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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

JPT Final: Cumbrians aim for upset

Our JPT Final Preview continues with Turls casting his eye over the other team in Sunday's final - Carlisle United.

Manager: Greg Abbott

Carlisle have had a pretty good season when you consider they have a manager who has never been in sole charge of a football club before.

Greg Abbott had been joint manager of Thackley in the last century but, before and after that, spent most of his time as a coach.

When he was appointed caretaker, he did a sterling job and was given the position full time.

With limited resources and an old ground in the middle of nowhere - not a slight on Cumbria because I think it's a lovely place - mid table was the most
that the club could, and will, realistically achieve.

Abbott hasn't got his team playing football that would rival Ajax in the 70s, but he isn't playing in the air. He has realised his players limitations and got them playing solid and reliable stuff.

Sometimes it isn't pretty, but it's a building job and you need solid foundations to build a nice house.

Key Players:

Few would disagree that Carlisle's key player this term has been Irish full-back Ian Harte. The former Leeds man [right] is the club's top scorer and is where a lot of the team's creativity comes from.

He's an experienced head who offers more than just a lethal dead ball. However, it is indicative that a club whose top scorer is a defender is likely to have problems scoring.

That's why Joe Anyinsah plays a key role in the team's future. The boy wonder failed to set the world alight at Preston - despite Lakes insisting that he was the greatest thing since sex swings.

When he joined Carlisle though, he managed to get back on track. He has chipped in with goals and assists but it is progression from a player with promise to a player with a final delivery that has turned a few heads at Brunton Park.

He's far from the finished article, but this lad will play a key role if the Cumbrians have any chance of lifting the JPT.

Defensively, Abbott's men haven't looked all that, but with Adam Collin between the sticks they stand a decent chance of keeping Rickie Lambert and co out.

However, with Harte playing as an advanced full-back, the centre halves need to step up and relieve some of the pressure on Collin. Although he is a decent keeper, Lambert will score if given enough opportunities.

In the middle of the field is Graham Kavanagh [left]. The man is 213 years old but is still managing to churn out quality performances at this level.

The fulcrum of the side, he is still a pretty decent box-to-box midfielder.

If this silver fox can get his A-Game in order, then the inexperienced Saints midfield could be in for a torrid time.

One other player stands out in the Carlisle team, but I refuse to give him a positive mention after his wretched stint at Forest. Scott Dobie - you're a mess.

Form Guide

Last 6 Games: W3 D2 L1 GF 8 GA 6

Carlisle appear to be hitting a decent patch of form coming into the JPT final and are unbeaten in their last three games.

However, only one of those games remotely resembled a challenge as they beat promotion chasing Colchester at Brunton Park.

The other two games were a tight home win against Yeovil — who would have had to travel the length of the country to get to the game — and a solid draw away to relegation-threatened Southend.

Having said that, you can only beat what's put in front of you and Carlisle have been clinical in recent games.

The Cumbrians don't score many but have only conceded six goals in the last six games — and three of those came in the home defeat to Millwall.

It's not blistering form and they haven't been playing the toughest opposition, but Abbott's team will be happy with their form going into Sunday's showpiece event.

Jason Price earned Carlisle a recent impressive win over top six Colchester

Road to Wembley

@ Morecambe: 2-2 (Carlisle won 5-2 on penalties)

Carlisle's JPT journey got off to the worst start imaginable. Less than five minutes into the competition they found themselves a goal down to a sturdy Morecambe outfit.

The Cumbrians were on the back foot for the opening 20 minutes as they resisted a constant barrage of attacks. Morecambe meant and business and Carlisle were struggling to adapt to the Shrimps style - barely getting out of their own half.

However, a few minutes into the second half, Graham Kavanagh grabbed an undeserved equaliser, but the goal didn't turn the tie around. Morecambe continued to press and soon re-took the lead.

They couldn't kill the game off though and paid the price when Kavanagh popped up again to score a late leveller. Carlisle won the penalty shoot-out but were fortunate to still be in the competition.

Adam Collin saves from the spot in Carlisle's shoot out win at Morecambe

v Macclesfield Town: 4-2

The scoreline suggests this was a comfortable game for Carlisle, but it wasn't always the case.

Having dominated most of the opening 45 minutes, the Brunton Park faithful were stunned into silence when their team allowed Macclesfield to score in first half injury time.

It was completely against the run of play and came at the worst time for the Cumbrians. However, the goal did nothing to change the order of play with Carlisle continuing to dominate proceedings without producing a goal.

They had to wait until the 64th minute before the equaliser would come in the shape of a Matty Robson strike. Scott Dobie scored four minutes later to take the lead and then further goals form Marc Bridge Wilkinson and Dobie sealed the result.

Four goals in a little over 15 minutes and, although Macclesfield scored again, the game was over. Abbott's men deserved the win, but were fortunate that their wastefulness was not punished.

@ Chesterfield: 3-1

A trip to Spireite town resulted in a nice trip back for the travelling support, but Carlisle found themselves doing it the hard way again after coming from behind to progress.

Again, the Cumbrians dominated the early stages but failed to find the all important goal and Chesterfield scored a penalty deep into added time.

Carlisle fans must have been cursing their side's ability to either score in the first half or avoid conceding in injury time.

Just like in the last round, Abbott's men roused themselves after the break and went in search of an equaliser. Matty Robson popped up in the 62nd minute to score and then Peter Murphy found the back of the net six minutes later.

With Chesterfield trying to figure out where they lead had gone, Adam Clayton scored in the 78th minute to put the game beyond doubt. Carlisle fans travelled home with a smile but must have been wishing their team would it look a lot easier.

Adam Clayton celebrates scoring Carlisle's third at Chesterfield

v Bradford City: 3-0

Finally, a first half goal! In an open first-45, Carlisle looked like continuing with their inability to score in the first half of a JPT fixture but.

However, when Bradford's Simon Ramsden was sent off in the 39th minute, United capitalised five minutes later with a goal from Richard Keogh.

With the goal and man advantage, Carlisle went into the second half looking comfortable, but the Bantams came out all guns blazing. Abbott's men were on the back foot and they were looking like the team who had 10 men.

However, a goal from Scott Dobie took the sting out of the spirited Bradford side and a goal from Matty Robson brought the resilient City to their knees.

The scoreline made it look a lot easier than it was, but Carlisle were through to the area final with relative ease. Next stop - Leeds United.

Carlisle striker Scott Dobie celebrates his goal against Bradford City in the JPT

@ Leeds United: 2-1
v Leeds United 2-3 (Carlisle won 6-5 on penalties)

Carlisle went into the final as serious underdogs. Nobody expected them to go to Elland Road and pick up anything and, after after a bright and noisy start by Leeds, not many Carlisle fans were feeling optimistic.

However, a 26th minute Graham Kavanagh goal silenced the home crowd and from there it became an end-to-end contest with both teams wasting good chances.

When the half time whistle blew, the Cumbrians were starting to feel as if they could have scored more.

Abbott's team came roaring out of the traps in the second half, but their exuberance didn't last long when a Jason Crowe strike brought the teams level in the 56th minute.

Leeds were starting to gain the upper hand, but Carlisle were still creating chances. When it seemed as if the Cumbrians would settle for a draw, Joe Anyinsah scored the winner in the 84th minute.

The crowd went silent - but all the fans knew this was only half time.

The Cumbrians celebrate Joe Anyinsah's winner at Elland Road in the first leg

The second leg was expected to have a cagey start and, despite an attacking opening 10 minutes from both teams, the game settled into a tactical contest with neither side wanting to give the other any advantage.

When Adam Clayton scored in the 33rd minute, Brunton Park erupted as they started to believe that Wembley was within their grasp. The score stayed 1-0 until the break but, when Robert Snodgrass equalised straight from the kick-off, Leeds suddenly had the upper hand.

After being forced to defend for large portions of the second half, Carlisle ventured up field and got an important Kevan Hurst goal in the 72nd minute.

With time running out, few expect Leeds to score the two goals they needed to take the tie to penalties.

However, Leeds came storming back and, after Jason Crowe scored in the 80th minute, the Cumbrians became edgy. A Mike Grella goal in the final five minutes set up a tense finale as Leeds look for the winner.

However, Carlisle held on, and eventually progressed to the JPT Final thanks to penalties.

More penalty heroics from Adam Collin against Leeds helped Carlisle to Wembley

Tomorrow we hear from a Carlisle fan ahead of this Sunday's final and look at both side's Wembley history.

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