The mercury plunged in snowy Carlisle and Graham Kavanagh’s Cumbrians took some of the heat out of their League One survival fight with a crucial three points at Brunton Park.
Their one goal defeat of free-falling Bradford City was nervy, scrappy and not one for the purists, but Kavanagh won’t care a lot about that this morning. Thanks to Lee Miller’s first-half overhead kick they secured a win that was the difference between being safely nestled in the middle of the table and mired in the bottom four. The League One standings are that tight right now.
For Kavanagh, though, there is pleasure to be taken from the resilience that his side showed against a Bradford side who bombarded their box in the second half, but could not find a way past the pleasingly resolute Jordan Pickford.
To keep a clean sheet and deal with Bradford’s direct approach will have been a fillip for Kavanagh, who was left scratching his head after the defensive errors that saw them sustain a damaging defeat against Gillingham over the weekend.
And there was the silver lining of a mature performance from midfield starlet Brad Potts, who made much of the running in a first half that Carlisle edged.
After Saturday’s horror show, Kavanagh needed his team to make a strong start and after some tentative shadow boxing in those early stages, they drew first blood after the visitors failed to deal with a corner.
James Berrett whipped in the set piece and after the Bantams struggled to clear with any sort of conviction the ball landed invitingly for Lee Miller to acrobatically convert past the stranded Jon McLaughlin.
That early goal settled Cumbrian nerves and they started to perform with much more conviction. Potts, who had started brightly, tried his luck from range and the runs of David Amoo started to prompt panic in the visiting back four.
Carlisle were getting joy down both flanks and McLaughlin was forced into a smart stop when a cross-cum-shot from Danny Redmond evaded everyone and fizzed menacingly towards the Bradford goal.
At the other end Carlisle were indebted to on-loan goalkeeper Jordan Pickford after Adam Reach, cutting in from the right after a mazy run, stung the Sunderland stopper’s palms with a thudding drive.
Having heeded that warning, Carlisle created two clear-cut opportunities to extend their lead in the early stages of the second half. First, Stephen Darby misjudged a clearance to give the galloping Amoo a chance to advance on goal, but after he had rounded McLaughlin he could not find the killer touch to double Carlisle’s advantage. And then Miller, scrambling to meet Amoo’s testing cross, headed straight at the Bradford goalkeeper as Carlisle continued to look more threatening in the final third.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a team that are so low on confidence, Carlisle began to look more frayed as the game went on and Bradford were inches away from a leveller when Garry Thompson burst free from the attentions of Robson to tee up striker James Hanson, who couldn’t quite crane his neck to bring parity.
The edginess of the home side started to tell as the game wore on and the Bantams went close through skipper Gary Jones and the lively Adam Reach, who was the best player on the pitch for long periods.
Aaron Mclean tried his luck from distance during four edgy minutes of stoppage time but to the relief of a low crowd, Carlisle held firm to clinch a crucial three points.