Stoppage time leveller prevents U’s going top
COLCHESTER United were denied the chance to go top-of-the-table in heartbreaking fashion last night as Paul Thirlwell lashed home deep into stoppage time.
The U’s deservedly led at the break courtesy of Reading loanee David Mooney’s powerful 30th minute header.
Carlisle dominated the second period, but it looked as though the hosts had survived as a string of good saves from keeper Mark Cousins, some brave defending and the crossbar denied the visitors.
The Cumbrians grabbed a deserved equaliser deep into the five minutes of added on time though when, following an almighty scramble in the box, Thirwell fired through a crowd of players.
U’s boss John Ward made three changes to his side following their gallant 2-0 defeat at Premier League side Sunderland in the Carling Cup on Tuesday night.
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The rested duo of midfielder Andy Bond and striker David Mooney both came back into the side at the expense of Lloyd James and Kayode Odejayi, while Marc Tierney recovered in time from his illness to replace John White at left-back.
Indeed, it would have been an exact return to the side which won 2-1 at Rochdale last Saturday if it hadn’t been for the fact that Paul Reid (groin) wasn’t deemed fit; Pat Baldwin continuing at centre-back.
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Meanwhile, Carlisle boss Greg Abbott stuck with the same side for the fifth successive game; six of his table-topping starting XI having all arrived at Brunton Park over the summer.
With the hosts employing a 4-3-3 and the visitors a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield, both sides tried to pass the ball about on the floor in the opening exchanges, the result of which being that much of the play was confined to the midfield third.
U’s right-back Brian Wilson got forward on a number of occasions but couldn’t quite find a blue and white shirt in the area with his final ball, while at the other end the home defence stood firm whenever the visitors got anywhere near their box.
Baldwin was fortunate to get away with just a talking to from the referee when he cynically hauled back Ivory Coast midfielder Francoise Zoko on his way to goal, before tight offside decisions ensued at either end.
Colchester finally created the first big chance of a cagey game in the 28th minute when Mooney stretched to head a deep Wilson cross straight at the keeper.
The Cumbrians failed to heed that warning though and they fell behind in similar circumstances just two minutes later as marauding full-back Wilson finally got his delivery right for Mooney to powerfully head home.
Colchester grew in confidence after the goal and it was them who asked all the questions in the period before the break.
And they would have doubled their half-time advantage had keeper Adam Collin not made a fine save from Anthony Wordsworth’s close range header in the 42nd minute following Mooney’s clipped cross from the right.
Carlisle started on the front foot at the beginning of the second period to leave U’s assistant boss Joe Dunne hollering on the sidelines.
Fortunately keeper Mark Cousins, who retained his place following two mistakes in midweek, was alert to a long-range effort from Curran and a free header from defender James Chester.
At the other end American right-back Frank Simek made a superb sliding challenge to deny Henderson in the box, however it was Carlisle who increasingly began to take a strangle hold on the game.
The Cumbrians continued to put a number of balls into the home side’s box and the U’s again had the assured Cousins to thank in the 61st minute. The 23-year-old was initially heading the wrong way, but adjusted to acrobatically claw out Gary Madine’s close range header.
On the one occasion the visitors did beat Cousins they were denied by the woodwork. Zoko did superbly to hook an awkward volley over his shoulder in the box in 75th minute but the shot came down off the underside of the bar before being hacked away.
Colchester tried to run down the clock in the closing stages, but that backfired when the fourth official showed an additional five minutes of injury time.
And they were punished deep into that stoppage time when Thirwell lashed home through a crowd.
COLCHESTER UTD (4-3-3)
Cousins 8; Wilson 8, Tierney 7, Okuonghae 7, Baldwin 7; Izzet 6, Bond 7, Perkins 7 (Beevers 71, 7); Henderson 7, Wordsworth 7 (Odejayi 77), Mooney 8 (White 87).
Unused Subs: Vincent, Heath, James, Pentney.
CARLISLE UTD (4-1-2-1-2)
Collin 7; Simek 7, McDaid 6, Chester 7, Harte 7 (Murphy 75, 6); Thirlwell 7, Taiwo 6 (Kavanagh 83), Berrett 7 (Robson 73, 6), Zoko 6; Curran 7, Madine 7.
Unused Subs: Bridge-Wilkinson, Hurst, Kane, Caig.
U’s Man-of-the-Match: Mark Cousins
Booked: Mooney (4), Izzet (65), Berrett (69)
Referee: Mr G Ward