.
On 69 minutes, Charlie Lee’s 40-yard punt up the field found Whelpdale, whose sweetly-struck shot was blocked by Williams. The rebound landed for McLean and he smashed it home.
Peterborough’s star was in the ascendancy now and Williams had to punch clear a dangerous cross fromMackail-Smith, before surpassing that stop by tipping Whelpdale’s dipping shot over the bar.
Then came Dobie’s miss as Carlisle battled valiantly in stoppage time to land a share of the spoils they richly deserved. They ran out oftime.
First published at 11:34, Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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