Carlisle United made it three home wins in a row for the first time in ten months on Sunday afternoon with a high tempo and resolute performance against an in-form Coventry City side.
Good football and dogged determination combined to bring the response the manager demanded following last weekend’s poor showing against Swindon Town.
“We made it more difficult than it should have been because we had chances to put ourselves out of sight, particularly in the first half,” he said. “Coventry are a good side though and they were always going to have a spell. We needed this as a club but we don’t want to be in this position too many times.
“The fans were magnificent and I think they appreciated the fact that they saw their team dig in and play well. Hopefully this is the kick start to the improvement we all want to see for this season and beyond.”
Any early nerves were settled with just 68 seconds on the clock when McGovern clipped a delightful ball into the box. Matt Robson shrugged off the close attentions of his marker to loop a perfect header over the stranded Joe Murphy and into the top corner to register his seventh strike of the season.
Liam Noble almost doubled the lead just seconds later when he charged down an attempted clearance from the keeper. The ball smashed into his midriff and bobbled just wide of the post.
The visitors should have been back on terms with their first meaningful attack of the day when Jordan Clarke found an acre of space on the Cumbrian right. His low cross evaded the stretching Leon Clarke but it sat up perfectly for the late arriving John Fleck. He just had to pick his spot but he somehow dragged it wide of the target.
The main outlet for Carlisle was the now confident Matt Robson and he completed a cheeky turn to latch onto a flick from Miller before letting one fly from distance. Murphy dived but it curled comfortably past the upright. Robson then hesitated when the ball fell at his feet inside the area and the opportunity to shoot was removed as Jennings closed the space.
Coventry looked good going forward and they were denied by the post when Moussa made a run through the heart of midfield. His snapshot deflected off Livesey and keeper Mark Gillespie was visibly relieved as it ricocheted away to safety.
Leon Clarke rose highest to meet the resulting corner and it needed an instinctive save from the Carlisle stopper to prevent it from creeping underneath his bar.
The home side started to enjoy their football and a cute up-and-under pass from Noble released Potts inside the box. Joe Murphy stood his ground and completed a one-handed save when it looked certain that the teenager would score.
More trickery from Robson left him with options and he used McGovern to spread the play. A reverse pass allowed Simek to cross and Berrett thundered the half clearance which followed just over the target. Berrett tried his luck once more as Carlisle asked the questions but another sliced connection took the ball harmlessly away.
The Cumbrians went even closer just before half time when McGovern took charge of a free kick right on the edge of the area. He caught it beautifully but it shaved the woodwork on its way behind to safety.
Carlisle had to battle for four minutes with just nine men at the start of the second half when O’Hanlon and Chantler bumped heads, but the Sky Blues struggled to make the advantage count in the face of resolute defending.
Good work from Noble and Chantler gave Berrett yet another shooting chance but his radar was slightly off as he crashed it into the Warwick. It was a better spell for the home side and two headers from O’Hanlon, from set pieces, signalled that he would be a threat.
The Cumbrians continued to play the better football and Miller twice went close with headers from pinpoint McGovern deliveries. Jordan Clarke cleared one off the line and the other bounced just wide with the keeper beaten.
Gillespie had to be on his toes midway through the half when he raced off his line to halt the marauding Blair Adams. The timing had to be right as the visiting supporters prepared themselves for a penalty claim.
Sky Blues new-boy Leon Clarke should have levelled with 20 minutes left to play when Baker curled a wicked cross into the danger area. It was down to Carlisle’s debut defender Sean O’Hanlon to do enough to cause the off-balance striker to pop his close range shot over the bar.
Coventry pushed forward and Baker and Moussa were wasteful as good chances started to go astray. And Clarke was guilty of a miss of monumental proportions as Coventry dominated the closing stages. Elliott did the hard work to put the ball on a plate with a whipped cross but the big striker took his eye off the ball and eventually squeezed it wide from just a yard out when his header hit his feet, his face and then his thigh … but not the back of the net.
Carlisle sat deep to defend their slender lead and they almost made certain of the points, deep into the unbelievable added time of six minutes, when Robson broke from deep. He spotted Murphy off his line and was disappointed to see his dipping lob bounce away off the top of the bar.
United - Robson (2)
United - Robson (90)
Coventry - Fleck (28), Moussa (38), Wood (45), Baker (73), Elliott (90)
Carlisle United - Gillespie, Simek, Livesey, O'Hanlon, Chantler, Berrett, Noble (Cadamarteri 82), Potts (Thirlwell 78), McGovern (Symington 89), Miller, Robson. Subs - Collin, Welsh, Loy, Beck.
Coventry City - Murphy, J Clarke, Baker (Wilson 76), Fleck (Elliott 54), McSheffrey (Thomas 70), Jennings, L Clarke, Wood, Edjenguele, Moussa, Adams. Subs - Cameron, Dunn, Barton, Christie.
Referee - Mr David Webb
Attendance - 4,071 (520 away fans)