Match report from the Oxford United away game
Following a week of post-flood clear-up at Brunton Park the focus returned to football and the trip to high-flying Oxford United on Saturday afternoon.
It remains to be seen just how long Brunton Park will be out of action, but the team showed they are still up for the fight despite the upheaval being suffered at home.
United were on the front foot early and a good spell of possession saw them make inroads into the box, with a deep corner from Grainger and a long throw from Ellis.
Conditions played a part as both sides struggled to deal with the wind but Oxford did well to keep the ball on the floor with nine minutes on the clock. It eventually came to Kemar Roofe but he was at a tight angle and he could only find the side netting.
The Cumbrians had a goal ruled out for offside when Sweeney was caught an inch in front of his man, when a Kennedy pass sent him clean through, and the visitors should have taken the lead when a Gilliead run caused all kinds of problems. Wyke took over with a touch which left him with a sight of the target but Buchel raced off his line to make a very good block. Sweeney, Kennedy and Ibehre had follow up attempts blocked at close range and Mullins relieved the tension when he stepped in to hook it away.
The U's replied with a good spell of their own and O'Dowda thought he'd done enough when he broke through on the right flank. Raynes recovered to make a vital block, and Maguire was next to go close when he placed the ball for a 25-yard free kick. He struck it well but Gillespie was well placed to gather.
A searching cross from Danny Grainger had to be watched as Ibehre and Wyke arrived late, but the resulting throw in from Ellis bent wickedly in a sudden gust of wind and Oxford were able to break. Carlisle held their shape but an opportunistic volley from Roofe had Gillespie scrambling as he stretched to tip it wide.
MacDonald dragged a weak strike into the side netting as the hosts started to push more men forward, but it was Carlisle who should have grabbed the lead when a flick from Ibehre sent Wyke into a good position. He waited for help and Sweeney tested Buchel with a low drive which the keeper did well to hold.
United were left to rue their missed chances when a direct run from Baldock, which ended as he toppled to the floor on the edge of the box, left MacDonald in acres of space. He kept his eye on it and left Gillespie with no chance as he expertly buried it in the bottom corner.
Carlisle didn't allow heads to drop and Gilliead combined with Ibehre to create another good opening just ahead of the break. Oxford were back in numbers and a deflection sent a dipping shot into the stands.
The half ended with an intricate free kick routine which came to an abrupt end with a low shot from Grainger, but the away fans were soon celebrating when Wyke battled for a difficult ball which dropped inside the Oxford box. Skarz spun on the spot to clear it and it appeared to smash into Dunkley before looping over Buchel and into the waiting net. Jason Kennedy was quick to lay a claim to the strike as he wheeled away to celebrate with his delighted group of travelling supporters.
The half time 50/50 draw brought an unbelievable donation of £1,652 for the Cumbria Flood Appeal fund from the superb people of Oxford, and chairman Andrew Jenkins accepted the cheque on behalf of the fund when he was invited onto the pitch.
The lead could have doubled moments after the break when Gilliead beat three as he went on one of his trademark runs. A drilled delivery left Wyke with a close range volley but he lost sight of the ball and sent it high into the air.
Gillespie had to react smartly to prevent a covering header from Raynes from fizzing into his own net, and Joyce was frustrated at the other end when he tried his luck from distance. His attempt had power but lacked direction.
It was Carlisle who created the bulk of the chances and a second goalmouth scramble of the day started when Wyke nodded a Grainger corner back into the mix. Ibehre, Ellis and Sweeney probed and Sweeney was close again when the corner came at him at pace and he thumped a header into the side netting.
A rare Oxford attack brought Gillespie off his line as he stopped MacDonald in full flight, but it was Carlisle who should have scored again when Ellis cushioned a high free kick and ghosted into space. He went for an early shot and Buchel was able to watch it whisk into the stands.
The home goal lived a charmed life again when a half clearance from an Ellis throw brought a snapshot from Ibehre which Buchel could only parry. Sweeney was there but he somehow managed to squeeze his volley wide as the gaping goal waited.
A free kick from nothing almost earned the U's a goal as Maguire curled it over the bar. Gillespie was beaten but it battered against the angle of post and bar and Gilliead shepherded it away.
The game opened up as it went into the last ten minutes, but the defensive units stood strong until Oxford nearly nicked it with the last move of the game. Roofe hit the bar with a neat header and Gillespie gratefully cleaned up the loose pieces.
Oxford - MacDonald (34)
United - Dunkley (45 og)
United - Joyce (17)
Oxford United - Buchel, Baldock, Skarz, Roofe, Mullins, Sercombe, MacDonald (Evans 82), O'Dowda (Hylton 67), Lundstram, Maguire, Dunkley. Subs - Slocombe, Wright, Hoban, Ruffels, Long.
Carlisle United - Gillespie, Atkinson, Raynes, Ellis, Grainger, Gilliead (Asamoah 76), Kennedy Joyce, Sweeney (Thompson 83), Wyke, Ibehre. Subs - Hanford, Hery, Dicker, Archibald-Henville, Gillesphey.
Referee - Mr Mark Haywood
Attendance - 5,936 (388 away fans)