Stomach for the struggle
Reporter: MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 21 October 2013
Athletic 1, Carlisle 0
Athletic’s belly has been grumbling at Boundary Park, starving for three points.
Not since Port Vale back in August had Lee Johnson’s men luxuriated in victory.
This game – in the second half, anyway – was certainly lacking five stars and it was precisely the lack of refinement that made the game so satisfying
Up against a Carlisle outfit that had scored 10 points from a possible 12 under a caretaker boss, Athletic’s manager made some very good decisions.
Kirk Millar’s introduction for early injury victim Charlie MacDonald brought unorthodox flair to the scene. Few Athletic fans would have made a similar substitution; far fewer were doubting it was the right move after the full-time whistle.
Danny Philliskirk’s placing on the right of midfield worked a treat too, with clever movement infield causing many difficulties for the Cumbrians in the opening period.
Carlisle boss Graham Kavanagh may have had a point to feel aggrieved at the penalty won, and put away, by Adam Rooney. Contact appeared to be minimal as the striker turned behind the defence and was clipped by centre-back Sean O'Hanlon.
There was certainly more body on ball when goalkeeper Mark Gillespie narrowly failed to palm out the spot-kick, as hard-working Rooney made it four goals for the season.
Athletic started smartly, passing and moving the ball well even after the blow of losing MacDonald to an ankle injury.
Carlisle’s David Amoo, who later contrived to miss an open goal with a header when an offside flag spared his blushes, should have centred rather than shot from a narrow angle, only to see his effort blocked by Mark Oxley.
At the other end, James Dayton had a shout for a penalty turned down, referee Heywood obeying the rule of thumb that no side shall be awarded two marginal spot-kicks in the same period.
The home side continually penned Kavanagh’s men into their own half. But after the interval the roles reversed completely.
Athletic could have added a second when Millar’s excellent curved shot from the edge of the area drifted narrowly over. Gillespie saved low from James Wesolowski, as he had from Millar in the first half.
But the last 40 minutes were all about whether Athletic’s defence could stand firm. With Jonathan Grounds in imperious form, it could. For all Carlisle’s possession in good territory, there weren’t too many real scares.
Athletic have now conceded only one goal in the last nigh-on six hours of football.
Keep up that level of stinginess and for all Johnson’s noble values, there could be plenty more similarly-grimy victories to come.
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