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MATCH REPORT: Hatters 1 - 1 United (Blues win 5-4 on pens!)

Report from the League Two play-off final at Wembley

28 May 2023

Match Reports

MATCH REPORT: Hatters 1 - 1 United (Blues win 5-4 on pens!)

Report from the League Two play-off final at Wembley

28 May 2023

A tough, long 11-month season came to its conclusion on the biggest stage there is - Wembley Stadium - as Carlisle United and Stockport County came together for the League Two play-off final.

The Cumbrians had VAR for company for the first time in their history, with a Sunday afternoon 1.30pm kick-off timing a further unusual quirk.

There was one enforced change from the starting eleven last weekend with Jon Mellish, back from a three-game suspension, in for the unfortunate Ben Barclay, who missed out due to the terms of his loan agreement.

Stockport kicked things off, accompanied by a huge roar from both sets of fans, and it was the Hatters who created the first half chance of the day with a move down the left flank. The delivery found Madden but his header from the edge of the area dropped onto the roof of the net.

There was more defending to do as Rydel overlapped, but Huntington and Mellish were on hand to mop things up.

Pressure from Garner and Gordon earned the Blues a corner on eight minutes after Armer had clipped the ball forward. It was met by a Stockport head before Huntington could put anything on it.

Hinchliffe had to be off his line to pluck a deep Moxon free kick out of the air after the crowd had paid their respects to Lewis Michael Kirkpatrick following the tragic news that came out of Cumbria this morning.

The Hatters fashioned a decent opening when Knoyle stretched to meet a pass round the corner from Madden. Olaofe got the first touch, but he was closed down before he could strike it.

Garner was on the end of a Mellish set piece from the halfway line, but the keeper scampered out once again to get his hands there first as things stayed tight.

United had the first real chance of the afternoon when Moxon delivered a beauty of a 24-yard free kick. Garner got a firm connection, and Hinchliffe had to dive fell length to palm it behind.

Croasdale popped a volley from outside the area wide as Stockport tried to pick a way through after the drinks break, and the Cumbrians had half a sight after Senior showed real tenacity on the right wing. His whisked cross was just in front of Gordon and Garner before the flag went up.

There was a goal from nowhere on 34 minutes when Madden and Croasdale combined to set Olaofe free. The cross came off Mellish and both he and Holy watched in horror as it looped into the net. 

United looked for a response with trickery from Gordon tight by the byeline. He nicked it inside for Armer, and his touch was charged down before Moxon crossed. A half clearance sat up for Guy to volley but his goal bound effort was cleared before it could do any damage.

Senior was lively just before the break when he robbed possession before bearing down on goal. A last ditch tackle from Wright prevented the shot.

Gordon was next to go clean through after he also wriggled his way out of two challenges. He dropped a shoulder as he prepared to shoot and he was left with his head in his hands as the ball ripped over the bar.

A Madden header over the target from an Olaofe delivery signalled the start of the second period, but United upped the pace with some thoughtful probing and movement. The blue shirts kept things closed down as Mellish and Gordon looked for crosses.

There was an incisive break from Carlisle on 55 minutes when Moxon surged out of his own half. McCalmont peeled away, and he was clever as he fed it inside to Gordon after he'd taken it under control. The striker went for a drag back and it slid away from his boot.

The Hatters thought they'd doubled the lead just before the hour when Wright ghosted into the box to meet a free kick from out wide. He somehow managed to send his header the wrong side of the upright from very close range.

Patrick and Edmondson came on for McCalmont and Garner on the hour, and there was an immediate corner after Patrick had hunted the ball down, with Armer's centre being guided behind.

It was an extremely tight encounter, with both areas well protected, but Hippolyte wasn't too far away with an acrobatic overhead kick that dipped a yard too late.

There was more defending to do as Knoyle and Collar looked for a way through, but it was Carlisle who were left wondering how they hadn't levelled things up when they carved through late in the day. Edmondson pulled wide, and cut it back, and there were huge appeals for a penalty as Mellish's effort was blocked on the line.

The Cumbrians didn't allow that to unsettle them, and they came again with another excellent move. Senior kept it low, and Patrick pounced to drill it home in front of the United fans when it came his way.  

It was suddenly all about the team in red, as they mounted wave after wave of attack, with Patrick foiled twice just as he shaped to add to his tally.

There was an almighty scramble in the United rea in the seventh minute of the nine that were added, but brave defending meant that Holy remained untroubled.

Into extra time the fixture went, and it remained just as tense until minute 102 when Collar nodded it down for Croasdale. His 14-yard snapshot was diverted behind for a corner.

It was energy sapping as the heat intensified, and into the second period there was a wonder save from Holy after Rydel had put Stretton into an excellent position. The former Carlisle man aimed for the top corner and he was ready to celebrate until a diving hand sent it over the angle of post and bar.

Edmondson was quickly smothered when a weak clearance invited him to try his luck, but the same player won a corner as his side stayed forward. 

Moxon sent it in, Dennis got the flick, and Hinchliffe was superb as he threw an arm up to stop it just before it crossed the line. 

Another head down and go moment from Edmondson brought yet another corner, but this time it was easy for the stopper to claim.

With nothing to choose between two extremely decent and evenly matched teams it was left to the drama of the penalty shootout to decide who would be stepping up a division next season.

Penalties:

The decision on which end was to be used was won by Stockport, with Connor Evans first to make the walk.

Evans - clinical as he sent Holy the wrong way - 0-1

Dennis - did the same to Hinchliffe, lovely finish - 1-1

Rydel - Holy went the right way, beat it away - 1-1

Mellish - thundered it in - 2-1

Hippolyte - calmly slotted into the bottom corner - 2-2

Edmondson - rolled it, slow and precise - 3-2

Stretton - firm, high, top corner - 3-3

Moxon - one of our own, popped it in - 4-3

Collar - another to go the opposite way - 4-4

Charters - another one of our own - he only went and won it - 5-4

After nine season in League Two, it was promotion for the Blues!

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Goals

Stockport County - Mellish (og 34)

Carlisle United - Patrick (84)

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Bookings

Stockport County - Collar (105)

Carlisle United - Mellish (24), Charters (90)

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Teams

Stockport County - Hinchliffe, Knoyle, Wright (Collar 68), Horsfall, Camps, Madden (c) (Hippolyte 68), Sarcevic (Evans 114), Rydel, Croasdale, Olaofe (Stretton 82), Hussey. Subs - Jaros (gk), Byrne, Lewis.

Carlisle United - Holy, Whelan, Huntington (c), Mellish, Senior, McCalmont (Patrick 61), Guy (Charters 77), Moxon, Armer (Dennis 77), Gordon (Gibson 77), Garner (Edmondson 61). Subs - Kelly, Robinson. 

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Match officials

Referee - Tom Nield
Assistant Referee 1 - Alex James
Assistant Referee 2 - Hristo Karaivanov
Fourth Official - Simon Mather
Coach - Michael Jones
Reserve Assistant Referee - Darren Williams
Video Assistant Referee - Neil Swarbrick
Additional Video Assistant Referee - Derek Eaton

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Attendance - 34,004


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