Carlisle United had to battle their way past Pirelli FC to secure a place in the third round of this season’s Cumberland Cup competition on Tuesday night and, in a game that pulled no punches, it was a late, late penalty from substitute Keighran Kerr which eventually settled the tie.
Controversy reigned in the closing minutes as the lively Kerr tumbled to the floor when he tried to get on the end of a loose ball inside the area. The referee appeared to be turning away to allow play to continue until he spotted his assistant waving frantically to signal that he’d spotted a foul.
Pirelli FC stopper Luke Miller was booked as he argued the decision, but Kerr kept his cool to smash a fiercely taken spot kick past the wrong-footed glovesman and into the back of the net.
A heated debate with the officials following the goal led to Scott Priest being ordered from the field as referee John Mulligan looked to restore some semblance of order.
There were signs that it was going to be a busy night for the man in the middle from very early in the piece when Brockbank was upended by a late Story challenge with just 60 seconds on the clock.
Strong defending from both camps kept chances at a premium, and more injury concerns were heaped on the Blues when second year professional Jack Egan limped from the field with what looked to be an ankle injury following another hefty tackle.
A miscued cross from Barnes dipped just over the angle of post and bar as the game ticked along at a steady pace, and an inswinging free kick from Galloway needed just a touch, but it was an inch too far in front of the advancing Taylor Charters and Max Brown.
Pirelli showed as an attacking force for the first time on the half hour when Davidson broke clear to cross low. The ball skipped across the face of goal, to be recovered by Ricky James, but the angle was acute and he scuffed his shot.
The best opening of the half fell to Pirelli when Barnes misjudged a difficult bouncing ball in the Carlisle defence. Matty Story latched onto it and his thundering shot zipped just over the bar.
And Jack Dickinson will feel he should have done better when he got on the end of a corner deep into time added on for the half. His header was going in until Olsen got in the way.
Carlisle upped the pace after the break, but they came up against a stubborn Pirelli wall every time they entered the final third. There was little to note in front of goal but a downward header from Charters, when he met a Galloway corner on the full, bounced high off the surface and Luke Miller was able to pull it into his chest.
Tenacious work from Barnes took him into clean space on the right flank and he picked a perfect cross for Brown as he looked up and delivered the pass. The striker met it on the full but his header was too close to the stopper.
A run of free kicks from Galloway failed to give United any real purchase, but the game erupted, quite literally, when the hotly disputed penalty incident saw Kerr ignore the remonstrations until he was finally allowed to place the ball on the spot.
He calmly waited for the whistle and went straight down the middle when it blew, winning the tie for the Blues.
Carlisle United - Kerr (88 pen)
Carlisle United - Adewusi (43), Barnes (53)
Pirelli FC - Campbell (17), Miller (87)
Sent off - Priest (89)
United - Gray, Barnes, Brockbank, Casson, Olsen, Wilson, Egan (Galloway 20), Adewusi, Brown (Kerr 79), Charters (Papa 68), McCarron. Subs not used: Ward, Kelly.
Pirelli - Miller, Hodgson, Campbell, Dickinson, Robley, Davidson, James, Stalker, Priest, James (R Cowley 83), Story. Subs not used: J Cowley, Pritchard Farish, Lewis.
Referee - Mr John Mulligan
Attendance - tbc