Carlisle United marked their return to action after a long spell of postponements, with a disappointing one-nil loss to Harrogate Town. A first-half penalty from Josh March was the only goal of the game, which gave Town the three points at the EnviroVent Stadium and there is no doubt that Harrogate was deserved winners.
Chris Beech made three changes from United’s two one loss to Forest Green Rovers two weeks ago. In came George Tanner, Brennan Dickenson and Ethan Walker, with Jack Armer, Jon Mellish and Omari Patrick dropping to the bench.
Harrogate Town manager, Simon Weaver, made one change from their one-nil loss to Cheltenham Town. Will Smith came into the heart of the defence, replacing Jake Lawlor.
The opening 10 minutes was a scrappy affair, with no flow to the game and very little football being played on the ground. Both teams had free-kick, but nothing came from either.
United’s first chance came in the 11th minute when Town goalkeeper, James Belshaw, miskicked a clearance. Lewis Alessandra drove across the box and flighted a delicate chip, which just cleared the bar.
Rangers loanee, James McPake, then came extremely close to finding the net. A scramble on the edge of the area led to the ball finding McPake, but he could only watch in despair, as his half volley hit the post.
Harrogate came close again on the 24th-minute mark through March. George Thomson’s corner was met by a Harrogate head, who nodded the ball across goal to March. March seemed to lose his bearings and saw his effort cleared by Rhys Bennett.
Harrogate broke the deadlock through Josh March’s penalty on the 26th minute. The on-loan Forest green man burst past Nick Anderton, who dived in and seemed to get the ball, but Seb Stockbridge pointed to the spot.
March dispatched the penalty coolly to the right of the goal with Paul Farman diving the wrong way.
Harrogate should’ve been further ahead on the 34th minute. Callum Guy sliced a clearance, which spun backwards, sending Power through.
Power’s initial shot was saved, and Aaron Martin’s header on the rebound was tipped over by Paul Farman.
Harrogate Town went into the break leading one goal to nil over Carlisle United.
Carlisle started the second half, with more intent. A neat one-two between Dickenson and Walker, saw the former Colchester United man have cross-shot saved by James Belshaw in the Town goal.
Harrogate were a constant threat through the night, and Aaron Martin almost scored their second on the 60th minute. McPake’s determined running got to the byline, but Bennett was alive to the situation and managed to block Martin’s shot, from McPake’s cutback.
United had Harrogate pinned in with Kayode’s long throw, which had been ineffective in the first half, but on the 63rd minute, it caused chaos in the box. Kayode’s throw dropped to Walker on the volley, but his shot was blocked and fell to Zanzala, but the Congolese striker couldn’t control the ball, missing a chance to score.
Zanzala had another chance to score in the 66th minute. Dickenson’s low free-kick found Gime Toure at the back post, who then fed Zanzala, but his shot was again, blocked.
Aaron Martin had a chance to kill the game for the home side when he was slipped through by McPake. A goal seemed a forgone conclusion, but Farman did well to narrow the angle and saved the shot.
United had missed Jon Mellish’s physicality throughout the match, but it was his neat passing that sent Patrick down the right-hand side. Patrick greedily decided to attempt a curling effort into the top corner, but his effort faded wide.
Carlisle had one more chance late on as Kayode’s long throw was flicked on by Bennett, but Zanzala could only head straight at Belshaw.
Harrogate Town took the three points on an extremely worrying night for the Cumbrians.
Carlisle United have looked to have lost momentum after a long spell without competitive football. Patience will be needed, as United look to recover their intensity. The Cumbrians travel to Salford City, on Saturday, hoping to get back to winning ways.
Harrogate Town are exceeding expectations in League Two this season, and this is another very good result for Town. Their narrow pitch and direct style of play will stand them in good stead for the future. They travel to Scunthorpe United on Saturday.
Here some reaction from the fans post match:
Great to finally see three points at home!
— Justin Edge (@J__Eddie) February 16, 2021
Huge 3 points that, clean one to top it off💪🏻
— HTFC.WILKO (@Jackwil60534080) February 17, 2021
Poor game and poor result. Acknowledged we won’t be match fit but not a great sign. Salford next is a really tough game as well. Could easily be looking at three defeats on the bounce
— Matt Elliott (@mattselliott) February 16, 2021
Lot of plaudits for Chris and his team this season so far – rightly so.
So you can't chuck the toys out on one really poor showing and let's be fair, this was.
On to the next one but this team HAS got what's needed to get promoted. I don't doubt that and I'm sure they don't.
— All about Steve (@1StevieKilner) February 16, 2021