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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Carlisle Utd throw away another two goal lead

Carlisle Utd 2 Leyton Orient 2: The charge now being fired at Carlisle United is that they get all confused after assuming a position of dominance, that they are in some way suspicious of superiority.

Carlisle action photo
Adam Clayton, centre, makes a break for it

Two torched 2-0 leads in the space of five days equals a mental uncertainty that allows opponents back from the dead.

Well, doesn’t it? There is a way for Greg Abbott’s team to confront the theory that a psychological block is preventing them from keeping their foot on a rival’s skull for 90 minutes, and it is to get down to football’s ugliest but most necessary work.

In other words, United need to master the art of locking games down, of filing in and stifling the life out of the other lot, of denying the opposition space and freedom to launch their ripostes. If that means twisting the entertainment dial anti-clockwise for a portion of a game, then so be it.

Abbott and his troops will find few supporters queuing up to dock them merit marks if they churn out 45 minutes of drab, grinding fare in order to get the points in their safe (not that their second half display two days ago was especially easy on the eye). Last Tuesday, their generosity under fire allowed Exeter to roar back from a distant position, before Richard Offiong claimed a startling late winner. On Saturday, the gaps opened up for Leyton Orient and this time there was no injury-time hero to save the Blues from the most cutting analysis.

The reckoning must come with an acceptance that four points have been cultivated from Carlisle’s last two performances: a return they would have bargained hard for in this season’s earlier weeks. What we are talking about now is the improvements they need to make in order to advance on the top 10. It is a leap that will remain beyond them until they discover how to padlock all the possible points of entry to Adam Collin’s goal.

What Carlisle did after Joe Anyinsah and Ian Harte had put them in a handsome ascendancy two days ago is abandon the crisp quality of their passing, lose the tightness of their general play, plunge ever deeper into their own half, increase the gap between midfield and attack to an unmanageable degree and fail to put Orient’s lively dangermen in chains. Why this happened is a question to which Abbott struggled to offer clear answers.

“How you explain it is a treacherous thing for a manager,” he said. “Understanding it is very difficult at times. We put ourselves under pressure from a lack of quality and certain players not showing the response we asked for.”

Carlisle have now shed two-goal leads four times in league and cup in 2009/10. That they have not lost any of that quartet of games (draws with Morecambe and Orient, victories against MK Dons and Exeter) says something about their spirit and should guard against apocalyptic interpretations of their worst habits. Yet frustration bites when you consider how victory on Saturday would have put the Cumbrians in League One’s top 10 and closer to the heels of the play-off chasers, rather than down a place to 12th and no further out of the congested pack which runs from Brentford, in 10th, down to 20th-placed Brighton.

What also nips at the brain is that so much good work in the first half was eventually scrubbed out. Anyinsah, until a groin injury ended his involvement, scored a goal of consummate class and was giving Orient’s defenders a brute of an afternoon. At most other points in Abbott’s team there was much to admire, too.

Richard Keogh, setting the tone for an impressive personal contribution, made his first attacking foray in the fifth minute before Gary Madine – promoted to the side in a 4-4-2 system – was crowded out by red shirts. United were quickly assuming control, and their opening strike was a peach.

It came in the 14th minute, when Evan Horwood made a persistent press from the left and fed Anyinsah, who immediately spun away from defensive attention and stroked his ninth of the season past Jamie Jones, Orient’s goalkeeper.

The frontman created and took his goal with deceptive ease. It was quite the best of Anyinsah, and it buoyed Carlisle to further surges, another Keogh run being terminated by a rugby tackle from Charlie Daniels.

At the other end, Orient’s James Scowcroft sneaked onto a rare attack but failed to convert Stephen Purches’ near post cross. Otherwise, Harte was shutting down the visitors’ best ideas, allowing Carlisle to speed back downfield and fashion more chances, one of which saw Horwood bend a superb delivery into the corridor of uncertainty, obliging Jones to claw away Madine’s looping finish.

Richard Offiong replaced the stricken Anyinsah five minutes before the break: enough time for Tuesday’s hero to inspire Carlisle’s second with a dash down the left which earned a corner via the boot of Tamika Mkandawire.

Matty Robson bent the resulting corner into promising space, and Harte towered over Sean Thornton to take his remarkable prolific season into double figures with a header that sailed inside Orient’s unprotected right-hand post.

Offiong was then unable to test Jones from another break down the centre, yet even the most sceptical blue loyalist cannot have presumed this would herald such a damaging second half collapse. Yet it duly came. Two minutes after the interval, Scowcroft found excessive space and shot over the bar. United failed to profit from a rare counter-surge involving Kevan Hurst, Madine and Offiong, and then the visitors struck back.

Nicky Adams, a growing menace down the right, crossed low to Scowcroft, whose low shot was blocked but spun perfectly for Jarvis, whose rapid reaction took him beyond United’s back line and allowed him to smash an unstoppable chance past Collin.

A Harte free-kick, pushed wide by the alert Jones, briefly interrupted Orient’s sustained reply, which again gained momentum when Adams burst into the box and drew a save from Collin, whose dive at Jason Demetriou’s feet then drew plausible penalty appeals from the visiting players. Only a goal-kick was given, but United’s respite was brief, their own play by now reduced to unconvincing aerial balls from deep which could not be retained upfield by their frontmen.

Then the leveller: another press down Carlisle’s left, Adam Chambers’ cross attacked by Jarvis, whose aerial effort deflected off Livesey’s head past the wrongfooted Collin.

If this was crushing enough, it might have got worse six minutes from time when Adams put a cross on Jonathan Téhoué’s head, only for Collin to make a superb one-handed save to deny the French substitute. Later, Téhoué smacked a volley down Collin’s throat, before Livesey appeared on the goalline to hack clear a low Adams missile.

The best Carlisle had produced themselves in this bleak spell was a run of classic wholeheartedness from the admirable Keogh, who jinked into the Orient box and rammed the ball across goal, obliging Jones to push it away and behind the advancing Madine. United’s right-back duly gets high marks for his own attempts to force the issue, but his was an example others failed to follow as the game trickled away.

Abbott then appeared, holding a statistical shield. “That’s four defeats from 19 games, and we’ve taken 22 points from our last 13,” the manager pointed out, not unreasonably, before describing the close-of-play catcalling from home fans as “a bit harsh”.

“I suppose the booing shows expectation levels are miles higher than they were, so we must be getting better,” Abbott added. Top marks for drawing a positive conclusion from terrace jeers, but his team still needs to learn the art of negativity.

jcolman@cngroup.co.uk

ADAM COLLIN – Brilliant save from Téhoué preserved a point, perhaps fortunate not to concede penalty.

RICHARD KEOGH – Close to his barnstorming best, kept Demetriou quiet and was a regular attacking threat.

EVAN HORWOOD – Put in a couple of fine crosses which deserved better, was tested by the dangerous Adams.

DANNY LIVESEY – Unfortunate part in Orient’s leveller, otherwise a steady enough defensive effort.

IAN HARTE – Outstanding in the first half and buried his 10th goal of season, not so influential after break.

PAUL THIRLWELL – Put in some important early challenges but struggled to lead United out of trouble later.

ADAM CLAYTON – The pick of Carlisle’s midfield quartet but even he was unable to make things happen in second half.

MATTY ROBSON – Looked positive early on but faded after break and was dealt with by Os defence.

KEVAN HURST – Worked hard in first half but had little impact as game went on and was subbed by Abbott.

GARY MADINE – Added presence in tandem with Anyinsah, less effective in second half albeit with limited service.

JOE ANYINSAH – Led the line superbly and took a fine goal until injury ended his day early.

Subs: Richard Offiong (for Anyinsah 39) – Few bursts but little impact; Marc Bridge-Wilkinson (for Hurst 80) – Couldn’t spark a winner. Not used: Lenny Pidgeley, Tony Kane, Peter Murphy, Tom Taiwo, Graham Kavanagh.

Goals: Anyinsah 14, Harte 42

Booked: Harte

Leyton Orient: Jones, Purches, Daniels, Chorley, Mkandawire, Chambers, Thornton, Demetriou, Adams, Scowcroft (Téhoué 71), Jarvis (Smith 90). Not used: Morris, Melligan, Cave-Brown, Pires, Briggs.

Goals: Jarvis 59, Livesey og 77

Ref: Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire)

Crowd: 4,687

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