Carlisle Utd batter Bradford to set up Leeds tie for place at Wembley
Last updated at 16:48, Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Carlisle United 3 Bradford City 0: Before we get round to the satisfying business of contemplating Carlisle and Leeds colliding for the right to trot out in a Wembley cup final, there is a pressing need to toss a few words of praise in the direction of a Mr Bates.
Apologies to Ken, Leeds’ firebrand chairman, but it’s not him. It is a marginally less recognisable Bates – Tony, a referee from Staffordshire, in fact – who deserves a gong for services to football.
Here’s why: with the flourishing of two yellow cards and then a red one at Bradford’s Simon Ramsden in last night’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie, Mr Bates aimed a timely jab at the scourge of grappling and shirt-pulling which has become dismally commonplace in today’s game.
Stuart McCall, Bradford’s manager, described as “embarrassing” the official’s decision to penalise the Bantams right-back for his two matching grabs on Matty Robson, the Carlisle winger. With respect to Greg Abbott’s old housemate, Ramsden’s 38th-minute dismissal was both technically correct and necessarily severe.
“It spoilt the whole game,” McCall argued. That point remained open to conjecture as Abbott and United swept forward to a double-header against the lower leagues’ most formidable collective.
Let it be said that there was cause to commend Bradford City in defeat last night. Their second-half display with 10 men, until the moment Scott Dobie rose from the bench to put Carlisle two goals ahead, was impressively spirited, while no set of travelling supporters has responded so enthusiastically to depressing circumstances as the Bantams’ following here, who continued to give full-throated song even when the game was unquestionably dead.
McCall’s claim that a more even duel might have been played out had Ramsden been treated more leniently will never be known (and it’s not really the point). The suspicion is that United’s attacking, which reached a notable crescendo in the final half-hour, would eventually have done for the visitors even if they carried a full quota for 90 minutes. And goals such as the magnificent individual effort taken by Matty Robson to put Carlisle three-up are worthy of winning any contest.
More pressingly, any blow landed on football’s cynical habits needs to be applauded with urgency. This might be easier to say in the afterglow of victory – and Bradford’s boss can’t exactly be expected to join in the ovation – but that doesn’t make it wrong to blow the whistle of approval for Mr Bates.
The reckoning says Carlisle forced themselves onto Bradford and eventually profited from their numerical advantage, claiming their goals at useful times and benefiting from a second-half tactical tweak (the introduction of Dobie) to carry a contest they started at a decent tempo but without an immediate, clinical edge.
From the off, the relentless Robson eluded Ramsden with a sprint down the left and a dangerous cross which Vincent Pericard was unable to control. Then there was a corner – forced by Robson – which led to some head tennis and an Ian Harte effort which Luke O’Brien nodded off the line.
The visitors perked up with a sharp volley from Scott Neilson, which whistled past Lenny Pidgeley’s post, and a raid from the same striker which Danny Livesey intercepted.
Ramsden’s first caution for impeding Robson duly arrived, and then out of an unappealing outbreak of sloppy passing came a telling pass from Harte to Adam Clayton, who set up Kevan Hurst on the right of the area for another blocked shot.
Pidgeley, recalled for cup duty with Adam Collin given a breather, saved smartly from Neilson when the frontman wriggled away from Livesey, before Ramsden brainlessly held Robson back a second time and was dispatched by Mr Bates. Six minutes later, United surged forward and claimed the opener: a sweeping ball from Clayton which was strongly shielded by Pericard for Robson, whose 20-yard shot was parried by Simon Eastwood but followed up at the back stick by Richard Keogh.
Half-time brought the regrettable sight of McCall advancing onto the pitch to berate Mr Bates, before the former Scotland international roused his troops into a spiky start to the second period.
An early Bantams corner forced a Pidgeley flap and a poked shot from Zesh Rehman which Horwood ushered off the line, and then Gareth Evans almost profited from a spate of defensive chaos but was twice denied on the goalline by scrambling blue bodies.
Abbott, concerned by Bradford’s repeated advances, reached for his tactical toolkit and pitched Dobie into the contest, at Tom Taiwo’s expense. The presence of a second striker duly stretched the outnumbered visitors and resulted in Carlisle’s second goal in the 68th minute. First Peter Murphy reclaimed midfield possession with a dogged challenge, then Hurst clipped the ball over the Bradford defence for Dobie, who calmly brought it under control and drove it past the exposed Eastwood.
The Cumbrian’s strike pierced the mounting frustration and enabled Carlisle to power on. There was almost an instant third, when Dobie ambushed Matt Clarke and slid the ball across goal, evading Pericard by millimetres. But that prolonged Bradford’s punishment for a mere two minutes, since United’s next counter-attack was a thing to behold: a grass-gobbling sprint by Robson which took the flying winger from the visitors’ half to the right flank before he cut in at pace and finished superbly.
That blue blur was Robson’s personal strike-of-the-season contender.
In the context of last night’s tie, it killed matters stone dead and almost propelled Carlisle to further goals (Pericard being denied at close quarters by Eastwood, who then saved athletically from the sliding Dobie with three minutes remaining).
The hard facts stack up encouragingly enough, before the Leeds set-to can even be considered: a third straight clean sheet, a ninth win from 13 outings and another night of greed in front of the rival net. Abbott’s task now is to ensure his players’ grey matter is fully engaged by league duties before the Elland Road legions can be confronted – not to mention next month’s tantalising FA Cup jaunt to Everton, too.
With Southampton and MK Dons progressing in the southern section, this was also the evening League One reasserted itself after a period of basement-division mischief-making in the ‘paint pot’ (last year’s winners, Luton, plummeted from League Two in May and are currently seventh in the Blue Square Premier). And in these parts, Carlisle’s emergence as a genuine force in a range of cups is a merry tale by which this season might be remembered.
On a broader canvas, it would also say much about football’s willingness to attack its less endearing qualities if December 15 went down as the night when a referee did the game a decent turn. The suspicion is that Tony Bates was probably whistling in the wind, so entrenched in the game is gratuitous grappling. But – and scan this for Cumbrian bias if you must – we can still say that the sight of two yellows and a red has rarely been so welcome.
LENNY PIDGELEY - A few wobbles but also a couple of tidy saves on his first outing for a month.
RICHARD KEOGH - Put some urgency into proceedings and popped up with United’s timely opener.
EVAN HORWOOD - Linked up well with Robson down the left, another decent night’s work from the left-back.
DANNY LIVESEY - His head bandaged, the skipper didn’t shy from physical combat as the Blues ground out another clean sheet.
IAN HARTE - Could have added to his impressive goals tally, was steady enough in defence.
PETER MURPHY - Always involved in midfield and his intervention was crucial for the Blues’ second goal.
TOM TAIWO - Quiet night by his standards, the teenager toiled away for an hour before Dobie’s introduction.
ADAM CLAYTON - Some impressive contributions from the Man City loanee, who tried to make things happen throughout.
MATTY ROBSON - Pace and persistence kept Bantams on back foot and his superb solo goal deserves several repeat viewings.
KEVAN HURST -Got into some decent positions down the right and supplied expert pass for Dobie’s goal.
VINCENT PERICARD - No joy in front of goal but held ball up well and gave Bradford centre-halves plenty of problems.
Subs: Scott Dobie (for Taiwo 64) – Decisive contribution;Marc Bridge-Wilkinson (for Pericard 80) – Welcome return; Tom Aldred (for Livesey 89) – Late run-out. Not used: Adam Collin, Tony Kane
Goals: Keogh 44, Dobie 68, Robson 74
Bradford: Eastwood, Ramsden, L O’Brien, Rehman, Clarke, Flynn (Brandon 82), Bullock, J O’Brien (Bateson 43), Neilson (Daley 72), Evans, Hanson. Not used: McLaughlin, Horne.
Booked: Ramsden, Clarke
Sent off: Ramsden
Ref: Tony Bates (Staffordshire)
First published at 11:22, Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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