United were at the excellent Carrington training centre today for a behind closed doors reserve meeting with Stockport County.
The National League leaders put out a strong side, with the visitors going for a mixture of youth and experience with the main aim to get vital minutes into legs ahead of the busy Easter weekend.
Former Blues Clint Hill and Paddy Madden were part of the watching contingent for the home side, and the conditions were perfect for an afternoon of competitive football.
Stockport were at it from the off and Cannon found space before picking out Jennings on the edge of the area. A low shot was easy for Norman to take.
Newby then went on an overlap and he opted to shoot from a tight angle, when he had two up in support. It had venom but he could only find the side netting.
Carlisle started to settle and they had a great chance to take the lead when Dixon drilled a raking pass towards Omotoye as he broke the lines. The striker left his man in his wake, but Ashby-Hammond closed the gap quickly to make a superb save with his body.
County responded with a slick move through midfield and Rydel took over when he pulled off his man. His cross invited Jennings to volley but he sent it well wide.
Max Kilsby was cool under pressure when he jumped highest to meet a Jennings delivery moments later. His intervention was needed as Duffus lurked, waiting to finish it off.
It was a good spell for the hosts, and they thought they’d found a way through when dangerman Jennings struck a clean shot from 18-yards as a corner was only half cleared. Norman was beaten, but Dixon was on hand to clear it off the line.
Another great pass from Dixon released Omotoye, but he had two in attendance as he checked his run. Toure showed, and he dropped a shoulder to open a gap. His shot from 16-yards dipped late but it dropped agonisingly over the bar.
A run of corners just before the break proved to be United’s undoing as a headed clearance fell to Keane, who had sat deep throughout. He trapped it, then shot low, and Norman had no chance as a wicked deflection took it into the corner of the net.
United saw more of the ball after the break and Alessandra showed good intent when he twisted through a tackle. A piledriver was blocked with the keeper wrong-footed.
Positional awareness from Alessandra gave him time to pick a sliderule pass that had Omotoye interested. He feinted before clipping it through bodies and Ashby-Hammond was relieved to see it edge just past the upright.
The Cumbrians continued to push as things stayed tight in midfield, but they crafted another excellent opening on the hour when Fishburn flicked a long clearance from Norman over the advancing Keane. Omotoye bore down on goal, but the stopper was off his line smartly to make another well executed save.
And the visitors were made to pay for their missed opportunities when Francis-Angol ventured forward. He bounced it off Newby before heading for the box. A low delivery spooned up and Newby was rewarded for following the move with a close-range tap-in.
Carlisle looked for a response and Kilsby swept the ball forward for Omotoye to chase. Ashby-Hammond came out on top once more as he made the block.
And it was evident that it wasn’t going to be the away team’s day when Fishburn got his head to a Dixon free kick from wide. It spooned up and spun awkwardly, and it was going in until the ever-alert Ashby-Hammond threw an arm out to claw it away from the top corner.
Stockport County – Ashby-Hammond, Kitching, Rydel (Holding 59), Keane, Francis-Angol, Crankshaw, Cannon, Whitfield (Reid 59), Newby, Jennings, Duffus (Johnson 59).
Goals – Keane (44), Newby (75)
Carlisle United – Norman, Carr (Watt 72), Ellis, Kilsby (Taylor 80), Roberts, Armer, Riley, Dixon, Alessandra, Toure (Fishburn 55), Omotoye. Sub – Breeze.