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Monday, 28 July 2014

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Wonder goal rescues point for Carlisle Utd against Scunthorpe

Carlisle United 1 Scunthorpe 1: With just over 20 minutes to go a booming voice, capable of rousing the dead, reverberated around the ground, shattering the gloomy silence that had descended on Brunton Park.

Carlisle Utd photo
Carlisle’s Lee Miller with Tom Newey

“Come on Abbott – get yer subs on!” screamed a member of the meagre home crowd, as patience began to wear as thin as Scunthorpe’s flimsy grip on the game.

The Carlisle United manager was already busy plotting his side’s fight-back after old hero Karl Hawley returned to haunt his former club by grabbing Scunthorpe a 1-0 lead.

Mark Beck was sent into the heat of battle, before fellow Brunton babe Dave Symington was also pressed into action – both with the clear instruction to fashion an equaliser.

Within two minutes of taking to the pitch, Symington, not for the first time this season, stole the show with a moment of sheer brilliance that would have graced the Champions League.

Dreary, cold Brunton Park was lit up by a sumptuous strike from the 18-year-old Workington youngster, who is starting to patent moments like these: a late goal when all seems lost. Symington’s sizzling 35-yard free-kick into the postage stamp corner on 75 minutes was no fluke. Practice makes perfect, as they say, and the homegrown winger spends hours alone on the training pitch honing his free-kicks, so he knows precisely how he’s going to strike the ball.

His manager had so much faith in his budding set-piece supremo that, as Symington took to the field, Abbott told him he was in charge of dead-ball situations.

It was Symington’s fifth goal of a campaign which has marked a major breakthrough for a Cumbrian kid who only came into the world in 1994.

Symington was a like a breath of fresh air in the post-match press conference as he sat, shaking his head, laughing and blushing, as he animatedly relived the greatest moment of his career thus far.

This, remember, is a local lad who burst into tears when Abbott called him into his office last May and told him he was getting a professional deal, so imagine the thrill in the Symington household in Workington on Saturday night as he watched his goal on the League One TV highlights with his family.

Up until that moment there was not a lot of enjoyment to be derived from this game, with perspiration, rather than inspiration, largely the order of the day for Carlisle.

This was a contest between two sides that have spent much of the season trying to claw themselves away from the relegation zone.There was drama, near misses, new heroes, old villains and a result balanced on a knife-edge, too close to call.

It was a predictably difficult trudge against a team that has spent much of the campaign in the bottom four and, while many would argue that Carlisle should be comfortably seeing off teams like Scunthorpe on home territory, it was hard to argue with Abbott’s post-match assessment that this was a point gained rather than two lost after the way the game panned out.

Before Christmas, with poor form entrenched and disenchantment growing, Carlisle’s heads would have gone down when they found themselves trailing at home. With three successive home victories under their belt before Saturday, the Blues are proving they’re clearly made of sterner stuff these days, and the road to League One respectability will be paved with performances like this when Carlisle’s players have to roll up their sleeves and grind out a point.

But their supporters are perhaps going to take some convincing that they have turned the corner – only 3,829, including 123 hardy souls who travelled through snow from Scunthorpe, turned out.

Symington’s goal was worth the turnstile fee alone for those who did pay up on a bone-chilling January day.

As the temperature plunged and the debate rages about the need for a winter break, it was as if both sides decided to go into hibernation during a cheerless first-half. By half-time, both sides were yawned off.

The game plan was to grab an early goal against Scunthorpe like they did in the previous home win over Coventry City.

Carlisle looked purposeful and positive from the first whistle, showing plenty of drive, desire and a collective self-belief but it soon evaporated until both sides were threatening only sporadically in a dire first half that would have had the purists running for the hills.

There was no lack of application or effort, especially from Andy Welsh, whose league action this season had been confined to 21 minutes up until Saturday’s call-up. Abbott had been forced into a reshuffle when left-back Chris Chantler’s on-going ankle injury forced him to pull out of the game.

Starved of opportunity and looking as if he was heading inexorably for the Brunton Park exit during the January sales, Welsh appeared determined to prove a point to Abbott, who has repeatedly overlooked him, as well as to potential new suitors who may have been monitoring his situation. The winger linked up well with Matty Robson, who dropped back to left-back in Chantler’s absence, and the pair were at the heart of Carlisle’s early attacks.

Welsh, who hasn’t played since August, didn’t have to wait long for his first touch as he forced Scunthorpe defender Tom Newey to concede an early corner.

Then another run into the box by the former Sunderland, Leicester and Blackpool winger looked promising, but the close attentions of Newey and Niall Canavan prevented Welsh getting any power to his shot and the ball was comfortably gathered by keeper Sam Slocombe. At the other end, Andy Barcham’s well-struck shot was blocked by Danny Livesey, before the same player fired over from 20 yards.

From a dangerous free-kick by Mark Duffy, Scunthorpe’s former Carlisle defender Paul Reid headed narrowly over, before Newey caused anxious moments for the Blues defence as his powerful header shaved the bar.

But then the balance of play suddenly swung Carlisle’s way as JP McGovern began to impose himself on the game, setting up a good chance for teenage midfielder Brad Potts, which Slocombe had to be alert to to clear the danger.

Hawley almost made the breakthrough on his return to his old stamping ground after the striker barged past Robson, but his tame effort flew wide.

Mercifully, both sides came out more fired up in the second half and, while the crowd were still digesting their half-time cuppas, Carlisle nearly plundered a goal.

McGovern’s lovely inviting ball into the area found the huge frame of Sean O’Hanlon but the Carlisle defender looped a header over the bar.

Then a great run and delivery by Robson found Potts but the youngster stabbed the ball wide.

Then, completely, against the run of play, Hawley snatched the lead. Newey got past Robson to send over a deadly cross and there was Hawley, a practised goal-poacher if ever there was one, waiting to apply the finish from close range.

The goal seemed to galvanise Carlisle and O’Hanlon saw his header pushed over the bar by Slocombe.

Just as Carlisle fans became restless, Symington was pressed into action on 73 minutes.

Two minutes later, he stood coolly over a free kick, 35 yards out.

The youngster swung his right leg and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.

Symington stood rooted to the spot as if struggling to take in the enormity of what he had just done. Then he raised both his arms and was swamped by his team-mates.

In the dying embers of the game, former Blues loan player Mike Grella came on and attempted to snatch a winner, but Mark Gillespie was alert to it and denied him with an excellent save.

A past player had come back to haunt them, but now the future looks bright for a new generation of Brunton babes.

MARK GILLESPIE - Well protected but still had to be sharp, especially right at the death when Scunthorpe sub Mike Grella was denied a winner for his side by an excellent block from Gillespie

FRANK SIMEK - Looked really comfortable dealing with any Scunthorpe attacks and also played a role in attacking down the right.

DANNY LIVESEY - No longer captain, but looked comfortable both in the air and on the deck during an afternoon when defence wasn't really put under too much intense pressure.

SEAN O'HANLON - Some crucial interceptions and he was nearly a hero at both ends as he proved his height and presence can be a real threat in the box at set-pieces.

MATTY ROBSON - Played as emergency left-back and was caught out a couple of times but played a crucial role in attack, linking up well with Andy Welsh on left wing.

BRAD POTTS - Breath of fresh air since breaking into the Carlisle team and he certainly got up Scunthorpe's noses by getting on the end of a couple of chances.

LIAM NOBLE - Played his part in a couple of decent, well-worked moves which carved open the Scunthorpe defence but didn't make a massive impact.

JAMES BERRETT - Worked hard doing the graft in midfield, helping to break up attacks, without really catching the eye.

ANDY WELSH - Will take a lot of confidence from his first full start of the season. Worked hard and linked up very well with Matty Robson to to put Scunthorpe under pressure down the left flank.

LEE MILLER - Can always be relied on to put in a solid shift with his awkward attacking presence. Tried hard to shake off the shackles but Scunthorpe defence did well to keep him under wraps.

JP McGOVERN - Came more into the game as the first half wore on and was part of some dangerous moves. Whole-hearted effort to spark life into the game, before making way for Symington.

Subs: Dave Symington (for McGovern, 73) – Stole the show with a brilliant free-kick with his first touch that a world-class superstar would have been proud of; Mark Beck (form Noble, 66) – Didn't make a major impact. Not used: Thirlwell, Loy, Cadamarteri, Todd.

Goal: Dave Symington 75

Scunthorpe: Slocombe, Newey, Reid, Canavan, Kennedy, Duffy (Grella 90), Collins, Ryan, Barcham (Mirfin 90), Sodje, Hawley. Subs (not used): Severn, Godden, Howe, Wooton, Adelakun.

Goal: Karl Hawley, 52

Attendance: 3,829 (123 away)

Referee: M Naylor

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