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Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Sarah Barber

5 March 2023

Armed only with a sheepskin coat (RIP Motty) and a bag of Dark Chocolate Crunchy Balls (don't go there: innuendo is the resort of the cheap), the mission today is to make a dank, cold day in Carlisle as exciting as a win at St Mary's and the prospect of a quarter-final in the seaside resort as diametrically-opposite to Cleethorpes as possible. As one of CA's north-west correspondents, I go there so you don't have to. But although I've got my skills, I'm unable to work miracles.

Town rested most of their heroes. Of those who started at Southampton, only Crocombe, Efete, Maher and Hunt stood on the pitch 72 hours and 426 miles later. Town lined up as follows: Crocombe, Efete, Smith, Maher, Morris, O’Neill, Hunt, Amos, Khan, Lloyd, Dickson-Peters. Officially, Town were playing 3-4-3, and Carlisle a robust 5-3-2.

First half
For the first half hour there was pink confidence in evidence. Passing out from the back was back. Efete and Amos were overlapping their support for Khan and Morris. George was about it, and that dinky back heel was looking classy rather than tricksy, as it proved after 12 minutes when it enabled a shot to whistle past Holý's far post. That wasn't even Town's first attack. He did it again after 25 minutes and struck on target. "They're not all that, Carlisle", we said.

Although I'd like to tell you that Town were on top for the first half hour, looking back on it, the signs were there. Replacing the fluidity of the overlapping wingbacks of the first 15 minutes, Smith and Maher had taken to standing like flamingo-sentries beside Crocombe and the playing out from the goalkeeper had become very short balls indeed. Relying on short, late passes at the back to foil Gibson at right-back (who was everywhere), and Patrick up front (who seemed like he was everywhere) was risky stuff.

Carlisle played the ball across the pitch, finding space with ease. From the half-hour mark, Town started to miss the back passes. Hunt was caught on the ball; McCalmont picked it up and drilled it diagonally past Crocombe. Now it was wave after wave of deep blue, like the tides crashing against the Lake District coast (OK: I'm trying too hard to make the best of a dull day). Omari Patrick switched from the centre to the left and dialled up the speed, with Jordan Gibson pressing forward to create play for Carlisle's strikers. With just seconds to go before Jewson's (other builders' merchants are available) sponsored the added time (two minutes), Moxon in the centre of the pitch found Gibson to the left of the penalty area who took it around Amos and beat Crocombe, this time to his right.

Second half
Emmanuel came on for Dickson-Peters and we did speculate whether the latter had touched the ball during the first half.

It took just two minutes of the second half for another shot to whistle perilously close to Crocombe's posts and that was the most dynamic piece of play in the second half.

Struggling to perform the miracle of the silk purse, the pattern was one in which Carlisle made the most of their superior skill in that most unskilful of ways: play up to the referee (whose main contribution was wagging a finger to ensure that free-kicks were taken where he wanted them taken), get Town to be a nano-second out with that tackle or be facing the ref when they had their hands round a blue shirt, or making sure their nudges weren't the ones spotted. So there's nothing to say between 49 (Hunt booked) and 70 minutes except: "Carlisle player went down: free-kick".

After 64 minutes Hunt was replaced by Khouri and Taylor came on for Khan.

With 15 minutes to go Town rallied, and looked quite sharp. Even the ref started giving free-kicks to Grimsby. Efete, O'Neill and Emmanuel worked the ball skilfully down the right and Lloyd's header came off Holý's left-hand upright. He didn't connect well: the view was obscured and it came off the side of his head. In the 82nd minute Town managed their own crossfield free kick and Lloyd again showed great control but couldn't get it in the net.

To much grumbling amongst the 428 hardy Mariners, the rest of the game was eaten up with some classy timewasting and substitutes. Two Carlisle substitutions immediately after the Town free-kick killed off that late attacking period, and four minutes of Harry (on for O’Neill) on mascot duty or Wearne on for Morris couldn't make much impact. Another three minutes of added time were sponsored.

I can't say much about the game: it was nice to get out of the house. Town did OK, considering.