CARLISLE United took a massive step toward their second Wembley appearance in two seasons with a breathtaking display of attacking football against a Huddersfield Town side who had won their previous four games.
But boss Greg Abbott is refusing to take anything for granted as a trip to the Galpharm Stadium for the second leg awaits at the beginning of February.
“We’ve given ourselves a real chance but we can’t afford to say anything other than that,” he said. “We’ve played well and I’d say that it was our most complete performance of the season.
“What we have to do now is go there and do it all again, with the same kind of attitude and approach and then maybe, just maybe, we can look forward to another trip to what is a fantastic final.”
Defence was the order of the day in the opening exchanges with neither side giving anything away.
It took until the 17th minute for the first chance to come and that was persistence from Black Cat loanee Liam Noble on the edge of the area. His initial shot was blocked and he was unlucky to see his follow up effort whistle just over the bar. And it was superb football from Carlisle as the tie exploded into life two minutes later when Craig Curran flicked a clearance from the United half into the path of Zoko. His first time lay off released Ben Marshall and he completed his direct run at goal with a calm finish into the bottom corner. The Cumbrians doubled their lead in their next attack when a patient build-up left the blue shirts with plenty of options. It eventually came to Tom Taiwo on the edge of the area and he kept his eye on the ball as he drilled past the stranded Ian Bennett.
Curran was seeing plenty of action and he thought he’d added another when he let one fly from 30 yards with the home side camping forward. He readied himself to celebrate but it curled away from the target with the keeper beaten.
Huddersfield had very little to offer and Carlisle went close again when Zoko twisted and turned his way into the box. His cut-back left the defence flat-footed but Peter Clarke recovered just in time to hook it away. The lively Craig Curran then latched onto a high ball over the top in time added on for the first half but Tom Clarke was the saviour this time when he slid in to make contact just as the striker was about to pull the trigger. The Terriers saw more of the ball after the break and Peter Murphy had to time his clearance as Pilkington broke through.
It was United who were the real threat and Kay somehow kept a powerful Michalik drive out of the net, but he didn’t know much about it as the ball pinged away off his shin when it came through a gaggle of players.
Things started to look comfortable for Carlisle when Peter Murphy powered a pinpoint James Berrett past the irate Terriers stopper, and Lubomir Michalik repeated the feat from yet another Berrett set piece in the very next to attack to leave the visitors reeling on the ropes.
CARLISLE: Collin, Simek, Michalik, Cooper (Livesey 90), Murphy, Marshall, Taiwo, Noble, Berrett, Zoko, Curran. Subs (not used): Caig, Hurst, Wells, Gbarssin.
Goals: Marshall 19, Taiwo 23, Murphy 62, Michalik 65.
HUDDERSFIELD: Bennett, Peltier (Gudjonsson 88), McCombe, Peter Clarke, Tom Clarke, Pilkington, Kay, Kilbane, Arfield (Roberts 60), Rhodes, Novak (Lee 63). Subs (not used): Allinson, Nathan Clarke.
Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).