Sunday 1st February saw the University of Nottingham Futsal Club make the long trip north to take on a rejuvenated Carlisle side that had picked up 3 points on the road to Hull the week before and were unbeaten in 2.
Ahead of kick off Nottingham were sitting second in the table with a game in hand over leaders Derby who held a 3 point lead, so the game was a must win for Nottingham if they were to have any chance of taking the Division 2 title.
Carlisle’s ambitions for the title were destroyed pre christmas with a defeat and a draw against FA National league strugglers Bradford Futsal Club, results which sparked a January recruitment campaign to strengthen the squad. Of the seven new signings Rob McCartney, Josh Simpson and Michael Yarker were included in the 12 man matchday squad against Nottingham with Carlisle City FC pair Simpson and McCartney making their FA National Futsal League debuts.
The dimensions of the court played a big part in the tactical approach adopted by both teams. Trinity Arena has good width but by comparison is relatively short in length. Both teams adopted a half court press and were happy to counter but it soon became apparent that Carlisle were the more comfortable in possession switching the ball from wing to wing and dominating the early exchanges between the two teams. And it was Carlisle who took the lead on 5 minutes when a well worked move down the flanks turned the Nottingham defence and left Luke Miller to squirm a shot under the Nottingham goalkeeper from close range.
The game followed a similar pattern for the majority of the first half. Yet it was Nottingham who found themselves going in at the break with a 2 -1 advantage. Nottingham dangerman Mohammed Elmaghrbi grabbing both of their goals. The first a well worked move and finish on 11 minutes and the second from the spot on 15 minutes after the referee awarded a contentious penalty when Carlisle goalkeeper Andrew Wills was judged to have committed a foul during a goalmouth scramble. For every Carlisle player that felt aggrieved by that penalty decision there was equal relief when Andrew Wills made a robust challenge on a Nottingham forward in the dying moments of the half which went unpunished.
The Carlisle team talk at half time was described by Head Coach Al Tindall as the simplest of the season – ‘carry on doing what you are doing but lets make the most of our goalscoring opportunities’ and Carlisle did just that.
Debutant Rob McCartney who had already made a significant impression on the game in the first half, playing the pivot role perfectly, grabbed his first of two goals on 24 minutes with a superb low finish into the bottom corner. His ability to bring his team mates into play and ensure the ball was retained in dangerous areas wasn’t the most pleasing element of his performance it was the work rate in the recovery to the half court defence which restricted the effectiveness of Nottinghams build up play. The game was now level at 2-2.
Nottingham were then put under a spell of Carlisle pressure and were unable to cope as Carlisle finally finished off some of the moves they were putting together and for the first time this season were showing a real level of patience in their build up play. Luke Miller claimed the 3rd on 27 minutes after his fierce left footed low drive from the middle of the court hit the post, rebounded back out, hit the goalkeeper and then to everyones surprise the Nottingham defender attempted a clearance off the line which rebounded of his own goalkeeper and landed in the net. Carlisle 3-2 up.
McCartney then grabbed his second of the game on 32 minutes with a typical turn and shot which surprised everyone to put Carlisle 4-2 up. Nottingham called a time out and immediately went full press, using fly keeper at every opportunity which proved difficult for them on the short court. Carlisle had several opportunities to put the game to bed on the counter but failed to capitalise whilst Nottingham created 3 or 4 really well worked opportunities which drew outstanding saves from Carlisle keeper Andrew Wills. Debutant Josh Simpson, and wingers John Heyes and Liam Jackson proved a real problem for the Nottingham team repeatedly thwarting attacks.
On 35 minutes the Carlisle bench were off their feet after the Nottingham goalkeeper brought down Luke Miller inside the area but both referees decided not to award a penalty. Nottingham took full advantage of this injustice and compounded Carlisles dismay as they went straight up the other end on the counter attack and Elmaghrbi smashed in his second of the game with a great finish to bring the score back to 4-3 with 5 minutes to go.
On another occasion the last 5 minutes could have been a nervy affair but Carlisle were comfortable in possession throughout the game and at the timeout the instruction was to carry on moving the ball with patience in the attack and to stay compact in the defence. The tactic paid off as last weeks hatrick hero John Heyes added a fifth for Carlisle on 37 minutes with a typical run and finish which killed the game.
Final score Carlisle 5 – 3 Nottingham.
MOM: Tough to split between the two debutants but Josh Simpson spent the majority of the game on court following an injury to fellow backman Yarker and was composed in possession, creative in setting up attacks whilst preventing several Nottingham counter attacks so just edged it on this occasion.
The result leaves Nottingham needing a win against Derby on 7th February. If they are successful Derby will need a result to clinch the Division 2 2014/15 season title when they travel to Carlisle on 15th February.
You can buy your tickets for Carlisle Futsal Club v FS Derby, which is Carlisles last home game of the season and your first chance to see their new signings in action, online by clicking here.
The game is live at the Sands Centre on Sunday February 15th from 6pm. There is music from the NoBandRequired and dancing from the Clubs Cheerleaders the Heroes. Tickets are priced at £4 each. All of Carlisles home games in the last 2 seasons have sold out quickly so don’t leave it until late or you may miss out!