Fleetwood 2-0 Carlisle
Fleetwood Town completed a hat trick of League One scalps to reach the Northern semi-final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Carlisle United, winners in 2011, went the way of Tranmere Rovers and Crewe Alexander as Town turned on the style in front of a national audience watching on Sky Sports. David Ball’s third strike in successive games and a stunning Antoni Sarcevic goal gave Town a deserved 2-0 victory to extend their winning run to four games.
Graham Alexander made just one change from the side who won at Gloucester City. Nathan Pond was rested after fifteen successive games, allowing Ryan Cresswell to partner Mark Roberts in defence for the first time since the Burton Albion game in mid-August.
Carlisle manager Graham Cavanagh made an enforced change in goal. Former Grimsby Town player Greg Fleming replaced Mark Gillespie who tore a muscle in the FA Cup game at the weekend.
It was a blustery evening in Fleetwood as Sky Sports came to town. Their presence for live coverage, another first for the club, emphasised the progress made at Highbury. A reminder of former days was the presence of Andy Bell and Lenny Reid as guests of the club.
Town had the perfect start, taking the lead on the fifth minute. Sarcevic made ground down the left before firing in a cross met by Ball in front of goal. It was the striker’s sixth of the season. Sarcevic had a chance to increase the lead two minutes later, firing over from the edge of the area after good service from Jeff Hughes on the left.
Town had a lucky escape in the ninth minute. Their defence lost focus for a moment and Brad Potts struck the inside of the right post with a low shot. James Berrett saw yellow after 14 minutes for a foul on Charlie Taylor.
Fleming came to his side’s rescue in the 17th minute as both Sarcevic and Hughes had chances to score in a dramatic few moments. Town were taking the game to their League One opposition and the impressive Sarcevic was often the catalyst, bringing a further save from Fleming with a left-foot shot in the 19th minute. His determination then led to a 24th minute corner, met with a firm header from Cresswell. Under pressure, Carlisle’s Prince Buaben cleared off the line.
With the wind in their faces, Town continued to press. Just after the half hour, Hughes crossed from a tight angle on the left, forcing David Amoo to clear his lines. Soon after, Ball jinked his way into position but his left foot shot cleared the crossbar.
Town resisted Carlisle pressure to mount yet another attack, in the 40th minute. Ball won the ball in his own half and set off on a long run before feeding Gareth Evans. Carlisle defended yet again. The visitors ended the half with some strong running+ but Town had created enough chances in an impressive 45 minutes to have one foot already in the semi-final.
Town swiftly turned defence into attack at the start of the second half. A move cleverly initiated by Sarcevic and taken on by Stewart Murdoch ended with Hughes grazing the outside of the post. Conor Townsend then brought the first save from Scott Davies, saving to his right. David Symington’s cross from deep looped dangerously over the bar in the 51st minute as United enjoyed their best period. It was all in vain, however, as Town stunned them with a stunning second goal. Evans hit a long pass into the path of Sarcevic who controlled before stroking an exquisite lob over Fleming.
As the hour passed, Town were in control, dominating possession with fluent approach play. A mix-up in the Carlisle defence almost let Sarcevic in again with twenty minutes left. Cavanagh had made a double substitution with Josh Gillies and Lewis Guy joining the game. Ball was next to test the keeper, cutting in from the left.
There was momentary danger with quarter of an hour left but Davies dived to his left to snuff out an attack down the left. Town’s first change came in the 78th minute when Junior Brown replaced Hughes in midfield. Brown almost set up Ball with his first touch, a low cross from the right. As the rain fell on the excellent Highbury pitch, Town were quicker to the ball and Carlisle were finding it difficult to see a way back. Evans gave Sarcevic a further chance in the 83rd minute, the left foot shot sliding past at the far post.
It was the midfielder’s last contribution following an epic performance. He left the field in the 84th minute to a standing ovation from the Cod Army in the 2446 crowd, preceded by Ball who was also given a rousing reception. Jon Parkin and Emmanuel Dieseruvwe replaced the two heroes. Parkin was denied by the offside flag in added time.
Davies, McLaughlin, Cresswell, Roberts (c), Taylor, Evans, Schumacher, Murdoch, Hughes (Brown 78), Sarcevic (Dieseruvwe 84), Ball (Parkin 84)