Rovers manager Joey Barton resorted to burning sage at The Quarters training ground during the week in a bid to remove negative energy ahead of today’s clash at the Mem.
Rovers shuffled the pack, with three changes to the side that lost 3-1 at home to Swindon Town last week. Out went the injured Sam Finley and the suspended Alfie Kilgour, whilst Pitman dropped to the bench to be replaced by Luca Hoole, Aaron Collins and Harvey Saunders.
The Cumbrians’ defence opened up on 12 minutes, allowing Antony Evans time to line up a shot but unfortunately the attacking midfielder lost his footing and slipped as he shot wide. Morgan Feeney brought down Harvey Saunders in the 16th minute, resulting in the game’s first booking from referee Charles Breakspear, who officiated last season’s League 2 Play-Off Final that upcoming visitors Newport County lost to Morecambe. The resulting free kick was headed tamely over Jensen’s bar by Connor Taylor.
Superb skill on the right-hand touchline from Harry Anderson won a free-kick for Rovers, but again it came to nothing as the game struggled to spark into life. Anderson was then called into action at the other end, sprinting back to ensure a two-on-one breakaway for Carlisle came to nothing. Harries then got the home side’s first caution for a foul just outside the penalty area. Clough’s cross was headed away by Hoole and Rovers quickly switched the play to the other half as they continued to enjoy the majority of possession.
Devine was next in the referee’s notebook for a foul on Brown. Evans again failed to beat the first man with his cross. Out of nowhere, Carlisle striker Alessandra was allowed time and space in the penalty area, his deflected shot falling to Clough, whose fine strike warmed the palms of in-form Gas ‘keeper James Belshaw.
Finally, the goal that the game was crying out for was superbly crafted by Antony Evans, jinking into the box on the left in the 34th minute, turning his marker inside out, before firing low and hard into the bottom corner. Evans became the tenth different goalscorer this season.
A flurry of action then saw the injured Brown replaced by Nick Anderton against his former team and Alessandra booked for a foul on Harry Anderson. Anderton was called into immediate action, clearing his lines after Carlisle looked to hit back. An intercepted Collins cross saw Rovers’ last attack of the half come to nothing, but Joey Barton will have been delighted to see his troops ahead at the interval. Rovers began the second half attacking the home end and immediately regained control of possession, although Belshaw had to be alert to stop Clough dinking the ball over his head in a rare Carlisle attack.
They were soon back in the ascendancy though, and nice play down the left saw Harvey Saunders spurn a chance to double Rovers’ lead, firing straight at Jensen from 18 yards. The away side made an early change, Alessandra departing in the 52nd minute, replaced by Gibson. Carlisle left-back Jack Armer then saw yellow for hacking down Anderson in the 59th minute as the game became scrappy, before his captain Callum Guy joined him in the book a minute later.
Tristan Abrahams was the next off the bench for the Cumbrians, looking to give their 292 travelling supporters something to cheer. Rovers responded with a change of their own; Luke Thomas coming on to the field in place of the hard-working Harry Anderson. Collins moved to the flank to allow Thomas a central role as the game entered the final quarter. Taylor Charters came on for Armer and from a corner Callum Guy hit a low shot that Belshaw comfortably gathered in the middle of his goal.
Mellish became the sixth Carlisle player to be booked, before Saunders collected the home side’s second card, harshly adjudged to have committed a foul whilst challenging for a header on the halfway line. Rovers them made their final substitution, with Collins being replaced by Sam Nicholson, who received a warm welcome from the Gas faithful as he made his comeback from injury.
A superb break from Gibson threatened to hand the visitors an unlikely equaliser, his shot cannoning behind for a corner, after he had made 60 yards down the right. Nicholson then made the game safe in the 85th minute, stroking home at the far post after an inviting cut-back from fellow substitute, Luke Thomas.
Thomas then saw yellow for a late challenge, soon followed by Glenn Whelan for a similar tackle. He was soon back in the action though, setting up Harvey Saunders for the third, the midfielder firing high and handsomely past Jensen to round off a miserable afternoon for Carlisle.
Rovers host Chelsea U21’s in the Papa John’s Trophy on Wednesday, 13th October (7PM KO).
Rovers: James Belshaw, Aaron Collins (78′), Paul Coutts (C), Connor Taylor, Harry Anderson (68′), Antony Evans, Harvey Saunders, Glenn Whelan, Cian Harries, Luca Hoole, Junior Brown (37′).
Subs: Jed Ward, Nick Anderton (37′), Zain Westbrooke, Sam Nicholson (78′), Brett Pitman, Luke Thomas (68′), Pablo Martinez.
Carlisle United: Lukas Jensen, Jack Armer (72′), Danny Devine, Callum Guy (C), Lewis Alessandra (53′), Zach Clough, Brennan Dickenson, Jon Mellish, Morgan Feeney, Corey Whelan, Brad Young (63′).
Subs: Gabe Breeze, Jon Dinzeyi, Tristan Abrahams (63′), Taylor Charters (72′), Manny Mampala, Gime Toure, Jordan Gibson (53′)