Carlisle United started 2021 in style with a two-nil victory against Walsall at the Bescot Stadium. Goals either side of the half from Omari Patrick and Josh Kayode saw of the Saddlers, which sent United top of League Two.
United were again without midfielder Jon Mellish, so youth academy product Taylor Charters stepped in to fill the void. Captain Nick Anderton, Gime Toure, George Tanner, Danny Devine and Gavin Reilly were all absent from the squad.
Walsall made four changes from their home loss to Scunthorpe United with Liam Roberts, Alfie Bates, Stuart Sinclair and Matt Sadler all starting for the home side.
The Cumbrians started on the front foot with debutant, Taylor Charters collecting the ball on the edge of the area and dragging his shot wide.
On the 26th minute mark, United took the lead through electric winger Omari Patrick. A long ball forwards was flicked on by Josh Kayode, the ball fell to Lewis Alessandra who slipped the ball to Charters; the Whitehaven born midfielder showed composure to layoff Patrick, whose shot rocketed into the top corner.
Walsall started to show promise in response to Patrick’s goal. Wes McDonald dropped his shoulder and cut inside, but his shot drifted wide of the target.
The Cumbrians started to turn the screw towards the end of the first half. Some tricky footwork from Alessandra gave him space to layoff Jack Armer, who saw his shot blocked just wide.
United should’ve been further in front in the 39th minute through Kayode. Patrick’s hooked the ball over the top saw the Rotherham loanee through on goal, but he could volley the ball straight at Roberts in the Walsall goal.
The teams went into the break with United leading by a goal to nil.
Walsall started the second half well with the skillfully accomplished McDonald dancing through a couple of challenges, but he could only shoot straight at Paul Farman in the Carlisle goal.
However, United were back on the attack through Alessandra. The attacking maestro played a lovely reverse pass into Joe Riley, but he could only shoot across the face of goal.
Taylor Charters was then unlucky to not to get a dream debut goal. A high, hanging ball into the area by Jack Armer was dropped under pressure by Roberts; Charters then on the ground managed to get a shot away only to be denied by Dan Scarr who made a goal-line block.
Charters, who was excellent throughout, found Riley on the right-wing. The former Manchester United youngster chose to pull back across which Kayode dispatched scrappily to give the Cumbrians a two-nil advantage.
Walsall tried to pile on the pressure with many corners, but with very little substance. United fans will have been delighted to see the return of winger Brennan Dickenson, who suffered an injury in pre-season although his talents were not needed to see off feeble Walsall side.
United did have one final chance when Kayode laid of Alesandra, but his dipping shot ended up just over the crossbar.
This convincing and effective away performance sent Carlisle United into a one-point lead at the top of Sky Bet League Two. This is a testament to Chris Beech’s hard work and fantastic style of play which has enamoured the Cumbrian following. United face Leyton orient at home next Saturday.
Walsall are still high up the table, so a late promotion charge is far from possible, but they will need to improve their attacking options to do so. They face Oldham Athletic at home in two weeks due to Morecambe’s involvement in the FA Cup.