Brunton Park roared once again, as Carlisle United overcame big spenders, Salford City by two goals to one on a cold Wednesday night in Cumbria. Lewis Alessandra’s first half curling effort and Rhys Bennett’s diving header secured the three points for the Cumbrians, despite the Ammies giving United a late scare through Manchester United loanee, Di’Shon Bernard’s goal in the 90th minute.
For the first time since September, Brunton Park welcomed back fans for a historic moment in project restart. 2000 Cumbrians were very much up for the occasion and especially motivated to make as much safe noise as possible, due to Richie’s Wellens’ claim that there was no atmosphere when he last visited with Swindon. This seemed a bold statement, considering he was going to be spending the next 90 minutes in front of the Paddock.
Carlisle started with the emphasis and desire that has come to be expected by the fanbase. United forced two corners and a Josh Kayode long throw in the first ten minutes, putting the Ammies under huge pressure.
The first sight of goal for United came in the 11th minute when Callum Guy’s inswinging corner was flicked on by the Republic of Ireland youth international, Josh Kayode. The ball arched to Carlisle centre half, Aaron Hayden but he could only head the ball up into the Waterworks End.
The Cumbrians came close again when another Kayode long throw was cleared as far as former Salford loanee, George Tanner who shot low. Tanner’s shot ricocheted towards Rhys Bennett but he could only back heel timidly, toward Ammies goalkeeper, Václav Hladky.
Some direct running from former Lincoln City man, Bruno Andrade gave Salford their first attempt on goal in 24th minute. The Portuguese winger burst through the midfield with the ball falling to the rejuvenated, Luke Burgess whose curling shot went just past the right-hand post.
Carlisle were soon back on top and a low Callum Guy free-kick found Omari Patrick just inside the box, he chose to dribble out of the box and lay it off to right-back George Tanner. Tanner took on the shot from the edge of the area, which crept just wide of the left upright.
Eventually, the Cumbrians found the breakthrough and it came from playmaker, Lewis Alessandra who curled a simply stunning shot into the top corner. Receiving the ball from Josh Kayode, Alessandra dropped his shoulder and stroked the ball with finesse to put United into the lead.
Two minute’s later Salford really should’ve had the ball in the Carlisle net through, Jordan Turnbull who had been converted into a defensive midfielder on the night. Ashley Hunter swung a delicious cross into the six-yard box from a free-kick near the touchline, but Turnbull could only head the ball wide of the target.
Carlisle followed up this scare with some sumptuous play from Josh Kayode, marked by two men and out wide with his back to goal, he managed to backheel the ball into the onrushing George Tanner’s path. Tanner then hit a low cross towards the front post where Patrick was rushing in, but it was the defender who got the final touch to clear it for a corner.
The only real chances of note from either side was from Bruno Andrade, who shot into the side-netting and for United, Mellish had a shot blocked after good work from Patrick. Six minutes Patrick later had a shot from distance saved by Hladky. Carlisle United went into the break one-nil up.
Salford City came out the blocks after halftime, firing on all cylinders. Fluid football combining Tom Clarke, Ash Hunter and Burgess ended, with the former Wigan Athletic man, curling wide from inside the box.
The Ammies finally had the ball in the net through Andrade, but the Portuguese winger was found to be offside by the officials. A quick free-kick was sent out to wing-back, Ibou Touray and his cross was tapped in by Andrade only to be chalked off.
United made it two through the prolific defender, Rhys Bennett who now has two goals in four games. Callum Guy’s fantastically arching ball from free-kick was met by the diving Bennett in front of the Warwick Road End to put the Cumbrians two goals up.
United almost made it three through Aaron Hayden but had his flick cleared off the line by one of the Salford defenders. Tanner had got onto the ball, down the left-hand side and his low cross found Hayden after it evaded Jon Mellish’s barnstorming run, but Hayden’s flick was turned away.
Salford finally, managed to get on the goal-sheet on the 90th minute through Di’Shon Bernard. Touray crossed the ball from the left touchline and Bernard who’d got himself forward from the back managed to get across Bennett to nod home.
There was late anxiety for the Cumbrians whose fans had been wanting to go to Brunton Park all season couldn’t wait for the game to end. Salford got a corner in the 94th minute and brought Hladky, the goalkeeper up. The corner went over everyone with Substitute, Gime Toure breaking away. He reached just past the halfway line and chose to shoot, but the ball trundled past the post.
An important win on a joyous occasion for the Cumbrians making yet another statement to the rest of league on how they are dark horses for promotion. However, Salford surely need to realise that hard work and determination, often triumphs over a large wage budget and may signal a different approach is needed.
Carlisle are up to fifth place in the league and travel to Bradford City on Saturday whereas Salford are in ninth and continue their Cumbrian road trip, to face Barrow away on Saturday.