On what was a bright but bitterly cold afternoon at Brunton Park, United edged past Ebbsfleet into the second round of the FA Cup to set up a home tie with Bournemouth. The score-line suggests an easy ride for the Cumbrians, but it was anything but, as the non-leaguers proved a stern test and certainly put up a fight.
Carlisle’s team included three changes with a recall for Adam Collin; Danny Livesey came in for an injured Paul Thirwell. The experienced Peter Murphy moved into a holding role in a midfield three, whilst David Symington was rewarded with a start after coming off the bench to score in the loss to Bournemouth. With an injury-hit squad, Greg Abbott could only name a bench of six subs.
The Ebbsfleet team provided somewhat of an unknown quantity with many of the names on the team-sheet being unheard of. One of the few recognisable names was that of centre-back Patrick Ada, formerly of Burton Albion, who would definitely provide a tough test for the in-form Joe Garner; the Watford loanee was looking for his sixth goal in ten appearances.
Carlisle started brightly and the first chance of the game fell to Garner, cutting in from the left, the striker, went for placement on the edge of the 18-yard box and narrowly missed the right-hand post. Ebbsfleet though were very organised and closing down the United players quickly and in the seventh minute they got their chance.
Joe Howe got to the by-line and pulled back a great ball for Phil Walsh; the defender, turned striker for the day got a decent head on it and with the ball seemingly going to nestle into the bottom-right corner, Adam Collin clawed the ball away for a corner. That save was to prove crucial as the half progressed. That chance seemed to spur the away side on as they started to get a hold of the game.
One of the battles of the day was proving to be down the visitor’s right hand side, with 19 year-old winger Lanre Azeez going up against 21 year-old United left-back Chris Chantler. The Ebbsfleet winger’s pace and trickery was the Fleet’s best outlet, but ultimately the battle would see both players come out victorious.
Carlisle though were still in the game and had a string of chances around the 15-20 minute mark; first Liam Noble tested the Ebbsfleet keeper, Preston Edwards, with a well-hit drive from 25 yards which the keeper turned over. From the resulting corner, the ball was headed in to the air and was hit crisply on the volley by Peter Murphy on his left-foot with the keeper doing well to again turn it over. The move to put Murphy into midfield looked effective, providing steel as well as composure on the ball. Danny Cadamarteri then cut in from the left, and drove a fierce shot at goal, the keeper could only parry the ball back into the box but luckily for Ebbsfleet the ball was cleared.
The next real clear-cut chance in the game came in the 37th minute, when from a short corner, Chris Chantler whipped in a ball of real quality from the left channel – unmarked, Murphy could only direct his header into the ground, producing a comfortable save for Edwards in the visiting goal; better contact and it would have surely nestled into the back of the net.
Then on the stroke of half-time, the goal that was needed for United came. Ebbsfleet had just had a corner from the left, which Collin collected and rolled the ball out to Chantler at left-back. He then laid the ball off to Berrett; the former Huddersfield man then surged up-field, before playing in Symington who’d made a good run across the Fleet’s defence – 12 yards out the 19 year-old showed coolness beyond his years, by burying his left-footed strike in to the bottom left corner giving the keeper no chance. That was the youngster’s second goal in as many games and surely repaid the manager’s decision to start him.
The Blue Square Premier team could have been forgiven for feeling a bit hard done by, going into the break a goal down; they’d impressed in patches, with a hard-working ethic throughout, a bustling front two and nippy wingers – they just seemed to lack that killer instinct, either with the final ball or finish. However they certainly didn’t look like a team struggling in at the wrong end in their league.
After the break, the away team made the first substitution of the game when Walsh was replaced with an out-and-out striker in Nathan Elder. The substitution was to prove inspired when in the 58th minute, with only his third touch, Elder fired home an equaliser – it was that man Azeez on the right who’d skipped past his marker and played a ball back along the penalty area and there was Elder to power the ball pinpoint back across goal into the bottom right corner, giving Collin no chance. The 102 travelling fans went delirious with, it has to be said, a deserved equaliser.
United then responded in the best possible way, regaining the lead in the 61st minute through Liam Noble; Cadamarteri, who’d been quiet went on a run down the left before getting a ball into the danger area, partially cleared by the Ebbsfleet captain Paul Lorraine, his clearance could only find Noble, who first time from the edge of the 18-yard box, placed a ball out of the reach of Edwards dive to the bottom-right corner.
The second half was almost end to end with Ebbsfleet then having a decent chance to equalise again, first Enver-Marum played a delicate ball through to the shaggy-haired Barrett from the edge of the D, fortunately Collin was on hand to come out and smother. In the 67th minute, Liam Daish then made his second substitution, Moses Ashikodi coming on for the busy Enver-Marum.
Greg Abbott made his first change of afternoon, when in the 71st minute, Danny Cadamarteri was replaced with Jon-Paul McGovern. It was McGovern’s first appearance since returning from injury – United seemed to find the urgency required to find that killer goal, and with Ebbsfleet still in the game, Joe Garner forced a good save out of Edwards in the 75th minute after being played into the penalty area by Noble, his shot was tipped round the right-hand post for a corner.
In the 77th minute, Ebbsfleet made their final change bringing on Louie Soares, brother of former Stoke midfielder Tom Soares. Four minutes later though, United found that killer goal that they needed and what a goal it was; James Berrett collected a ball from Murphy, turned, and from 23 yards rifled an unstoppable shot into the top left corner to make it 3-1 – it was a truly brilliant goal and one that the midfielder deserved after a hard-working display in the middle of the park.
Andrew Welsh then came on for David Symington in the 84 minute and almost had the desired effect when his cross from the left, found Berrett, free, but the midfielder could only direct his header back across goal and wide. Carlisle’s third and final substitution came a minute later with Chris Chantler after a tireless match-up with Lanre Azeez, replaced with Alessio Bugno.
Joe Garner had a tough game against the big back two in Ada and Lorraine but finally got his reward when in the 87th minute he made it 4-1 to United, to surely tie up the match for the Cumbrians. McGovern’s in-swinging corner from the left saw Garner climb highest and steer his header back across goal into the bottom left-post; it was the striker’s sixth goal in 11 games.
That wasn’t to be the last action of the game though, when with virtually the last kick of the game, Ebbsfleet scored a second and what another good goal it was – the ball dropped to left-back, Joe Howe, who ran on to the ball, and smashed the ball from just outside of the penalty area, into the top left corner; again Adam Collin was given no chance.
The ref then blew up on what was a pulsating second-half, Manager Gregg Abbott can take a lot of positives from the game and look forward to a second round tie with Bournemouth. Next up for United is a trip to Deepdale, where Preston will provide a totally different test. The result though seemed to see Brunton Park breathe a collective sigh of relief as the floodlights descended and the stadium slowly filtered out.
Goals: United – Symington (45), Noble (61), Berrett, (81), Garner (87).
Ebbsfleet – Elder (58), Howe (90+3).
Bookings: Ebbsfleet (2) – Walsh (5), Bellamy (71).
Carlisle United – (4-3-3) – Collin; Simek; Livesey (c); Edwards; Chantler (Bugno, 85); Murphy; Noble; Berrett; Symington (Welsh, 84); Garner; Cadamarteri (McGovern, 71): Subs not used – Gillespie; Potts; Todd.
Ebbsfleet United – (4-4-2) – Edwards; Stone; Ada; Lorraine; Howe; Azeez; Phipp; Barrett (Soares, 77); Bellamy; Walsh (Elder, 56); Enver-Marum (Ashikodi, 67): Subs not used - Menz, Greenhalgh, Folkes, Fakinos.
Referee: Mr Darren Bond.
Attendance: 2,373 (102 away fans)