Carlisle close in on leaders

CARLISLE United earned a valuable draw on Saturday, which closes the gap on League One leaders Swansea to six points, writes ANDY HALL.

CARLISLE United earned a valuable draw on Saturday, which closes the gap on League One leaders Swansea to six points, writes ANDY HALL.

And it was a hard-working performance that typifies the never-say-die attitude manager John Ward has instilled in his side.

“There were long periods when I found myself wondering where a goal would come from because our forward play took a while to get going,” he said. “But we’ve dug in against a very determined team and managed to get a result. The players have shown they have the character to see us through what will be a very tough period.”

Swindon, with on-loan Fulham midfielder Mike Timlin pulling the strings, threatened to run away with it early on, and United have keeper Keiren Westwood to thank for their half-time clean sheet.

The Cumbrians’ first attack of any note didn’t come until the 54th minute, when Hackney carried the ball forward from deep before spotting Grant Smith on the edge of the box. His clipped cross fell for Bridge-Wilkinson and he left Brezovan with no chance as he guided his header in to the bottom corner.

Swindon responded quickly and were level seven minutes later when Simon Cox crashed a 10-yard volley in to the net.

Westwood was quickly in action again, tipping a 20-yard Timlin free kick away from his top corner, and it was all hands to the pumps as Murphy, Horwood and Livesey found themselves putting the block in on goal-bound efforts. The home side took the lead with 10 minutes to play when Brezovan launched a huge kick from inside his own area towards the United half. The ball was allowed to bounce and Sturrock tussled with Murphy, pushing the defender out of the way, before unleashing a first-time 17-yard volley beyond Westwood and in.

Murphy quickly made amends, with an 86th-minute headed equaliser from a pinpoint Simon Hackney corner, and the Cumbrians played out their hard-earned draw.

Scorer Marc Bridge-Wilkinson said: “We’re going to get games like this, where we aren’t at our best, and it’s important we come away with something.’’

SWINDON: Brezovan, Comminges, Jack Smith, Ifil, Aljofree, McGovern, Easton, Timlin, McNamee, Sturrock (Ashikodi 89), Cox. Subs (not used): Phil Smith, Zaaboub, Nicholas, Morrison.

Booked: McGovern

Goals: Cox 61, Sturrock 80

CARLISLE: Westwood, Raven, Horwood, Livesey, Murphy, Taylor (Carlton 73), Lumsdon, Bridge-Wilkinson, Grant Smith (Joyce 68), Graham, Hackney (Arnison 89). Subs (not used): Howarth, Madine.

Goals: Bridge-Wilkinson 54, Murphy 86

Attendance: 6,004

Referee: Mike Russell (Hertfordshire)

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