….Oh my gosh, three goals….round three for the first time in ages and on my third visit to Brunton Park! The previous ones being a 0-0 in our Third Division Champions year and that horrible relegation trip (1-1)when Bond took us down! I decided to take the AFCB free stagecoach oop norf, and having not done this since the 1980’s it certainly was an experience!
Anyhow, we set off in darkness from Dean Court and headed towards our goal, through some packed traffic on the M6 on what was a pleasant winters day, with the odd Saints fan (aren’t they all?) passing us on their way to Liverpool along with a coach of Aldershot fans tasting some FA Cup magic in Fleetwood for which, like us, they were amply rewarded.
We arrived at Brunton Park full of obvious optimism after all EH & JT are performing an amazing things at present with the AFCB squad. Unfortunately one unlucky fan had been taking in too much sherbet on the way up and was being led away by an inordinate number of stewards who looked like they had had too many weetabix that morning, I later heard he was being released today to make his way back home (not sure that the coach waited for him)
So to the match experience in what is a quaint and ageing stadium, the kind built probably by those dodgy builders from the 1930’s, but I like the old age feel of the place, although the sun played havoc with those trying to watch us attack early on!
Howe had decided to stick with Jalal and play Cook and Elphick in defence. The forced change of Arter being suspended meant O’ Kane got a rare start, and he decided to ‘rest’ Josh McQuoid and give the battling wee man Fogden a chance to impress (these changes proving visionary as we went on!) Pitman returned for his first full start up top with the on fire Grabban.
The early play saw us carving up their right hand side with Pugh and Daniels enjoying the freedom to link up and torment the home defenders, indeed it looked like we would have the game wrapped up early doors which would warm the hearty travellers who were noisy and on form. Carlisle looked like they would only trouble us from set plays as they struggled to keep the ball and make any impact on the match. Indeed with pressure being applied on the home defence an AFCB corner was only partially cleared to FOGDEN who took a punt and fired it goalwards and via a deflection we went deservedly 1-0 up. We we doing okay, Jalal saved well and even the sometimes comedy defending from Francis and Elphick couldn’t get Carlisle a goal. Consequently from some good attacking play from Pugh led to the ball falling at the feet of O’KANE who rifled an unstoppable blast past Collin in the home goal and we were all dancing at 2-0 with just under ten minutes of the first half left. Job done we all thought and headed for our half time Bovril content and dreaming of that Sunday draw.
The second half began with the obvious confidence running through the side Grabban was culpable of some poor finishing and decision making at times (I am sure Brett will be having a word with the lad) Things were looking a s bright as the Cumbrian sunshine until a McGovern free kick was fired in and for some reason Jalal chose to punch it behind him onto the head of BECK who headed home 2-1 and given our cup form of recent years ‘squeaky bumtime’ Jalal saved brilliantly from Beck to deny an equaliser from Carlisle and we were beginning to look uncomfortable as Howe had taken off McDonald and our shape was causing some mix ups. However we still had good chances on the break and really should have not had this period of anxiety to cope with. The home crowd had woken up and realised that this was cup football, we became increasingly scrappy in our play and a third goal was needed to secure the game. Ball after ball was being hit into our box and most of us were chewing fingernails at this point. We needn’t have worried as a great Francis run which left two home defenders for dead ended with a pin-point cross cut back for PUGH to tuck home, and we could all lose our furrowed brows!
All in all a great result showing the depth of our squad, we hounded the home player off the ball and simply out footballed them. True to say that Greg Abbott has a point when he declares that our players are better and we can pay the wages for them. I am not sure that I can still believe what is happening at Dean Court
but we do seem to be living the dream?
Well done to all of us who braved the journey, and it was arduous at times, especially when you bump into some Saints muppets in the midlands services on the way home who just want to pick a fight..and I was given dogs abuse for us being a small club…funny we may meet up again next season on level terms, revenge is sweet!
JALAL 7 Despite his error he made a couple of top class saves.
FRANCIS 6 Below his best defensively early on, but that run and cross for the third goal will live on in the memory.
COOK 8 Solid and effective, looks good on the ball too.
ELPHICK 6 Below par and lucky not to give the home side a goal with some of his defending.
DANIELS 8 Looks back to his best, links really well with Pugh and has no small amount of ball skill.
PUGH 8 Had a great game, faded towards the end but finished his goal well.
FOGDEN 7 Busy and is a good option for Howe to have.
MCDONALD 7 Ran the show in the main, putting in some good tackles, just hope his substitution was tactical and he is not carrying a knock.
O’KANE 7 Best game for us, great finish for his goal, another good player for Howe to contemplate over.
PITMAN 8 Does anyone see how much this guy puts in during a game? Intelligent off the ball, still lacking some match sharpness but a masterstroke signing IMO.
GRABBAN 7 Works hard, needs to beef up a bit as he gets knocked off the ball too easily sometimes, should have scored a couple and set up Pitman in one attack, but I like his improvement, will play a big part in our season I feel.
Subs: MCQUOID 6 Still lacking in sharpness but I am sure that Howe will get the best out of him.
PARTINGTON & FLETCHER not enough time to get a mark
Great day out but I wasn’t really taking notes, so here are a few random reflections rather than a structured match report:
It looked like we took 6 coaches in the end, and they were about 15 mins late leaving DC – I presume waiting for no-showers before finally leaving?
First stop was Warwick services – not sure if the other coaches all stopped there or not as I only saw a couple of others. Then we headed off up towards the M6 and got stuck in horrendous traffic near Manchester, crawling along at about 20mph for around 20 miles or so. This meant that we didn’t stop again (apart for 5 mins for the drivers to switch) until we reached Carlisle, which we did at about 10 to 2. All in all, not as bad a journey as I’d feared, and still some pub time before the game. The Lake District looked lovely from the coach, by the way, with a few snow capped hills visible in the distance.
As for the game itself – well, firstly there was a blinding sun in our eyes for most of the first half, which made viewing difficult. We started well for the first few minutes, then they came into it more and missed two great chances following errors from Francis and Elphic respectively. The Elphic mistake, in particular, was a bad one, letting their guy in one-on-one with Jalal.
Then we scored – Fogden. I haven’t seen the highlights, but it looked like it took a massive deflection. However our second goal, which came a few minutes later, was not fortuitous at all – a great strike by O’Kane.
We then took control and were cruising until what looked like a flap by Jalal let them back in – 2-1. It was then a little nervy until a sweeping move resulted in a great goal by Pugh to seal it at the end – happy days and a thoroughly deserved victory IMHO.
Other reflections? Mainly that Cook was excellent in place of Addison.
So, the journey home… Again, not as bad as I’d feared – one stop this time at a rather rubbish service station on the M6 toll, where some food outlets were shut & I was charged over £4 for a drab toasted sandwich – then the killer last leg of M40, A34, M3, M27 & A31. That last bit always seems to drag on awaydays. We got back to Dean Court just before midnight.
Anyway, all in all a great day out, as I said. Excellent support at the game, good performance from the team, we got the result we wanted and roll on a decent draw in the next round!
Finally, thank you again to the club for putting on the free travel – an excellent gesture.
I was on the same coach(I think) coach 4. At Birmingham the weather was dull and drizzly.The slow traffic was more than made up for by the sight of the Lake District with snow on the peaks. Agree re: sun in eyes, but when the sun went down it got blooming cold. Great support 430 out of 2950, and we out sang them, which wasn’t difficult. Best songs, the National Anthem, We score when we want. Some of our play was perhaps over-elaborate but we really were good. their tall striker won a lot of aerial balls and they tried to close us down quickly, but we were too good for them. The mix up/short back pass was a bit heart stopping but we got away with it. Agreed that the M6 toll services was disgraceful, and suggest it is not used again. The drivers were excellent and safe and arrived back at DC just before midnight.
The VERY VERY best part was all our players , management and ‘extras’ applauding us after the match, it was lengthy prolonged applause from them really appreciating the long journey we had made to support them. The ‘all in it together’ feeling has returned. Onward and upward.