Paul Simpson said he was proud of the way Carlisle United “rode the storm” against Fleetwood Town to keep their Papa John’s Trophy hopes alive.

A late Duncan Idehen goal earned a 1-1 draw after ex-Blues star Joe Garner had put them on the brink of elimination.

A 4-2 penalty shoot-out win then earned Simpson’s side a bonus point against their League One visitors.

Simpson said his side – which included teenage debutants Ryan Carr and Nic Bollado – had shown character in the contest.

“About five minutes before we got the equaliser I said to Gav [Skelton], ‘They actually deserve a goal tonight’.

“They deserved a draw out of it, when you look at some of the players we had out there, up against a team with some really good League One players in it, some who have hundreds and hundreds of appearances under their belts.

“We had two youth team players out there, for most of the game, and I thought Ryan Carr was excellent. I only took him off because I changed the shape, and I thought Nic Bollado applied himself really well when he came on. He got better when we put him into wide areas.

“I’m absolutely delighted with all of them, and I said that to them at the end of the game. I told them I was really proud of them for the way they went about it, the way they stuck to it.

“They had to weather the storm a little bit in the first half but we then grew into it and we showed some real composure.

“I thought Jayden Harris was excellent, and Jack Stretton ran himself into the ground. Owen Moxon is getting better and better each game he plays, and Duncan Idehen was fantastic. Corey Whelan led with the armband on and Jack Ellis stood up to it all.

News and Star: Michael Kelly makes an early saveMichael Kelly makes an early save (Image: Barbara Abbott)

“Mick Kelly made three brilliant saves in the first half, and there were so many good things that we can take away from it. They got the reward with the draw, and then they finished it off with the penalties. They should all be pleased.”

Simpson made nine changes to his line-up with 17-year-old Carr getting a start and Bollado coming off the bench to replace the injured Omari Patrick in the first half.

Garner shot Fleetwood in front in the first minute of the second half but Bristol City loan defender Idehen was credited with a scrambled equaliser in the 90th minute.

That came after Simpson had introduced Callum Guy, Jon Mellish and Jordan Gibson in the second half in a bid to salvage Carlisle’s hopes in the competition.

On Idehen’s first goal in first-team football, Simpson said: “It doesn’t really matter whether it’s goal of the season, I’m not sure it’ll get shown on the goals reel come the end of season awards. But it’s a really big goal.

News and Star: Paul SimpsonPaul Simpson (Image: Barbara Abbott)

“It keeps us involved in the competition. Whatever anybody thinks about it, it’s a game we wanted to win, and we didn’t lose it. I always say if you can’t win it, make sure you don’t lose it.”

United’s win in the penalty shoot-out came as Gibson missed the opening kick but Jack Stretton, Corey Whelan, Jon Mellish and Taylor Charters all scored.

Charters struck a confident winner after Michael Kelly had saved from Dan Batty, and Josh Vela had hit the bar.

That puts Carlisle on two points in northern group G ahead of their final game away to Barrow next month.

On keeping their hopes alive, Simpson said: “I think it’s important for the players, because it’s important they get a reward for the work they put in.

“If we’d come away losing that 1-0 it would have been a really quiet dressing room but they’re buzzing in there.

“I talked about character at the weekend, and they’ve shown character tonight.

“It’s always difficult in these types of games, you don’t really know where the players are thinking it’s a bit of a comedown to be involved. But I know they all want to play in every game.

“This is a good opportunity for them to get the minutes under their belt and be involved in a game against a really good side.

“I said tonight, ‘Enjoy the challenge, you’re playing against League One players and show what you’re all about’.

“I think they all have done. Whether you’re 17 or an experienced player, they’ve all really stuck to the task and been excellent.”