A STRANGE NIGHT AT BRUNTON PARK

Penrith 1 Carlisle United 3 – Cumberland Cup final

After the toss of a coin, Penrith were deemed the home club, even though they were playing at Brunton Park, the home of their opponents Carlisle United.

Penrith managed to score three of the four goals, and still ended up the losing side.  All a bit strange.

It started well for the Ebac Northern League side who were the first to get going, with Carlisle taking 10 minutes or so to find their way into the game.  Penrith suffered an early setback when No. 9 Stuart Gray was stretchered off after receiving treatment for five minutes.

But for all their efforts, too many of Penrith’s attacks ended with a player taking one touch too many or a failure to deliver a killer, final ball into the box.  They went behind in the 21st minute when Carlisle left back Liam Brockbank sent in a dangerous cross into the heart of the Penrith box.  Stuart Johnson tried to guide the ball back to Stuart Dixon only to mis-judge his kick, sending it past the stranded keeper and into the net.

Penrith came closest to scoring in the first half when left winger Matthew Clarke worked some space for himself 20 yards out from the Carlisle goal before his shot was touched out for a corner by keeper Louis Gray.  At the other end, Dixon was called into action to tip a Taylor Charters free kick over the bar.  It was to be the first of three top saves in the game by the No. 1.

With only a couple of minutes left in the first half, Penrith looked as though they were going to go into the break trailing by just the one goal, especially after defender Kyle May intercepted the ball just before it reached Carlisle No. 9 Keighran Kerr, but they were undone in the second minute of time added on with another own goal.  Brockbank sent another low, hard cross into the Penrith box only for Robbie Hebson to deflect it into the net to send them into the dressing room 0-2 down.

Dixon made his second goal-saving block in the opening minutes of the second half when he managed to get an arm to a Kerr shot after the Carlisle No. 9 had been set away one-on-one with the keeper.

Penrith finally got their reward for all their efforts in the 54th minute when Shaun Gardner made it 1-2 with a quality, curling shot round Gray.  They were gifted an opportunity to draw level in the 73rd minute when a neat passing move involving substitute Connor Shields and Adam Main saw the ball get to Clarke.  He managed to beat a Carlisle defender who brought him down just as he was about to shoot.  Gardner stepped up to take the penalty and he hit the spot kick low to his left but Gray guessed the right way and was able to save it.

In the closing 15 minutes of the game Penrith kept on pressing for an equaliser:  May had a header ricochet off one of his team mates standing a couple of yards out from the Carlisle goal and Shields just missed out on connecting with a cross by Hebson.  With nine minutes left, Dixon made his third save of the night – once again facing Kerr who had raced clear and once again getting an arm to the ball.

Dixon was at the centre of the last action of the game deep into time added on.  After going up for a corner at the other end, he got back in time to head the ball clear outside his own box, but it ended up at Carlisle’s Charlie Birch’s feet and he sent the ball looping back over the keeper as he raced back to his goal in vain.  The last kick of the game had sealed a 1-3 win in front of 618 people.

A decent, competitive game as the Cumberland FA’s showcase final brings the end of the season ever closer.

Mike Snowdon