BOROUGHBRIDGE AFC 2-3 CARLISLE UNITED XI
After a mixed pre-season and the recent appointment of Davie Irons as Manager, United’s youth squad made the trip down to Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire for their final pre-season friendly. With the Aldborough Road pitch in pristine condition both sides emerged into a warm summer’s evening for the kick-off and ‘Bridge captain James McDaid presented United captain Frank Wallace with a pennant marking the occasion, before referee Garreth Rhodes conducted the coin-toss.
It was ‘Bridge who were straight on the attack from the kick-off, with Jimmy Tucknott feeding in Paul Eagling as early as the fourth minute, only for Eagling to see the ball cleared by the United defence. The very next minute and the visitors had shown their intent as well, with Jason Blackburn forcing Tom Sowerby into a save in the home goal. As the match settled into a steady tempo following the early exchanges, it was ‘Bridge who were marginally on top, and on 12 minutes it was Paul Eagling once again who forced the visiting defence into action when he shot at goal from the left-hand side of the box, with United ‘keeper Lewis Brass diving to his right to tip the ball round the near post. From the resulting set of two corners the ball eventually found its way out into midfield, where it was passed to Matt Thompson. Thompson then surged forward, picking his way through the visiting defence before slotting home from just inside the area.
The goal gave the hosts a further lift, and just a minute later James McDaid tried his luck from long-range after seeing Brass off his lines, only to see the ball fly over the crossbar. As the half progressed, however, Carlisle were beginning to warm to their task, and Blackburn headed just wide of the mark from a 17th minute Kyle Dempsey free kick. Five minutes later and Jordan Marshall tried to find a way through the home defence when he cut in from the left wing, only to find Mike Mullenger waiting to put in a well timed tackle to put the ball out of play.
As the game continued to ebb and flow it was ‘Bridge who had the next chance as Martin Hutchinson floated in a free kick from just inside the visitors’ half. Jimmy Tucknott rose alongside Brass and managed to get a head to the ball, but could only watch as his effort went just wide of the right-hand post. After a spell where both teams were evenly matched, it was the visitors who ended the half better. In the 29th minute Jack Elliott forced Sowerby into action after latching onto Dempsey’s ball across the face of the goal, and with three minutes left of the half Elliott and Blackburn would once again see the ball whipped across the face of goal, with neither able to get a boot to it to direct it home. The last major act of the half came in the 43rd minute when Elliott crossed to Jake Jackson from the left-hand wing, only to see the ball cleared by the home defence.
Despite a raft of half time substitutions as new Manager Davie Irons looked at his different options, Carlisle picked up in the second half where they had left off at the end of the first half, and four minutes into the half Danny Hodgson missed a golden opportunity to restore parity as he fired over the bar from close range. With the introduction of Tom White in place of Frank Wallace for the visitors, the captain’s armband shifted to much-fancied prospect Dempsey, and after Jimmy Tucknott headed over from a James McDaid free kick for ‘Bridge, Dempsey showed just why he is so highly regarded with a well hit shot at Tom Sowerby, who could only parry the ball behind the post.
White was quick to make his mark on the game, with a shot from close range on 58 minutes from a Connor Thomson cross going just wide, but the game was beginning to open up again and in the very next minute Martin Hutchinson saw his snap-shot go just wide of the left-hand post. Back up the pitch and Carlisle had perhaps their best chance to level the game up as Blackburn’s free kick rattled the inside of the left-hand post with Sowerby beaten. White was unable to direct the rebound home, however, and ‘Bridge were quick to regroup and move play forward. Marcus Philpott’s free kick two minutes later caused havoc in the United box, with several ‘Bridge shots blocked by a combination of the visiting defence and ‘keeper Danny Eccles who had been introduced at half time in place of Brass.
‘Bridge couldn’t find the net though and United broke quickly as the ball emerged from the box. With the ‘Bridge defenders chasing back, Jason Blackburn was put in down the middle of the pitch, forcing Sowerby to advance and make a commanding block. This moment of panic for ‘Bridge was forgotten in the very next minute, however, as Paul Eagling knocked in a long-range cross from the left-wing, and Matt Thompson rose to head past Eccles for two nil. This goal should have acted as a fillip for the home side, but instead marked a period of ascendency for the visitors as they now had the task of clawing their way back from the two goal deficit on their hands.
They set about their job quickly, and in the 65th minute Danny Webster was forced to clear behind for ‘Bridge after the ball was cut in from the left wing. United were increasingly pushing forward, and there was something of an inevitability when they finally made their break-through in the 72nd minute, with Blackburn firing past Sowerby from close range. Carlisle were back in the game, and straight back on the attack. In the 77th minute Sowerby clipped the advancing Hodgson inside the area and referee Garreth Rhodes had no choice but to award a penalty, safely despatched by Hodgson to restore parity.
Two minutes later and Carlisle had the lead for the first time in the game when Dempsey struck the ball sweetly from the edge of the area, giving Sowerby little chance in the home goal. As time ticked away Hodgson would have a late chance to make sure of the victory for United when his long-range shot went just wide of the right-hand post in the 88th minute. It would be the home side who would have the last word, however, with Matt Thompson missing the opportunity of a hat-trick when he put his last minute shot over the bar.
As the final whistle rang out both sides were greeted with a warm round of applause from the 120-plus crowd. The final result was a fair reflection on what had been an enthralling encounter, with both sides enjoying their spells in control of the game. The class and skill of the young United side shone through in the end though, with Dempsey in particular impressing. It was Thompson who took the plaudits for the home side after a strong performance at the heart of the ‘Bridge attack, but he was well supported all over the park by his team mates.
‘Bridge - Thompson (13, 64)
United - Blackburn (72), Hodgson (77 pen), Dempsey (79)
Boroughbridge AFC - Tom Sowerby, Danny Webster, Jimmy Tucknott, Nick Cressey, Elliott Clay, Ben Mudd, Mike Mullenger, James McDaid (c), Matt Thompson, Paul Eagling, Martin Hutchinson. Subs - Liam Healy, Andy Layton, Steve Paffett, Mark Burniston, Levi Crombie. Man of Match - Matt Thompson.
Carlisle United - Brass (Eccles 46), Thomson, Marshall (Scott 46), Dickson, Moyes (Chisholm 46), Wallace (Hodgson 46), Dempsey, Hammell (McEvoy 55), Blackburn, Jackson (White 46), Elliott.
Referee - Garreth Rhodes
Match Sponsor - Carlisle United Supporters’ Club London Branch