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Friday, March 26, 2010

JPT Final: Preview

In the concluding day of our JPT Week here on Soccer AM/MW, Turls looks ahead to this weekend's final.

Everyone writes off the Johnstone's Paint Trophy as a joke competition but for a time, it looked like it was going to be final that was worthy of a 1970's FA Cup final.

Leeds United and Southampton were the two clubs who were heavily favoured to make it an all ex-Premier League final.

They both looked relatively comfortable as they sauntered their way to their respective regional finals but penalties at Brunton Park meant that Carlisle United ruined the Football League's dreams of a huge Wembley crowd.

Now, I'm not saying that Carlisle and Southampton won't take a lot of fans to London but no-one can deny that it would have been a completely different situation had Leeds made it to the JPT final.

Still, let's not dwell too much on the past and who could have made the final.

Instead, let's prepare for a football feast as the Cumbrians prepare to take on the Saints in the greatest club competition that involves teams from League One and League Two.

We all know how Carlisle beat Leeds in the Northern Final - and if you don't, I can't quite fathom out why you're reading this article - but it could have been a very different story had Morecambe not buckled under pressure.

Carlisle boss Greg Abbott is hoping to spring a surprise win on Sunday

In Carlisle's opening fixture, they were taken to penalties by the seaside club after a 2-2 draw. Eventually, the Cumbrians progressed to the next round but it was a nervy beginning to the campaign.

After that shaky beginning, it was pretty simple for the North West club. They thumped four past Macclesfield Town and then scored three past Chesterfield and Bradford City.

It was relatively free-scoring campaign that saw them score 16 goals in six games.

Carlisle were very fortunate that they avoided League One opposition all the way to the regional final because Southampton were not granted the same amount of luck.

The Saints got off to an identical start to their JPT Final opponents. A 2-2 draw against seaside opposition - in the seagull shape of Torquay United - forced the game to penalties.

Southampton progressed and were faced with the tough task of playing Charlton Athletic.

A 2-1 victory over the Addicks did nothing to ease the pain as they were drawn with the best side still in the competition in the shape of Norwich City.

It was a tight game which went to penalties after a nervy 2-2 draw. The Saints went through to the Southern Final, where they would meet the MK Dons.

After the difficult of the previous rounds, the Southern Final was relatively comfortable for Southampton and the progressed to the JPT Final thanks to a 4-1 aggregate win.

Rickie Lambert is Southampton's main goal threat

So who is going to win?

Well, Southampton are looking in great nick at the moment and have got a good team and a good manager.

They should have the experience of playing in a large stadium - although St Mary's is nothing like Wembley - and they will go into the game as favourites.

Rickie Lambert has been his typical free-scoring self and should be a real handful for the Carlisle defence.

However, with smart money going on the South Coast club, the pressure of being expected to win might takes its toll on the players and they may very well crumble when it matters most.

It would be foolish to count out Carlisle - as they proved in the Northern Final. They are a resilient team who are capable of playing good football and should be a real threat.

They go into the game as underdogs and this could benefit them as it should allow the team to play with freedom and no pressure.

The worry is that they can concede goals for fun away from home. Although they have tightened up at the back, they still look susceptible to a player with class and this could cost them against the likes of Lambert.

All in all, I think this is going to be a game that is open from kick-off and will definitely have a few goals in it. Now you don't get that in an FA Cup Final do you?

Turls' Prediction: Southampton 3 Carlisle United 1

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