Carlisle Utd draw with Bristol Rovers but lack inspiration
Last updated at 12:01, Monday, 02 March 2009
Carlisle United 1 Bristol Rovers 1: Greg Abbott might consider swapping footballs for stress balls or maybe even enrolling Carlisle United’s players on a yoga course.
On the evidence of Saturday’s jittery display, his players look like they’re feeling the strain of what is turning into an increasingly frustrating campaign.
The Blues boss insists they’re not suffering from stage fright in front of their own fans but, after another hesitant and accident-prone display on home territory - a stark contrast to assured performances at Brighton and Peterborough - they look in need of a major dose of confidence as they approach a crucial eight days with games against Crewe, Yeovil and Leyton Orient.
In the space of just two weeks, the Blues have gone from play-off hopefuls to the brink of becoming embroiled in a relegation scrap, which seemed unthinkable when they were basking in the glory of victories over the likes of Huddersfield, Leeds, MK Dons and Brighton.
Right now, fans would probably happily settle for the season ending in a forgettable, mid-table conclusion.
United’s strikers are in the midst of such a serious goal famine, it’s a wonder aid agencies haven’t been called in to help them.
At times this season, scoring goals has looked as natural as breathing to Danny Graham, but the top scorer never got into his stride on Saturday, before being forced to limp off with a groin strain shortly before half-time.
If Michael Bridges and Scott Dobie wanted to prove a point to Abbott for leaving them stewing on the bench in recent weeks, they did precious little to prove their manager wrong after coming on as substitutes to form the second half strikeforce.
Bridges looked about as off key as Les Dawson’s final piano recital, and poor Dobie endured the kind of afternoon you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy due to his glaring miss in front of an open goal on 71 minutes.
The Cumbrian must have had a burning sense of deja vue having endured a similar miss at Peterborough in midweek.
Neither striker could fashion a goal that would have eased the frustration which grew among the home support as a chilly Cumbrian afternoon progressed.
It was fortunate for United that Rovers blew a string of chances to make it three straight away wins, with striker Rickie Lambert having two efforts cleared off the line.
The other saving grace was that Ben Williams has rediscovered form and confidence.
The young keeper has gone from zero to hero in recent games and deservedly left Brunton Park with the man-of-the-match award tucked under his arm after an impressive display.
You’d never have thought United would have surrendered the chance of some home comfort in such lacklustre fashion considering the way they started the game.
Abbott demanded a high tempo start and that’s precisely what the United boss got with his players straight out the traps and putting Rovers to the sword from the first whistle.
They forced a flurry of corners and capped their flying start when wily, old campaigner Graham Kavanagh fired them ahead after just four minutes.
The ball fell to the midfielder 30 yards out and he coolly let fly with a ferocious effort straight into the postage stamp corner.
It should have been the signal for United to take charge but their ability to stamp their authority on games seems to have deserted them lately.
Instead, Rovers came right back at them.
Ryan Green’s hopeful ball over the top found Jeff Hughes, who brushed aside teenage left-back Michael Liddle and fired an unstoppable shot past Williams.
Neal worked hard to try to create openings for United, but it was Rovers who created the more clear-cut chances, while United’s attack lacked any kind of punch.
Lambert, who was to prove a constant threat all afternoon, headed wide for Rovers and then two minutes before half-time Hughes missed a golden chance to send the visitors in leading at half-time.
The striker found himself clean through on goal, but Williams kept his composure to block a certain goal, earning warm applause from the crowd which is starting to appreciate the young keeper’s rehabilitation in recent weeks.
Before United’s players had barely digested their half-time cuppa, Rovers were on the attack, with captain Stuart Campbell hooking an effort wide.
Then Williams again rescued Carlisle with another fine save to spare the blushes of Liddle and Peter Murphy, who got themselves in a tangle trying to avert the threat of Darryl Duffy.
Duffy shook them off and then tried his luck with a dipping volley, but Williams flung himself to tip the ball over the bar.
Rovers took charge but Lambert them saw his header cleared off the line by Murphy and then five minutes later Tony Kane repeated the feat when he hacked clear from the same player.
Just as it looked as if United were completely devoid of any ideas, they were offered a route back into the game.
Liddle delivered an inviting cross to the far post, which just eluded Bridges, but it fell to Dobie just a yard out.
In fairness, the ball seemed to reach him at waist-height, leaving Dobie unable to get in either a header or a volley and the entire crowd let out a collective groan of disbelief as the striker failed to connect with the ball.
It succeeded in sparking Carlisle to life, with Cleveland Taylor drawing a good save from Steve Phillips, Bridges firing wide and then Richard Keogh heading wide.
Bridges and skipper Paul Thirlwell linked up well to carve an opening for Kavanagh, but the midfielder’s fierce drive from the edge of the box was blocked for a corner, from which Taylor screwed his effort wide.
In the dying embers of this uncompelling encounter, Bridges, who earlier suffered a leg injury, sent a powder-puff effort into the arms of Phillips. It somehow seemed to sum up United’s afternoon.
Abbott - a man blessed with the attitude that his glass is always half full, rather than half empty - is going to have to muster all the motivational skills he’s renowned for to lift his players for tomorrow night’s trip to Crewe.
BEN WILLIAMS: Left Brunton Park deservedly clutching man of the match trophy after two excellent saves during an assured performance.
TONY KANE: Solid display and came to his side’s rescue when he cleared Rickie Lambert’s goal-bound effort off the line.
RICHARD KEOGH: Good shift at the heart of the defence and did little wrong. Also tried his luck with header which went wide.
PETER MURPHY: Caught out a couple of times by Rovers attack but redeemed himself with goalline clearance to deny Rickie Lambert.
MICHAEL LIDDLE: Brushed aside by Jeff Hughes, which led to Rovers’ equaliser. Good attacking qualities.
CLEVELAND TAYLOR: Disappointing performance just as he seemed to be rediscovering top form. Failed to keep composure when presented with scoring chance near end.
GRAHAM KAVANAGH: Cracking 30-yard goal and was dominant in midfield. Good chance towards end cleared by defence.
PAUL THIRLWELL: Worked hard in the middle to try to create openings and also break up the Rovers’ attack.
LEWIS NEAL: Used his pace down the left channel to try to create openings. Suffered second half injury.
DANNY GRAHAM: Never got into his stride, before he was forced to limp off with a groin strain on 35 minutes to add to United’s woes.
JOE ANYINSAH: Never got into his stride in a frustrating afternoon in which United’s forwards failed to pack a punch.
Subs: Michael Bridges (35 mins for Graham) 5. Ring-rusty effort from striker who did little to prove manager was wrong to leave him stewing on bench in recent weeks. Scott Dobie (52 mins for Neal) - 5 Endured a difficult afternoon and lacked ruthlessness in front of goal.
Subs (not used): Lumsdon, Madine and Raven.
First published at 11:32, Monday, 02 March 2009
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
|NEWS & STAR ON:|
- Police appeal after taxi driver attacked and robbed
- Police appeal after girl, 10, says she was touched by man on street
- Carlisle residents' anger at mess left behind by travellers
- Carlisle-Cockermouth A595 roadworks boost for drivers
- Former Cumbrian couple hurt in Boston marathon bomb blast leave hospital
- National restaurant company eyeing Carlisle's Hoopers building (19 comments)
- 28 new housing sites in Carlisle unveiled (12 comments)
- Allerdale needs 200 affordable homes a year to help first time buyers (12 comments)
- Gangs in Carlisle scouring rubbish bags for bank details - claim (11 comments)
- Cumbria police used bus full of children as roadblock to stop car (57 comments)
- Cumbria police used bus full of children as roadblock to stop car (57 comments)
- Anger as new homes approved despite 300 objections (42 comments)
- Trade chairman against Cumbria's summer road closures plan (39 comments)
- Carlisle city centre clothes shop closing down (33 comments)
- Hoopers store in Carlisle bought 'by mistake' at auction (32 comments)