It's certainly not a second-string cracker at Brunton Park as both sides draw a blank

With plenty of injuries at the club at the moment it was a slightly younger Carlisle reserve side that took the pitch than usual, the absence of available centre-halves meaning that Graham Kavanagh took a spot in the middle of the back four. Kavanagh playing there alongside skipper for the day David Raven, with the rest of the Blues line-up at kick-off as follows :


Ryan Bowman - Gary Madine

Manny Richardson

Ben McKenna - Gavin Rothery

Michael Burns

Steven Swinglehurst - Graham Kavanagh - David Raven - Simon Lakeland

Mark Gillespie


We didn't know it at the time but the slow start would last for 90 minutes, with the first chance not coming until the seventh minute when a poor Kavanagh pass across the back was intercepted by Michael Evans. The Morecambe forward though lashing his right-footed drive from just outside the United penalty area wide of Mark Gillespie's far-post.

Three minutes later and Manny Richardson was brought down by Andy Parrish 30 yards from the Morecambe goal, Michael Burns stepping up to take the free-kick quickly left-footed only to fire it well wide of the target. In the 15th minute Gary Madine flicked a Gillespie goal-kick on into the path of Ryan Bowman, the Blues youngster though perhaps shooting too early with a right-footed half-volley from 18 yards out, Scott Davies being able to make a good save on it for the Shrimps.

Shortly afterwards and Madine flicked a nice touch through for Bowman to chase down, but it was just out of his reach and Davies easily pounced on the ball inside his own box. Four minutes later and up at the other end, Steven Swinglehurst brought down Garry Hunter out on the right-wing, Hunter then playing possession from the free-kick straight to Neil Wainwright 25 yards out, Wainwright though having his left-footed shot from there well blocked by Burns.

After 26 minutes, on a bumpy and very dry pitch - whatever happened to the watering of it we used to get before games?, Ben McKenna pushed a header across for Richardson in the middle 30 yards out, Richardson then smacking a well hit volley on his right boot narrowly wide of the far-post. Chris Wraight then trying his luck for the visitors bang on the half-hour mark only to shoot off target on his weaker right foot from just to the left of the Carlisle 'D'.

The last action of a pretty uninteresting half coming in the 43rd minute when Richardson and Gavin Rothery played in Madine down the right-hand channel. Madine though shooting weakly right-footed from 12 yards out straight into the arms of Davies. A short spell of injury time not giving the sparse crowd of about 35 people anything to get off their seats about either.



The first thing to note in the second-half was a double substitution for the Shrimps to get us underway, Ben Proctor replacing Davies in goal while Jason Yates came on for Henry McStay at centre-half. It was United attacking again though in the 47th minute when McKenna's cross saw Bowman have a close range shot blocked, Raven then being given offside as the ball pinged around the Morecambe box.

Three minutes later and Richardson showed a nice piece of skill to break into the right-hand side of the Shrimps penalty area, Gavin Clark though making a quick block as Richardson got a right-footed shot away. With 54 minutes on the clock the Blues seemed to have a good shout for a penalty turned down by Sunderland-based referee Billy Khatib, Madine, trying to get on the end of a useful Burns pass, seemingly being hauled down by Parrish.

Shortly afterwards and Hunter smacked in an excellent right-footed shot from distance which Gillespie first parried up in the air on the stretch before catching. The Cumbrians then looking to respond at the other end when Raven played the ball through for Madine to take a touch on before firing a right-footed 25-yard drive in which was comfortable for Proctor to dive and take on the floor.

Just after the half-hour mark and Hunter's pass took a flick off Kavanagh before landing at the feet of Evans ten yards out, Evans though wasting a good chance as his scuffed half-volley from there was easy for Gillespie to save. After 65 minutes it was Morecambe again pressing when Simon Lakeland fouled Richardson 30 yards out on the right.

It was Hunter once more who swung the set-piece in with his right boot and it flew over everyone in the middle, with Gillespie having to then make a good claw away from the top corner of his net on the bounce. The resultant Wraight corner in being headed out by Swinglehurst straight to Parrish on the edge of the Carlisle box, Parrish though from there half-volleying wildly right-footed over the top.



In a busier spell in the game Wainwright stuck a good cross in from the left which Kavanagh made a real hash of attempting to clear, Evans then getting in a quick right-footed shot from close range which forced a good reaction save out of Gillespie. With 20 minutes to go United then made their one and only substitution of the game when Phil Towler replaced a limping Bowman, Towler going into midfield with Richardson taking Bowman's place upfront.

Five minutes later and Carlisle failed to take their best chance of the game when a stretching Richardson, on the end of Lakeland's great cross in from the right, somehow managed to spoon the ball over the top with his right boot from four yards out. Towler then trying his luck for the Cumbrians in the 77th minute only for his well hit right-footed half-volley to slide inches wide of the far-post from 20 yards out.

Only seconds later, as the ball went out for a throw-in from the Proctor goal-kick, Ricky Ball came off the bench for the Shrimps to replace tiring youngster Evans upfront. Ten minutes left on the clock and Morecambe were pressing for a late winner when Hunter stuck in an excellent cross to the United back-post from the left, Wainwright though making a real hash off the finish as he sliced his right-footed volley miles wide from close range.

After 84 minutes Burns tried a speculative shot from distance on his left foot which looked good for a short while only for it to eventually drift over the angle of bar and near-post. The last sniff of a goal for either side coming sixty seconds later when Wainwright's cross in from the right was headed down and into the Carlisle net by Ball, his unmarked position almost on the line though being betrayed by the assistant referee raising his flag for offside.

A pretty uneventful ending to the game then came with both sides certainly having a lack of quality from their forward line over the course of the 90 minutes. The 0-0 draw now meaning that, with two games left themselves, United are six points ahead of Wrexham at the top of the table, albeit having played three games more than the Welshmen.



United line-up :

Mark Gillespie, Simon Lakeland, Michael Burns, David Raven, Steven Swinglehurst, Graham Kavanagh, Gavin Rothery, Ben McKenna, Gary Madine, Ryan Bowman (Phil Towler 70), Manny Richardson.

Unused substitutes :

Jon Ball (GK), Lance McGlen, Matt Osmond and Mark Sloan.


Morecambe line-up :

Scott Davies (Ben Proctor 46), Ben Jackson, Gavin Clark, Andy Parrish, Henry McStay (Jason Yates 46), Fraser McLachlan, Chris Wraight, Garry Hunter, Matty Poole, Michael Evans (Ricky Ball 77), Neil Wainwright.

Unused substitutes :

Niall Cowperthwaite and Jamie Silver.

Referee - Billy Khatib (Sunderland).

Attendance - 35.



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