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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Carlisle Utd in good form as they take apart Barrow in friendly

Barrow 0 Carlisle Utd 4: Pre-season friendlies are notoriously misleading when it comes to giving an accurate assessment of how a team will perform competitively.

Jonathan Meades photo
Jonathan Meades

Carlisle United will be hoping that isn’t the case after another hugely-satisfying result and performance which suggests they have everything going for them as they count down towards the new season.

Twelve goals scored and three clean sheets in their opening three friendlies against Kendal Town, Workington Reds and Barrow makes pretty good reading – and they’re not even at full throttle yet.

While there are much tougher tests still to come for Carlisle in coming weeks with warm-up games against Middlesbrough, St Mirren and Morecambe looming, plenty of boxes are being ticked and that will be putting a spring in the step of Greg Abbott and his players as they head off today for a week-long training camp in the north east.

The return of talisman striker Lee Miller after he was forced to sit out the midweek win at Workington while he is carefully nursed back after a summer hernia operation, some eye-catching performances from an exciting new crop of Brunton babes and some thought-provoking displays from trialists ensured this was no meaningless friendly.

Rustiness is an allowable disorder for the time of the year and Miller was only able to show small glimpses of the form which made him such a massive hit last season.

But being able to clock up a 60-minute run-out means the big Scottish targetman is on now on the road to full fitness after missing the final nine games of last season with a groin injury.

Experimentation and the gathering of match fitness for the full squad were the manager’s twin objectives, but the game also gave Abbott another opportunity to assess trialists Jonathan Meades, Alessio Bugno, Mark Kerr and Dale Hopson. Where Jim McAlister was, was anyone’s guess as Carlisle gave no explanation for the trialist former Greenock Morton and Hamilton player’s no-show.

The other four are now anxiously waiting to see if they will be offered a deal by Carlisle and Abbott will have had plenty to chew over on the twisting, turning journey back home from south Cumbria.

The absence of JP McGovern, whose pre-season has been disrupted by a hernia problem, and Rory Loy, who is yet to feature after breaking his leg on Boxing Day at Preston, saw Andy Welsh and Matty Robson playing in a three-man attack alongside Miller.

It gave versatile former Cardiff City youngster Meades a chance to start in his favoured left-back position, before being pressed into action on the opposite flank for the second half.

Although Abbott will baulk at the suggestion, Carlisle began with what looked like a recognisable starting line-up, with skipper Paul Thirlwell engaged in a three-man midfield alongside Chris Chantler and James Berrett and a central defensive partnership of Danny Livesey and Peter Murphy.

Having said that, you wouldn’t want to be in Abbott’s shoes when it comes to finalising his starting line-up. Throw into the frame the likes of Mike Edwards, Liam Noble and Danny Cadamarteri and competition for places is probably fiercer than at any time during Abbott’s four-year reign.

Carlisle didn’t have to roll up their sleeves for their latest victory – the inclusion of a string of trialists in the Barrow team which was chopped and changed throughout the 90 minutes showed that Bluebirds boss Dave Bayliss had more important things on his mind as he prepares for the new Blue Square Premier season than winning any bragging rights over their Cumbrian neighbours.

However, Barrow started strongly with Obi Anuoro testing United’s resolve with a shot that went wide on four minutes and then Adam Boyes giving Murphy problems before firing wide.

But it was Carlisle who took the lead on 17 minutes when Murphy’s free-kick found Welsh who scored with a well-executed lob from the edge of the area past advancing Barrow keeper Danny Hurst.

It was a personal triumph for Welsh, who endured a frustrating first season at Brunton Park following his arrival from Yeovil after injury and the impressive form of players ahead of him in the queue kept him in the shadows.

The former Sunderland winger is determined to pin down a place for the start of the season – and adding goals to his armoury can only enhance his chances.

Carlisle doubled their lead on 29 minutes when Chantler and Welsh caused problems for the home defence, before Berrett’s shot from the edge of the area was pushed away by Danny Hurst, but the rebound landed in the path of Robson who fired home.

While Barrow were still digesting their half-time cuppas, Carlisle went in search of a third goal and an excellent cross from Welsh found substitute Dale Hopson but the young trialist from Darlington headed wide.

By this time, Welsh was well into his stride and, looking like a man with a point to prove, he did well to cut inside and find Miller, who set up Robson but the left winger fired wide.

Abbott has pledged that youth will be given a chance to shine next season and Mark Beck is doing everything to try to ensure the Carlisle boss sticks to his promise.

The giant young striker – a product of United’s youth team – scored his third goal in three pre-season games to make it 3-0 just three minutes after his introduction.

Three is clearly the magic number for Beck, who coolly slotted home into the bottom corner like a seasoned pro.

Fellow youth team graduates Brad Potts and Dave Symington also made eye-catching introductions and the pair combined soon afterwards but Potts headed just wide.

The game started to peter out but, two minutes from time, one of Barrow’s trialists handled the ball in the area under pressure from Beck and the 18-year-old first year pro stepped up to bury the resulting penalty.

Talk about the confidence of youth. That was a message that will not have been lost on Beck’s manager as he ponders his squad for the opening game against Accrington Stanley in the Capital One Cup in three weeks’ time.

Carlisle United: Collin (Gillespie, 60), Simek (Bugno, 60), Livesey (Edwards, 46), Murphy, Meades, Thirlwell (Hopson, 46) Berrett (Kerr, 46), Chantler (Potts, 46), Welsh (Symington, 60), Miller (Beck, 60), Robson

Barrow: Hurst (Pearson, 68), Hoskin, Skelton, Flynn, Trialist, Trialist, Rutherford (Trialist, 54), Baker, Boyes (Trialist), Trialist, Anuoro

Referee: S Stockbridge

Attendance 552 (210 from Carlisle)

Goals: Welsh 17, Robson 29, Beck 63, Beck 88 (pen)

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