CARLISLE UNITED 1 HARTLEPOOL UNITED 0

Antony Sweeeny in action at Carlisle. Picture by FRANK REID

Antony Sweeeny in action at Carlisle. Picture by FRANK REID

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FOOTBALLING clichés exist for a reason – their sentiments are normally not too far from reality.

Carlisle called on one such truism last night, that of the “10-man mentality”.

Pools, on the other hand, discovered “there are no gimmes in this game”, carelessly resting on the laurels of a one-man advantage and ultimately paying the predictable penalty.

Unfair a comparison it may be, but some 1,000 miles away in Barcelona another team presented with a similar scenario were showing how to exploit an opponent’s loss.

Quite how Pools failed to force home goalkeeper Adam Collin into anything resembling a save during the entire second half was certainly worthy of the 20-minute dressing-room inquest Mick Wadsworth and the players held after full-time.

For, 45 minutes earlier, they had no doubt emerged from the same changing quarters fully expecting to take maximum points back home across the A69.

It was during first-half injury-time that tempestuous teenage loanee Liam Noble launched a reckless, two-footed assault on Antony Sweeney’s right ankle.

There was only going to be one outcome and referee Russell Booth rightly ignored the home heckles to brandish a straight red card.

It was a game-ending challenge, Sweeney, though, was lucky his boot had not been planted in the turf at the point of impact, for it could have ended more than just last night’s involvement.

And so it was 10 versus 11, Noble exiting straight down the tunnel in obvious shame.

The lunge, pardon the distaste given Sweeney’s misfortune, and the subsequent sending off were arguably the highlight of a drab opening period punctuated by needless fouls and an unrelenting string of throw-ins, goal-kicks and free-kicks – it was little wonder one reporter was trying to find an internet stream of the unfolding drama in the Nou Camp.

But the second half promised so much more, at least from a Pools perspective.

Football, though, “is a funny old game”, and the numerical inequality transpired into something of a one-man “disadvantage” for Pools, such was the insipid nature of their attacking efforts after the interval.

It’s not easy to apportion blame, for no one player was presented with a chance to spurn.

Andy Monkhouse was the man on whom hope was primarily pinned, given his recent exploits.

But the forward was reduced to speculative strikes from range, 40 yards his most ambitious attempt – distance obviously not a deterrent when in the midst of a scoring streak which had brought five in six prior to this blank.

Ryan Donaldson, again paired with Monkhouse from the off, was unlucky and clearly unimpressed to be replaced by Colin Larkin just after the hour mark.

For it was the Newcastle United loanee who fashioned Pools’ best opening, skinning centre-back Liam Cooper with the most impudent of nutmegs only for Collin to repel his 10th-minute blast.

And that was it really, further scrutiny of the notepad merely throwing up ink-wasting observations such as “decent enough cross claimed by keeper” and “long throw hacked clear” – hardly the stuff of the proverbial “Alamo”.

But credit to Carlisle, for without taking the time to tally the numbers on the pitch you would never have known one team were at a disadvantage – if anything, a neutral would have pointed to Pools as the ten-man strugglers.

The hosts refused to close ranks at the back and in midfield in the wake of Noble’s red card, instead leaving Francois Zoko and Craig Curran in attack.

And so it was that Ivorian Zoko produced the one outstanding moment of quality from an otherwise forgettable, windswept 90 minutes.

The scorer had already held off the attentions of Peter Hartley before spreading play to supporting right-back Frank Simek and darting towards the danger zone.

The American skipper paused before delivering, his cross looping off the heel of the closing Evan Horwood.

But Zoko was there to meet the ball on its descent and the striker twisted his frame to thunder an unstoppable scissor-kick beyond Scott Flinders despite the best efforts of Sam Collins to knock the scorer from his motion.

James Brown was quickly introduced but the once-talismanic frontman is more a tail-end man these days and another late cameo passed without impact – his fitness is still clearly a concern.

And so there was no visiting rally, instead it was home defender Peter Murphy who came closest to altering the scoreline with a bullet header which rattled the crossbar 14 minutes from time.

The stricken Sweeney, icepack on ankle, had remained horizontal on a couch in the bowels of Brunton Park during the second half.

Let’s only hope he had managed to find a feed of the action in Catalonia, for a screening from Cumbria would have merely added to his pain.

Match statistics:

Flinders 6 – No chance with goal

Haslam 6 – Steady enough

Collins 6 – Tried best to prevent winner

Hartley 6 – Not too much to do really

Horwood 5 – Needed more from his set-plays

Sweeney 5 – Injury agony

Liddle 6 – Arguably the pick of Pools men

Murray 5 – Home crowd reception was only comfort for former player

McSweeney 5 – Had to deliver more from decent areas

Donaldson 5 – Did fashion one great chance and unlucky to be subbed

Monkhouse 5 – Had a go but couldn’t recreate recent exploits

Subs: Humphreys 5 – Like team-mates failed to threaten home goal. Larkin 5 – Tried but all was in vain. Brown 5 – Still no sign of a start

Carlisle: Collin, Simek, Cooper, Murphy, Robson, Berrett, Noble, Taiwo, Marshall, Zoko (Loy 89), Curran.

Subs n/u: Caig, Madden, Arter, Wells, Swinglehurst.

Pools: Flinders, Liddle, Collins, Horwood, McSweeney, Monkhouse, Haslam, Sweeney (Humphreys 45), Murray (Brown 74), Hartley, Donaldson (Larkin 61) Subs n/u: Gamble, Boyd, Rafferty, Bjornsson

Bookings: Carlisle: Cooper

Pools: none

Sent off: Carlisle: Noble

Pools: none

Goals:

Carlisle: Zoko 67

Pools: none

Referee: Russell Booth (Nottinghamshire)

Attendance: 3, 898