In April 2010, a Southampton team stocked with current and future stars made mincemeat of Carlisle United at Wembley. Seven months later when the teams met again…different matter.

The 2010/11 campaign was, in some ways, a case of Greg Abbott’s Blues righting wrongs. In the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, they responded to their annihilation in the 2010 final by going one step further and winning it.

In the league, meanwhile, they welcomed a Southampton team containing many Premier League players in waiting and put them delightfully to the sword.

The game, in November, was one of those lively occasions when Abbott’s United found rare reserves of quality and character against a higher-rated opponent. The Carlisle team was gradually evolving in different places and came together impressively against the Saints.

News and Star: United captain Frank Simek with officials and mascots before the gameUnited captain Frank Simek with officials and mascots before the game

Up front, the emerging Gary Madine had become an in-demand young goalscorer. At the back, the loss of Ian Harte to Reading was offset by the eve-of-season loan capture of Manchester United centre-half James Chester.

Francois Zoko, the enigmatic Ivorian attacker who had joined after a summer trial, was steadily making himself into a crowd favourite. By the autumn, United were close to the play-off places in a tight League One.

News and Star: Francois Zok on the attack, pursued by three Southampton players including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (third from right)Francois Zok on the attack, pursued by three Southampton players including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (third from right)

As Southampton headed north, Abbott was bullish about his retooled team. “Southampton are probably stronger than they were at Wembley – but so are we,” said the manager.

“We are in a better position to take them on than we were [in April].”

News and Star: Ref Paul Evans has words with United's Gary MadineRef Paul Evans has words with United's Gary Madine

This was despite an ongoing left-back problem which had seen summer signing Sean McDaid sadly succumb to the injury problems which would lead to his premature retirement. Loanees Miguel Comminges and Tom Cruise had not plugged the gap effectively – so Abbott asked the classy Chester to deputise there against Nigel Adkins’ Saints.

For the visitors’ part, they lined up at Brunton Park with an XI that included Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Jose Fonte, Morgan Schneiderlin and a 17-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

News and Star: Assistant boss Graham Kavanagh, on crutches after an operation, shouts instructionsAssistant boss Graham Kavanagh, on crutches after an operation, shouts instructions

A lively opening spell saw chances traded, with United clearly keen to show they could be at least the equal of their fancied opponents. Peter Murphy stepped in to thwart Lambert, while at the other end James Berrett had a shot charged down.

Lallana and Zoko then swapped opportunities before Carlisle, in the 21st minute, sped into the lead – Madine with the pass to his right, and Ben Marshall sweeping his finish across keeper Kelvin Davis.

News and Star: Ben Marshall celebrates scoring United's openerBen Marshall celebrates scoring United's opener

This came during a spell when Marshall, the Stoke City loanee, was beginning to torment Southampton left-back Dan Harding. Marshall had Harding pedalling backwards as he attacked with pace - and the defender’s uncertainty under fire was plain when, in the 28th minute, he attempted to cut out a Mike Grella cross under Marshall’s pressure, but only succeeded in looping it over Davis to make it 2-0 to the Blues.

News and Star: Dan Harding is crestfallen after his own-goal doubles United's leadDan Harding is crestfallen after his own-goal doubles United's lead

Chester missed a good chance to make it three for Abbott’s buoyant United, and the risk of a Southampton fightback, kept largely in its box for the rest of the first half, reappeared four minutes into the second 45. The visitors cut the deficit when Lallana crossed from the left and Oxlade-Chamberlain headed home from close range.

It was the future Arsenal and Liverpool man’s fifth goal in senior football, but Saints’ hopes that it would trigger a move to overturn United’s lead were swiftly dashed by another young player with a promising future.

News and Star: Oxlade-Chamberlain escapes James Chester to head home for SouthamptonOxlade-Chamberlain escapes James Chester to head home for Southampton

For it was auxiliary left-back Chester who got Carlisle’s decisive third, peeling into space and bulleting Berrett’s corner home to make it 3-1.

The loanee's first league goal gave United a restored two-goal lead to protect. Abbott introduced Matty Robson at Madine’s expense, while Adkins’ decision to withdraw the hapless Harding drew ironic cheers from the Paddock.

News and Star: Lubo Michalik clears the ball for UnitedLubo Michalik clears the ball for United

Carlisle keeper Adam Collin excelled to keep out a Dean Hammond drive and Richard Chaplow passed up a later opportunity, before Adkins sent on Lee Barnard in a final fling.

The south coast side could not, though, crack United beyond a long-range Hammond effort which fizzed past Collin. Carlisle returned to defensive mode to see out the last 15 minutes or so, Barnard firing over but otherwise the rearguard of Chester, Murphy, Lubo Michalik, captain Frank Simek and Collin holding firm.

News and Star: Madine hits the deck as Saints keeper Kelvin Davis places the ballMadine hits the deck as Saints keeper Kelvin Davis places the ball

The 3-2 victory was merrily received at full-time. It was one of United’s most assertive performances under Abbott and sent them to fourth in the table - ahead of Southampton who dropped to 10th.

“We might just have beaten the champions there,” Abbott said. “Southampton are good enough to win this league.”

News and Star: Abbott punches the air at the final whistleAbbott punches the air at the final whistle

He wasn’t far wrong. Adkins’ team,despite their Brunton humbling, grew stronger as the campaign went on and were firmly in a promotion race led by Gus Poyet’s Brighton. The Saints went up in second place, while United’s own hopes were hit by the January loss of Chester (who Man Utd sold to Hull) and Madine (sold to Sheffield Wednesday).

It resulted in a 12th-placed finish for the Cumbrians in a campaign best remembered, in the end, for Murphy’s volley against Brentford in the JPT: a moment that dealt with those Wembley demons in the best possible way.

United: Collin, Simek, Chester, Murphy, Michalik, Taiwo, Berrett, Marshall, Zoko (Curran), Grella, Madine (Robson). Not used: Caig, Cruise, Swinglehurst, Hurst, Cook.

Southampton: Davis, Richardson, Harding (Dickson), Fonte, Jaidi, Schneiderlin (Barnard), Hammond, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chaplow, Lambert. Not used: Bialkowski, Seaborne, Puncheon, Do Prado, Connolly.

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