Eric Kinder’s next crop of talented youngsters defeated Walsall 3-1 on Wednesday afternoon in the Youth Alliance Cup Northern Area Final.
Goals from Tom Berwick, Alex Salmon and Kyle Dempsey were enough to send the Blues through to the final, where they will face either Watford or Bristol Rovers who play tonight.
The sun was shining at Creighton Rugby Club as both sides took to the field. A large crowd had gathered to watch what was an important game, and they were treated to a fantastic display from The Cumbrians who avenged their 4-0 defeat to The Saddlers last month.
Carlisle got off to the dream start as they took the lead with only four minutes on the clock. Persistence from Dempsey and Wallace earned the Blues a corner which was then played short. The ball was fed back to captain Tom Berwick, and his cross went through everyone and found the bottom corner of the net.
The game faded into a midfield battle following the opener, with Carlisle trying to establish their dominance. A through ball from Alex Salmon found Berwick, but his shot from 20 yards was always going wide.
The hosts were wary of the danger possessed by Walsall, and they showed why moments later. After good work on the wing the ball was pulled back to an onrushing midfielder. His volley from four yards out flew over the bar, much to the despair of his teammates.
The Saddlers began to apply more pressure and had an equally good chance when a free-kick from the right was met with a firm header. It had power but flew straight at Jordan Parker. Carlisle had to chase down Walsall who were keeping possession well. Despite their domination of the ball, the visitors were failing to create any real opportunities.
The Cumbrians were still looking for the goal that would give them some breathing space. Following a good corner delivery from Berwick, a volley from Brad Staunch bounced up and Salmon jumped like a fish to meet the ball with his head, but he could only divert it over the bar.
The visitors continued to attack and were attempting to seize a goal before the interval. A quick free-kick on the edge of the box caught Carlisle napping, but it was fired wide. Another set-piece was met with a header at the back post that was always destined to go over the bar.
With two minutes left before the break, Carlisle doubled their lead. Alex Salmon showed great control in the area before being caught by a defender. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Salmon made amends for his missed penalty against Bury by hammering home the spot kick.
The Cumbrians deservedly led 2-0 at half-time, and had put in a performance they could be extremely proud of. Despite having to soak up large amounts of Walsall pressure, the hosts were good value for their two-goal cushion.
Carlisle refused to rest on their laurels and pushed on for a third goal which would surely secure the tie. Good work from Patrick Brough on the left flank resulted in a cross that was perfect for Kyle Dempsey. However, the midfielder could only head over the bar.
The hosts were dealt a blow when Brad Staunch had to be stretchered off following an awkward landing. He was replaced by Jake Chisholm.
The Saddlers realised time was not on their side, so knew they needed a goal to have any hope of getting something from the tie. Set-pieces were becoming Walsall’s main threat, and a free-kick from the left was met with a towering header that dropped just past the post. Moments later a shot from 20 yards flew over the crossbar, with Parker knowing little about it.
Despite their pressure, Walsall were still failing to create any clear-cut chances. An opportunity was wasted when a winger elected to shoot rather than pass when there were men free in the area.
Carlisle were still managing to defend well, with Tom Berwick clearing a short corner routine when it looked as if there could be danger. Jordan Parker was forced into action when a 25 yard free-kick looked to be curling into the bottom corner, only for the goalkeeper to tip it around the post.
Whilst The Saddlers were pushing forward, gaps were being left in the defence. Carlisle managed to exploit these flaws when a flick from Brough was met by substitute Connor Thomson. The midfielder shaped to shoot, but the ball was taken off his toe before he could make contact.
Walsall saw two shots blocked by a resolute Carlisle defence before they were awarded a free-kick. Again it was taken quickly, and it left Carlisle flat-footed. Luckily for the Blues, the ball went well wide.
The visitors were applying far more pressure going into injury time, and this paid off almost immediately. Reece Flanagan fired in a volley from 16 yards that left Jordan Parker with no chance. It was an unbelievable striker from the youngster, and one that gave his side hope with four minutes remaining.
Carlisle were determined not to let Walsall back into this game, and had a chance to seal the victory when Alex Salmon raced through on goal. The striker saw his effort well saved, before the visitors raced towards the Carlisle area in an attempt to snatch a leveller.
The Cumbrians secured the win moments later, when good work from Salmon allowed him to set up Kyle Dempsey, who calmly slotted past the Walsall goalkeeper to send Carlisle through to the final. The Blues could not contain their excitement and wild celebrations followed Dempsey’s goal with the side knowing this was enough to seal victory.
The referee’s whistle was greeted with high-fives and hugs aplenty within the Carlisle camp, who will go on to face either Watford or Bristol Rovers in the full final. The result was a deserved one for Carlisle, who outclassed their visitors.