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Saturday, 26 July 2014

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Carlisle Utd's new wave shine against Workington Reds

Workington Reds 0 Carlisle United 1: Carlisle United’s young contenders came to the fore on the night one of Cumbria’s enduring football stalwarts took his leave of the game.

Carlisle action photo
Frank Simek, left, holds off Workington's Stphen Hindmarch

A few minutes after 19-year-old Nick Wood had headed the game’s solitary goal for Greg Abbott’s experimental Blues side, a guard of honour formed for Tony Hopper, the Workington midfielder whose cameo appearance yesterday was his last for the west Cumbrian club.

Hopper, the former ‘Brunton Babe’ who departed to a generous ovation from the soaked Borough Park audience, knows how it is to be striving through the ranks at United: a task now faced by the likes of Wood, the former Sheffield Wednesday defender who was whisked up to Cumbria for a trial spell on Monday and grabbed his first opportunity with conviction.

His 88th minute clincher, from a far-post cross from another impressive trialist, Patrick Cregg, came towards the end of a contest which raised the competitive demands made of United this pre-season, and revealed Darren Edmondson’s Blue Square North aspirants to be in sprightly mood as they prepare for their own campaign.

This Carlisle team gave way to a flurry of substitutions in the second half and by the end a host of teenagers had passed across Abbott’s eyes under the summer rain. Gary Madine, Ryan Bowman, Mark Gillespie, Andy Cook and Steven Swinglehurst, from the club’s own ranks, and Wood, Billy Gibson and Jake Simpson from a quintet of trialists were given their head against a Reds team for whom Kyle May, the former United and Gretna centre-half, was a tower of experience and authority.

Edmondson’s starting line-up contained fully six men who have spent time with Carlisle, and a further two among the substitutes: enough to add a dash of spice to a game Abbott insisted was about improving his players’ conditioning rather than achieving local bragging rights.

The opportunity to view the hitherto impressive trialist striker Francois Zoko against a better standard of defender than was possible at Kendal last Friday was another sub-plot that grabbed the attention.

The Ivorian shone more sporadically here than on his debut outing but still displayed enough bursts of pace and quality to warrant further examination by Abbott. Paired with Madine, who impressed in the air and with his general sharpness, Zoko waged a demanding battle against May and Lee Andrews and may now be more in tune with the grinding demands of the English game.

Phil McLuckie, Reds’ bustling midfielder, headed the game’s first chance at Adam Collin, while James Berrett and Madine took unsuccessful aim for the Blues early on. Sean McDaid then threw himself at a Jonny Wright drive, while ex-United youngster Shaun Vipond curled a 20-yarder narrowly wide as Workington grew into the game.

Gibson, the former Watford winger, repeatedly displayed pace and directness down his left flank but the inconsistency of his final ball drew critical comment from Abbott. At the other end, a foul by Gibson on Conor Tinnion handed Wright a free-kick chance which Collin sharply repelled.

The half closed with a superb sliding challenge from May to deny the raiding Zoko, and then a fine tip-over from Aaran Taylor as Madine met a fine cross from Simpson, who was replaced at half-time as the Blues switched to a midfield ‘diamond’.

The second period started apace, as Wright hunted down a chance after indecision between Ian Harte and Collin, and curled a shot against the bar from the left. Zoko, clearly tiring, was then replaced by Cook, who drew a save from Taylor with a drilled attempt from the left.

Hopper entered to acclaim for the last 15 minutes and the game remained at a decent tempo until United earned a corner down the right, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson played it short and a deep cross from the increasingly influential midfielder Cregg was attacked by Wood – on for Harte – who headed freely home at the back post to win the game for the Blues.

United’s defenders can consider themselves having been given a high-energy workout by Reds’ strong-running forwards, of which Wright was the pick, while across the pitch Edmondson’s team performed encouragingly against a side who have designs on League One’s top half in 2010/11.

That Hopper will himself play no part in Workington’s own league campaign will be a source of regret in these parts, a sentiment that came through strongly as the 34-year-old jogged down Borough Park’s tunnel for the final time and was applauded on his way by red and blue loyalists.

That mutual respect has been earned over a career of solid service: a healthy example to the young hopefuls in both camps last night who are striving to leave their own impression on the game.

Workington: Aaran Taylor, Hewson (Langford 73), Rowntree (White 73), May, Andrews, Vipond (Hopper 76), McLuckie (Arnison 76), Tinnion (Colulo 68), Hindmarch, J Wright (Ruttledge 73), Tymon (Aaron Taylor 55).

United: Collin, Simek (Kane 46), McDaid (Swinglehurst 76), Murphy (Kavanagh 74), Harte (Wood 70), Simpson (Bridge-Wilkinson 46), Gibson (Taiwo 46), Cregg, Berrett (Thirlwell 46), Zoko (Cook 64), Madine (Bowman 46). Not used: Robson, Hurst, Curran.

Goal: Wood 88

Ref: Lee Metcalfe

Crowd: 676

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