Carlisle Utd weather early setback to claim important win
Last updated at 12:40, Wednesday, 02 December 2009
Carlisle United 3 Hartlepool Utd 2: Best result of Carlisle’s season? Doubtful. Most attractive performance of the campaign? Hardly.
Most important outcome from all United’s 28 engagements since August? Definitely, and by ample distance.
The reason this awkward, persistent triumph over Hartlepool stands in front of previous victories is that it showed Cumbrian momentum is not a thing of myth and fable.
It said the Blues don’t have to be a team that takes two strides forward and then a few back, like the “drunken man” of Greg Abbott’s pre-match media knockabout.
The hangovers have tended to come along sharply for Carlisle’s manager this season, but now his side have laced together three wins for the first time under his rule, he is entitled to get an obedient hearing when he throws the word “progress” onto our notepads.
United’s sprint away from the non-performance against Swindon here 11 days earlier has been so swift that it’s probably time to test their players and coaching staff for Nandrolone.
Since that surrender to the Robins, Carlisle have scored seven goals in two league wins, shoved aside Norwich to book a tasty FA Cup trip to Everton and can now press pause when League One’s top half appears on the screen.
This is a highly impressive way to advance into the thick of winter, even if they did not bring a flawless performance to the table last night. Two avoidable goals sank into the home net, and the quest for a clean sheet duly continues. But you can only say that after registering the fact that Carlisle scored more than their opponents for the third straight game and are now in the third division’s top 12 for the first time since the John Ward era, pre-decay.
“We are a work in progress, but we are comfortable with the strides we are making,” said Abbott. “We are getting the belief from everybody in the town and hopefully we are on our way.” Alive in two cups whilst gazing at the correct end of League One is a handy position to occupy at the start of December. If last night’s entertainment didn’t always engage the senses, it still suggested United are starting to cultivate a winning ethic from the frustration of this season’s early weeks and the chaos of 2008/09.
Statements like that can sometimes be shredded with embarrassing haste, so another substantial showing at Gillingham on Saturday becomes necessary. That Carlisle overcame similarly troublesome opponents here offers hope. As against Swindon, they slumped from the blocks and shipped an early goal. Unlike that grim afternoon, they recovered their range and eventually took the result they deserved.
After the fizzing start against Norwich three days earlier, the way Carlisle opened up against their north-east visitors in the wintry sleet was tough to view. Their sluggishness led to a scare in the second minute – Neil Austin having a shot blocked after a corner – before Hartlepool dismantled another United move and swept downfield.
Andy Monkhouse’s deflected attempt triggered another corner, and when Leon McSweeney scooped up his own cleared delivery, he bent the ball back into the box and Armann Bjornsson sneaked free of defensive attention to smuggle it home.
Hartlepool, who have achieved a bundle of impressive results in the season’s early months, were plainly buoyed by their early success. In the ninth minute they collected a Danny Livesey clearance and another attack led to Adam Boyd whacking a shot against Ian Harte.
Carlisle, with Tom Taiwo back in midfield for Peter Murphy, were insufficiently tight in the pass in those unpromising early stages, their deliveries from both wide and central areas of patchy quality. Yet there was plenty of willing in their recovery attempt, which gathered pace in the 20th minute when Livesey, up for a free-kick, had a close-range effort frantically blocked.
Perking up, Kevan Hurst and Matty Robson started testing their full-backs. When Graham Kavanagh was upended and Harte bent a free-kick through a cluster of players and fractionally wide, encouragement could be taken from the areas into which Abbott’s men were advancing.
And from their next surge, their equaliser came. Robson earned a corner down the left and Kavanagh’s inswinger provoked a chaotic scramble until Harte emerged with the scoring touch to claim his eighth goal of a remarkably prolific season.
Kavanagh and Ritchie Humphreys traded further chances as the first half skidded by. It was at this point that Hartlepool’s “machine was turned off”, in the words of Chris Turner, their manager, while United twisted their own dial and began the second period in the appropriate manner.
Vincent Pericard, occupying defenders at every turn, whipped a shot wide after a Robson sprint down the left. Shortly after, an attack down the opposite flank bore fruit, as Joe Anyinsah powered his way through defensive attention and crossed towards Pericard. When the ball then popped up for the arriving Taiwo, the Chelsea teenager whacked home his first career goal via a visiting boot, and celebrated with abandon at the Warwick Road End.
It has occasionally been claimed that fortune has not always been a Cumbrian friend this season. Try their third goal for size, then: a 63rd minute press down the left involving Robson and Evan Horwood, and a heaving cross from the winger which befuddled Scott Flinders and bounced into the net via the woodwork and the goalkeeper’s back.
Turner, a picture of disbelief at this point, duly reached for his toolkit and hurled on two substitutes.
There was nearly a rapid response when Humphreys picked up Adam Collin’s punch and blasted a low shot against the prone Blues goalkeeper, and then when McSweeney was denied at the moment of truth by the sliding Taiwo.
Carlisle subsequently tried to put more daylight between themselves and their visitors: first through sub Scott Dobie, who tore in from the left and tested Flinders, then through Pericard, whose shot was tipped just out of Dobie’s reach, and then through Anyinsah, who jinked superbly into the box but was again denied by the besieged custodian.
The visitors, who probed unconvincingly at various stages in the second half, finally found a moment of clarity in the final minute when Jon-Andre Fredriksen’s cross from the left was expertly tucked away by Monkhouse, who had shifted in from the wing for the last 20 minutes. And injury-time penalty claims, when the ball seemed to connect with Horwood’s arm, appeared plausible from this angle but not to Anthony Taylor, the referee.
From this, and the manner of Carlisle’s decisive third goal, we can make a case for saying that luck is back in town (and not before time, given the rash of incidents and decisions that were seemingly impaling the Cumbrians on a weekly basis in the autumn). But it’s also fair to declare that United found a way to win a game here that might have been tossed away on previous days.
Given their exasperating, earlier inability to bolt together three victories, this was a backward stagger waiting to happen. That it did not told you promising things about United’s thirst for progress. The result is that they head into their next game as a top-half team: a fact which, after all these months of strife and discord, has to be worth a modest toast.
ADAM COLLIN - Claimed a couple of important crosses and hard to pin much blame on him for either Hartlepool goal.
RICHARD KEOGH - One of several players who started slowly but tightened up his game as the match progressed.
EVAN HORWOOD - Error-strewn start, looked more composed in second half but has played much better this season.
DANNY LIVESEY- Plenty of no-nonsense defending from the skipper, but United still need to sharpen up at the back.
IAN HARTE - In the right place to snaffle United’s equaliser, and was sturdy in most of his defensive work.
TOM TAIWO - Vindicated his instant recall with a typical high-energy performance and a welcome debut goal.
KEVAN HURST - Didn’t hit Saturday’s heights but did his best to create down the right before second half withdrawal.
GRAHAM KAVANAGH - Responsible effort in midfield and another set-piece helped get United back in the game.
MATTY ROBSON - Frustrating first half, raised his game after break and claimed United’s unorthodox winner.
JOE ANYINSAH - Excellent, persistent attacking display and regularly threatened the Pools back line.
VINCENT PERICARD - Presence up front remains crucial to United’s game and he played an important role in the fightback.
Subs: Scott Dobie (for Hurst, 70) - Looked lively; Not used: Lenny Pidgeley, Peter Murphy, Conor Tinnion, Michael Burns, Tony Kane, Adam Clayton
Goals: Harte 33, Taiwo 52, Robson 63
Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Humphreys (Clark 73), Collins, Hartley, Liddle, McSweeney, Monkhouse, Sweeney, Bjornsson (Fredriksen 67), Boyd (Foley 67). Not used: Rowell, Cook, Greulich, Cherel.
Goals: Bjornsson 4, Monkhouse 90.
Ref: Anthony Taylor (Greater Manchester)
First published at 11:23, Wednesday, 02 December 2009
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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