Graham Kavanagh’s post-honeymoon run extended to one win in seven matches but, while a 2-2 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers only nudged Carlisle United two places up the table, the performance should have a far more positive effect on morale.
The 4,000 home fans in the Brunton Park crowd were treated to football far more exciting than anything the Bonfire Night displays could throw up against one of English football’s in-form sides.
Both sides tried to play good football and had a powerful attacking midfielder to add a bit of thrust.
Wolves took an eighth-minute lead through theirs, Bakary Sako.
Operating from the left with licence to cut in, he collected Leigh Griffiths’ pass and drilled a low shot when Wolves counter-attacked.
When Paul Thirlwell gave the ball away in midfield Wolves pounced again, but Kevin Doyle shot off target. Sako then beat Thirlwell easily and drove into the area as Sean O’Hanlon backed off but skewed his shot so badly it went for a throw-in.
A quarter of the way into the game a big away win looked likely, but Carlisle forced their way back into it with Prince Buaben, playing behind lone striker Lewis Guy, to the fore on his second Carlisle start.
The Cumbrians were as composed on the ball as you would hope a Kavanagh side would be, but their pressing high up the pitch was their most impressive feature.
Hounding the Wolves defenders down a couple of times in quick succession lifted the home fans, and when Liam Noble threaded a lovely ball through to Buaben on the half-hour the Ghanaian fired an equaliser in from just inside the area.
Wolves’ response was instant but Sako’s shot hit the post and Mark Gillespie denied Doyle with his feet from the rebound.
Carlisle should also have scored a second on 37 minutes, but Liam Robson put Matty Robson’s drilled left-wing cross into the side-netting.
David Amoo saw his shot deflect out for a corner minutes later and from it Carl Ikeme was fortunate the referee was in a forgiving mood as his poor punch prompted a melee.
When Wolves attacked they looked threatening, and four minutes before the break Griffiths headed James Henry’s cross in off both posts.
Carlisle were out much sooner for the second half, and much the sharper in it. It took only nine minutes to claim their reward. When Conor Townsend crossed Buaben, on the penalty spot, dwelt on the ball but it gave Lee Evans time to pull him down. A yellow card and a penalty drilled down the middle by Noble resulted.
Kenny Jackett sent on Jamie O’Hara, far too good to sit on a League One bench but too expensive for a third-tier wage bill and short of match practice after unsuccessful attempts to move him off it. His first real involvement did not do him justice, spooning over when picked out by Scott Golbourne’s pass.
Carlisle wanted more than simply to avoid a third successive defeat, and fourth in five games. Robson had a 30-yarder deflected out for a corner and curled another effort just over from the opposite side having gone over for the flag kick. A third long-range effort, from an 86th-minute free-kick, also cleared the bar.
Carlisle missed two easy chances either side of the 75-minute mark.
Amoo’s right-wing cross curled around the centre-back and into Guy’s path but the striker managed to not only miskick but injure himself in the process.
He was not the only guilty man. When Ikeme was unable to hold Amoo’s strike he presented a sitter Buaben side-footed wide.
Punishment very nearly followed, Mark Gillespie turning a shot from the recently introduced Jake Cassidy narrowly wide of his far post.
Wolves should have won it when with less than two minutes to go O’Hara put the ball across the open goal when putting it in looked easier. It was a wasted opportunity, but justice had been done.