Town: Chris Weale, James Hurst, Joe Jacobson, Darren Jones (Goldson, 21), Yado Mambo, Marvin Morgan (Asante, 74), Matt Richards (c), Steve McGinn, Luke Summerfield, Tom Eaves, Jon Taylor
Subs: Joe Anyon, Connor Goldson, Dave McAllister, Paul Parry, Rob Purdie, Akwasi Asante, Aaron Wildig
Carlisle United: Mark Gillespie, Frank Simek, Matty Robson (Symington, 9), Jon Paul McGovern, Danny Livesey, Paul Thirlwell (Noble, 81), Lee Miller (c), Mark Beck (Manset, 62), James Berrett, Jordan Mustoe, Sean O’Hanlon
Subs: Adam Collin, Peter Murphy, Liam Noble, Rory Loy, Mathieu Manset, Brad Potts, David Symington
Referee: M. Haywood
Assistants: B. Cropp & S. Clayton
Fourth Official: S. Lucas
Martin Wild reports from Brunton Park
Town were forced into a change for this Good Friday clash at the higher end of the M6. Cameron Gayle’s injury sustained at Gresty Road last time out forced him to sit this one out, and that meant a second spell at right back for recent capture, and Albion team-mate, James Hurst. Steve McGinn was given the nod over Dave McAllister in centre mid and Akwasi Asante - who also joined the club until the end of the season on loan from Birmingham City yesterday – took his place amongst the substitutes.
Town, wearing their white shirts with more familiar blues shorts and socks, had the first attempt on goal when Luke Summerfield made a bit of room for himself, but his fourth minute strike was always rising and posed no threat to Mark Gillespie in the home goal. Joe Jacobson’s enterprise from slightly farther out a couple of minutes later also landed amongst the home supporters gathered underneath the triple-pitched roof of the quirky stand away to our right.
The Cumbrians were forced into an early change with Matty Robson feeling the effects of an injury he had only just recovered from and David Symington took his place inside 10 minutes.
Town spurned a decent opportunity when Matt Richards played a delightful ball up to Tom Eaves but the strikers control let him down on the edge of the box and the danger quickly subsided. Eaves did manage to get a shot away in the next attack but once again it was from distance and was easily held by the United keeper.
Shrewsbury were getting the ball into good areas and were seeing plenty of it but at times their decision making or the final pass let them down slightly. But there were plenty of signs of encouragement with Graham Turner’s side having the best of the play.
Darren Jones looked to be in some difficulty just outside the centre circle and from our vantage point it looked like a shoulder injury – possibly even a dislocation. Either way, the centre-back clearly couldn’t continue, and Connor Goldson replaced him just past the 20 minute marker with Jones coming off to warm and sporting applause from the Carlisle fans.
There was a quiet atmosphere inside Brunton Park with nerve ends jangling amongst both sets of supporters with the threat of relegation still a possibility.
United captain Lee Miller had the hosts first shot of the afternoon and it was a reasonable effort although Chris Weale wasn’t troubled with the 25 yarder as it bounced a yard or two wide of his right hand post.
Goldson then had to demonstrate a cool head when he denied Miller some space to get a shot in just as he appeared set to do so. It was a great piece of defending and Jones’ replacement had soon settled in alongside Yado Mambo.
Jordan Mustoe stung Weale’s fingertips with a fierce left foot shot after 38 minutes which the Town stopper turned over and then Mustoe’s inviting cross was headed over by Mark Beck from close range. It looked a great chance from here but it wasn’t taken and the sides continued to cancel each other out with few clear cut opportunities created in this cat and mouse affair.
Eaves and strike partner Marvin Morgan combined in a neat exchange between the two just before the break, but Eaves wasted the killer pass that would have put Town’s top scorer clear and after four minutes of stoppages which produced nothing eventful, the teams went in level.
Half Time: Carlisle United 0 Town 0
On the resumption, Hurst picked up an early yellow for a clumsy far side challenge on Mustoe and Beck’s header from the resultant free-kick was weak and straight at Weale.
The next effort – from Mambo – landed somewhere in the Lake District and still we awaited a breakthrough for the four and a half thousand hardy souls inside the ground.
It was still scrappy stuff and the atmosphere was still bordering on the eerie with barely a tune sung all day, particularly from the home fans. Our vantage point meant that we couldn’t even see the Shrews fans in the stand opposite but there hadn’t been much to enthuse over in the first hour or so.
Greg Abbott introduced Mathieu Manset for the ineffective Beck which appeared to be a popular decision from the terraces and almost immediately Town nudged in front. One can only assume that Gillespie was blinded by the low-lying sun as Matt Richards’ 40 yard free-kick sailed gently over his head when it looked like a routine catch. Town’s skipper almost looked embarrassed.
Sadly, the lead didn’t even last 60 seconds. Carlisle were awarded a penalty when the referee spotted a handball offence and Miller made it one apiece to the captains. Suddenly, the game had sprung into life but Turner would have been furious to see his side switch off so soon after going ahead. Town had handed the struggling home side a lift when there was a real danger of their heads dropping with vital points at stake.
Turner made a second change with Morgan called to the sidelines and Asante given the last 16 minutes. And two minutes later, Town were 2-1 up. Eaves drilled in a cross-cum shot which Gillespie spilled at the base of his post, and Asante reacted quickly to toe the ball forward for Mambo to apply the finish from a couple of yards. It was the defender’s first goal for the club and boy did he enjoy it!
Incredibly, Town were to concede a second pen which Miller put in exactly the same place eight minutes from time. The award was for a foul by Weale on Jon Paul McGovern which brought another card for the keeper – thankfully, yellow.
Carlisle had fought back three times in their last game here against Yeovil and had done so again twice this afternoon. The game was now very much open and hanging in the balance.
Neither side could press for a winner after what was a far more entertaining second half.
Full Time: Carlisle United 2 Town 2