With Ben McKenna (knee) joined on the sidelines by Mark Sloan (ankle) it mean another start upfront for schoolboy striker Callum Killick. The return to full action of Jamie Cleary also seeing a surprise change at the back, centre-half Cleary fitting in at right-back, with James Wood moving up into central midfield, that therefore relegating Phil Towler to the bench.
The game got underway on yet another windy morning up at Creighton Rugby Club and things were very patchy in the early stages as both sides battled for possession. The opening chance of the game being the first goal as Ryan Bowman gave the Blues the lead after 11 minutes, the United striker latching onto a loose ball to hammer home a 22-yard right-footed half-volley beyond the reach of Town goalkeeper Charles Stewart for his 12th goal of the season.
Shrewsbury responding with a couple of shots from outside the Carlisle box in sixty seconds shortly afterwards as first Gareth Partridge fired wide then Aaron Lloyd thumped one over the top. United's lead only lasting six minutes as the visitors equalised on 17 minutes, some neat footwork by Lloyd in the 'D' seeing the ball pushed through for strike-partner Partridge to smack a 15-yard right-footer across the reach of Mark Gillespie and into the far corner.
In the 21st minute it was Jon Taylor who was getting a shot in on the Carlisle goal, his left-footed effort from 22 yards out bouncing nastily in front of a diving Gillespie, with Kieran Cahill then able to complete the clearance. Gillespie easily able to gather the next Taylor half-volley from a similar distance at his near-post three minutes later though.
United then having their own attack moments later when Matt Osmond and skipper Liam Davison played a nice one-two but Davison's under pressure 25-yard right-footer only flew well over the top. Osmond again involved in the 29th minute when his corner in flicked off the head of Steven Swinglehurst eight yards out and went out wide for a goal-kick.
Just after the half-hour mark and Davison tried his luck with a dipping half-volley on his right boot from outside the penalty area but Stewart was able to backtrack and catch it under his own crossbar. Town then going close themselves on 36 minutes when Taylor put a good cross in from the left across the Blues six-yard line which was knocked away by Cahill after it had just evaded the sliding-in Lloyd and Partridge.
A busy Taylor again on the ball after 38 minutes when he stuck a free-kick into the United box which Gillespie, who had a rare off day by his standards - although the windy conditions and a dry bobbly pitch won't have helped, could perhaps have come out for. The Carlisle goalkeeper first forced to parry a six-yard header from Scott Keyes before punching the ball away from danger.
The Blues finished the half well though and in the 40th minute Wood and Killick combined, Wood was on his weaker left foot however and his shot from the middle of the 'D' disappeared away over the crossbar. The last chance of the opening period also coming United's way when Bowman showed good skill to cut in from the left and stick in a testing cross, the ball eventually falling to Sean Law whose 22-yard right-footed half-volley sadly went straight at Stewart.
Osmond was struggling a little with his set-piece delivery in the wind and in the 48th minute Ben Richards-Everton headed into the Town side-netting from almost on the far-post by-line. Carlisle then missing a good chance to make it 2-1 sixty seconds later when a mix-up in the Shrewsbury back line saw the ball bounce up for Bowman in front of goal, 12 yards out with the wind at his back was a little bit too close for a lob though and his right-footed effort sailed marginally over the top.
Town then getting their own effort in on 52 minutes when an incisive attack only resulted in Will Richards shooting wide from the Carlisle 'D'. The visitors did score three minutes later to make it 2-1 though, Taylor's cross in seeing Gillespie put off by the run across of him of Partridge, Gillespie only able to fumble the ball straight out to the the boot of the running-in Taylor who slammed home a shot from close range.
Both sides then making changes in personnel before the kick-off, Blues boss Eric Kinder replacing Killick with James Reid upfront and Towler for Cleary, Wood then dropping into right-back as Towler featured in central midfield. The Shrews meanwhile making a straight swap at centre-half as the giant figure of Tom Bachelor was replaced by the equally tall Luke Male.
Bowman made a good run down the left for the Cumbrians shortly afterwards but there was little support for him upfront and he had to bide his time before eventually crossing in for Davison at the back-stick, Davison then hitting a right-footed half-volley from 15 yards out back across goal and wide of the target. Bowman trying to do it all on his own in the 58th minute only for his 18-yard left-footer to be deflected away from goal.
Play then going up the other end as we ticked onto the hour when Ashley Watson smashed a right-footed shot from distance miles over Gillespie's crossbar. The game then getting quite bitty for a while as both sides started to concede possession, the only things to note being United's Paddy O'Brien coming on for Osmond after 67 minutes, then Town replacing Watson with Tristian Dunkley three minutes later.
The officials had been fine for the opening hour or so then from that point on they completely lost the plot, the first bizarre decision coming on 74 minutes when Keyes fouled Bowman and then whacked the ball away after the whistle, Keyes somehow not getting booked. Law, from the free-kick 30 yards out, thumping in a perfectly hit right-footed drive which Stewart did well to push away for a corner, which produced nothing as Davison and O'Brien got themselves in a muddle taking it short.
Two minutes later and O'Brien, following a foul on Reid on the right-wing, stuck the free-kick in which Stewart clearly palmed over his own crossbar, only for the forthcoming decision to remarkably be a goal-kick. Davison then in the 77th minute going into the book for a foul on Tom Dix, which saw the Town man making a big effort to make it look a lot worse than it actually was.
That was just the start of the fireworks however as, following a little tussle a few minutes earlier, Cahill and Dunkley locked horns again after 80 minutes. From the far side I didn't see it but it was right in front of the people watching and Cahill apparently swung his arms at Dunkley but didn't connect, only for Dunkley to collapse to the ground. Cahill, according to the referee being sent off for "intent to strike an opponent", which seems right, although he didn't seem too keen to explain why Dunkley wasn't booked for taking a dive.
Post melee Ryan Woods replaced Lloyd for the Shrews then things understandably went quiet for a short while before Dix hit a 20-yard right-footer over the top on 84 minutes, that being a rare break in Dix's constant complaining at the officials. Woods getting into the feel of the game though as he went into the book for a poor lunging challenge on Richards-Everton just two minutes after coming on.
Carlisle then going close to sneaking an equaliser after 87 minutes when O'Brien stuck a corner in and a six-yard header from Richards-Everton was in all the way if it had been anywhere else but straight at Stewart. O'Brien then knocking a cross in from the left which Bowman, stretching to reach it, headed across goal and wide from ten yards out. That the last chance for Carlisle to grab a point against a visiting side who played football in the right way a lot but in wrong the way a lot more.
United line-up :
Mark Gillespie, Jamie Cleary (Phil Towler 55), Kieran Cahill, Steven Swinglehurst, Ben Richards-Everton, James Wood, Sean Law, Liam Davison (c), Ryan Bowman, Callum Killick (James Reid 55), Matt Osmond (Paddy O'Brien 67).
Unused substitutes :
Jon Ball (GK) and James Bonner.
Shrewsbury line-up :
Charles Stewart, Danny Taylor, Matt Fletcher, Will Richards, Tom Bachelor (Luke Male 55), Scott Keyes, Ashley Watson (Tristian Dunkley 70), Tom Dix, Aaron Lloyd (Ryan Woods 80), Gareth Partridge, Jon Taylor.
Unused substitutes :
Josh Evans and Wayne Farmer.
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