Cambridge United, inspired by a timeless Wes Hoolahan, showed their class to take the three points away from Brunton Park and seal the double over Carlisle United this season. Paul Mullin’s 27th goal of the season was cancelled out by Lewis Alessandra’s 78th-minute strike, but Cambridge showed resilience as Adam May struck late to snatch the win.
The under-pressure Carlisle Manager, Chris Beech, made four changes from the Cumbrians’ disappointing one-nil loss against Leyton Orient on Tuesday night. In came George Tanner, Rod McDonald, Joe Riley and Omari Patrick, with Jack Armer, Rhys Bennett, Gime Toure and Lewis Alessandra dropping out.
Mark Bonner named an unchanged lineup from Cambridge’s one-nil win at home to Forest Green Rovers last Saturday.
Carlisle made a bright start, with a quickly taken throw from Nick Anderton, which found Offrande Zanzala. The Congolese striker turned sharply in the box and his shot slammed into the side netting.
On the 15th minute, Cambridge engaged in a brilliant passing move, with Hiram Boateng and Hoolahan involved. The ball was eventually worked into the impressive Paul Mullin, whose low shot was saved by Paul Farman in the United goal.
19 minutes into the first half, a clever through ball by Hoolahan found the onrushing right-back Kyle Knoyle whose driven cross was cleared wide by MacDonald.
Jon Mellish powered down the left flank on the 25th minute, but the former Gateshead man’s cross was cleared by Jubril Okedina. Fortunately for Carlisle, the clearance fell to Riley, but he could only shoot over the bar on the half volley.
Cambridge’s slick right-back Knoyle was impressive throughout and again got down the right-wing. The former Swindon man shifted the ball to Mullin, who cut inside, but his shot was deflected by MacDonald wide of the target.
Cambridge players appealed for a possible handball, but it ricocheted off McDonald’s shoulder rather than his arm.
On the 30th minute, a long ball over the top found Mullin, who cut across the face of the goal. However, his shot was deflected wide of Farman’s goal.
The Cambridgeshire side were good on the ball and again, they worked a promising move in the 43rd minute. Paul Digby’s looping cross was met by Ironside, but the former Macclesfield striker sent his header onto the roof of Farman’s goal.
Carlisle United were close to taking the lead on 45 minutes when Dean Furman’s pass over the top of the Cambridge defence found Patrick. The Cumbrians’ electric winger worked the ball onto his stronger right foot for the shot, but Callum Burton did excellently to save.
Cambridge took a deserved lead in extra time of the first half. Confusion reigned in the United defence as Rod McDonald accidentally flicked the ball onto Paul Mullin, who drifted past Anderton and finished superbly into the top corner.
Half time: Carlisle United Nil-One Cambridge United
Carlisle looked to catch Cambridge sleeping at the start of the first half, as Riley’s speculative volley was hit straight at Callum Burton.
The Cumbrians looked an improved side in the second half, as Patrick laid the ball off to Callum Guy. Guy then sent a low and weak shot at the Cambridge stopper on the 57th minute.
Carlisle came close to an equaliser on the 66th minute when Riley’s long throw fell to Guy, whose shot back into the area fell to Jon Mellish. Mellish diverted the shot through to Gime Toure, but he was left in despair as his scrambled effort was saved at point-blank range by Burton.
On the 74th minute, Omari Patrick strode off on a mazy run from his own half. The former Bradford man continued his run and then unleashed a rasping shot, which was saved by Burton.
Carlisle United were level on the 77th minute, through Lewis Alessandra. A corner was whipped in by Guy, which led to a scramble in the area, with Rod McDonald involved leading to Alessandra slamming the ball into the back of the net.
A majestic, neat turn by Lewis Alessandra on the edge of the box gave him space to find Toure. The Frenchman’s snapshot sailed into the Waterworks End.
Offrande Zanzala used his strength to get down left-wing, powering past Okedina. He chose to slide the ball into the box rather than shoot, which just evaded the onrushing Omari Patrick.
Cambridge sneaked a last-minute winner in the 90th minute. On-loan Tottenham Hotspur winger Shilow Tracey got down the left-wing and found Hoolahan, who had ghosted into the area. The former Republic of Ireland international hit a reverse pass across the box to Adam May, who finished confidently past Farman.
Full Time: Carlisle United One-two Cambridge United
Awful defending. Beaten by a comfortably better team. 6 points from 39 ffs! How long do you give a manager who is way out of his depth. The man is well and truly floundering.
— Philip Raffles (@PhilipRaffles) March 27, 2021
Recently seen people saying we were overachieving in 1st place. Maybe so, but surely you can’t go from 1st to 14th with 0 questions asked. Sitting 14th from being first we’re now underachieving you’d have thought. Beech out.
— Luke Howe (@Lukehowe31) March 27, 2021
Oh Cambridge why do you always stress us out as much as possible before treating us to 3 points. No better feeling in the world, especially after dropping off and generously letting Carlisle back into the game 😂👏🏻💛🖤
— Josh Cornwell (@JoshCornwell11) March 27, 2021
Phew. Showed great resilience. Massive win. Unusual subs, think Burton should have caught their shot but overall a great 3 points. Up the U’s!!!
— Ross Ashworth (@TheRossAshworth) March 27, 2021