MATCH REPORT: FA CUP 2ND ROUND REPLAY
Carlisle United 3-1 Gillingham
There isn’t many more infuriating things in football than a match being postponed in the 11th hour but that’s what both teams had to deal with last week; although the match could finally be played a week later and unfortunately bolster the Christmas period.
With both teams having contrasting weekend results (a 1-2 loss at home for the Cumbrians and a 4–1 win at home for the the Gills), it meant the tie was more interesting considering Carlisle would likely relish the chance to play host to Sheffield Wednesday in the next round more than the revitalised Gillingham would. Many changes came for the hosts on the night whereas the travellers were unchanged. Funnily enough, because of the rescheduling, Carlisle were without a substitute goalkeeper on the bench as their usual back-up was injured and couldn’t register another. Although, it is probably fair to say the rescheduling would have hurt Gillingham and their courageous fans, who made the journey up to Brunton Park, even more.
With the lowest attendance other than the Checkatrade Trophy matches at Brunton Park this campaign, the stage was set for a gruelling night.
The match started at a decent pace with the away side having more of the ball but setting up in a 5-3-2 system, the home side were happy to not harbour much possession with their equally conservative 4-5-1 formation. However, when Carlisle stole the ball up the field with advancing centre-back Gary Liddle, some fine play between him, midfielder Reggie Lambe and striker Richie Bennett on the edge of the penalty area allowed a free Hallam Hope on the left of the box to finish via a Ben Nugent deflection to open the scoring early on.
That was a shock to the largely composed Gillingham and from then on they began to pressure their opponents with the likes of Scott Wagstaff attempting to take on numerous men and Lee Martin delivering dangerous set-pieces which forced Jack Bonham to save well on a number of occasions. Their best chance of the half came when Alex Lacey connected with a well-placed corner and Bonham was there to make a spectacular save. It allowed Carlisle to break soon after and when wing-back and returning captain Danny Grainger did well with Lambe on the left, Bennett was played down the line before coming inside to whip the ball low across goal to find the predatory Hope; who got a touch on the ball that was enough to beat Tomas Holy.
That gave Keith Curle and his men a shock lead at half-time, allowing them to feel confident, whereas Steve Lovell and his men knew there was much work to be done.
Straight after the restart, the Gills got back as Martin picked up the ball on the right prior to finding Josh Parker running away from goal who himself slipped in Wagstaff behind him on the right of the box to slam the ball home at a tight angle.
The nerves were on show from the Cumbrians and the likes of Liddle, Clint Hill, Tom Parkes and Mike Jones down the centre of the pitch had to stand firm both in the air and on the ground to allow the likes of wing-backs James Brown and Grainger (who eventually came off injured for Tom Miller) as well as playmaking men Jamie Devitt and Lambe to advance when they rarely had the ball following a break down in offensive play.
Target man Tom Eaves was the danger but never really got a big chance. The former Carlisle loanee Max Ehmer, who Curle had worked with whilst at then parent club QPR, was crucial in stopping his former team getting more chances on the break. Bookings were being dished out by the referee constantly as the final stages approached and the match got feisty, the most comical of which was when T. Miller was booked as soon as he came on as he lined up a deep free-kick for an extended period of time.
A lack of urgency from Gillingham was clear and it allowed their opponents to break away persistently with substitute striker Shaun Miller chasing the ball. The woodwork was hit when Hope aimed for a hat-trick and struck the right-hand post coming in from the left-hand side. In added time, that key next goal came; when Lambe did exceptionally well in the middle and bound on to play in Bennett one-on-one with Holy, he chose not to square the ball and it was initially saved. It fell right to S. Miller and despite having Hope next to him pleading for his third goal, he got his first and his team’s thirds as he was able to strike true past the defenders on the line.
With no reply before full-time, it was a slight shock result in the final match of the entire round. Despite his counterpart breathing a sigh of relief, it was clear Lovell knew he was beaten by a team who had something to prove and his team weren’t prepared to dig in.
Hope 7’ 37’, S. Miller 92’
Attendance: 2,357 (88)
Referee: Mark Heywood
words Nathan Ridley, D3D4 Carlisle United Correspondent