Carlisle United 2 Doncaster Rovers 1: Rovers made to pay for missed chances as Cumbrians inflict first defeat in 11
It seems Carlisle United and frustration come hand in hand when encountered by Doncaster Rovers.
After throwing away a 2-1 lead against their promotion rivals in September, they shot themselves in the foot again to end a ten match unbeaten streak.
While defending let them down at the Keepmoat, Tuesday night’s failure to take anything from the game at Brunton Park was down to issues at the other end.
Chances were created, plenty of them delivered on a plate, but composure in the box was severely lacking.
Andy Williams’ struggles in front of goal continued while John Marquis caught the same bug. Both should have had at least a goal apiece.
And the fact their first shot on target came in the 94th minute tells the whole story.
A goal from Tommy Rowe which came even later and had the home side rattled was scant consolation.
So frustration was the order of the day, particularly when Nicky Adams showed superb ruthlessness to volley Carlisle into a first half lead.
Going behind was the worst thing that could have happened. It injected the hosts with confidence and energy and they pressed superbly, denying Rovers the space they relish.
And with the game in the balance and the final five minutes approaching, Niall Mason unfortunately turned the ball into his own net attempting to hook clear a shot from substitute Jabo Ibehre.
There was a warning sign it was not going to be Rovers’ day before a ball was even kicked. Andy Butler was ruled out with illness after the warm-up.
Joe Wright, who had dropped to the bench, started in a back three with James Coppinger returning after being rested against Newport .
Rovers forced their way into the game after a slow start and looked the more likely to score.
They should have been ahead on 20 minutes after a stunning piece of build-up play. Slick, sharp passing saw Williams flick a wonderful ball into the path of Marquis, who blasted over the bar from 15 yards.
The pressure increased but Rovers’ quality in the box continued to evade them.
Blair who struck a first time cross which Williams met with a side-foot volley but could only scuff it off target.
And it proved costly as Carlisle took the lead on 34 minutes.
Racing on the counterattack, John O’Sullivan delivered a deep cross to the unmarked Adams who smashed a volley in at the near post.
Rovers should have been level almost immediately. Tommy Rowe dinked a cross into the box which Marquis met with a header but his connection was poor.
This chance apart, Rovers went off the boil after conceding. Play was sloppy and they struggled to maintain possession.
Carlisle on the other hand were buoyed, showing renewed confidence and a strong desire to press the opposition.
They almost doubled the advantage when the impressive Jamie Proctor fed in Reggie Lambe whose powerful drive was palmed away by Lawlor.
Carlisle started the second half the brighter and it took another fine stop by Lawlor to keep them at bay, palming away Shaun Brisley’s header.
Again Rovers’ composure evaded them as they should have levelled. A superb through ball from Houghton sent Marquis scampering but he dallied over his shot and was closed down.
There was a throw of the dice from Darren Ferguson as he sent on Alfie May for Williams.
But Carlisle grabbed a second on 85 minutes when Mason turned into his own net.
Rovers did produce a remarkable late rally. Rowe headed in a corner at the near post in the 95th minute and the pressure was piled on.
Rowe mishit a volley from a smart May cross and Grant fired straight at Gillespie in the breathless last seconds. But, as the evening as a whole suggested, it was not to be.
CARLISLE: Gillespie, Liddle, Raynes, Brisley, Gillesphey, Joyce, Jones, O’Sullivan (Devitt 71), Lambe, Adams (Bailey 89), Proctor (Ibehre 76). Subs not used: Bacon, S Miller, T Miller, Waring.
ROVERS: Lawlor, Alcock, Wright, Mason, Blair, Coppinger, Houghton, Grant, Rowe, Marquis, Williams (May 72). Subs not used: Etheridge, Evina, Keegan, Middleton, Beestin, McSheffrey.
REFEREE: Tony Harrington (Cleveland)