DURING their first game back at a Brunton Park stadium ravaged by floods, Carlisle United let down their defences for York City to snatch a first point in 2016.
Luke Summerfield scored an 88th-minute equaliser for the Minstermen as Carlisle, perhaps suffering from fatigue following their midweek, extra-time exertions in Yeovil, surrendered a lead they should have extended following Jason Kennedy’s early strike on the hosts’ return to their own ground following a two-month absence.
But City should receive some credit for a late rally, as second-half substitutes Danny Galbraith, Bradley Fewster and Kenny McEvoy sparked some life into a visiting team that had taken 53 minutes to muster their first shot – on or off target – of the afternoon.
Galbraith showed genuine quality to tee up a chance for Vadaine Oliver within minutes of entering proceedings and then rattled the post with a spectacular 25-yard strike that led to Summerfield’s leveller.
On-loan Middlesbrough striker Fewster, meanwhile, made a strong case for his inclusion from the start in the Minstermen’s next contest with an enthusiasm that unsettled a Cumbrians defence, who had comfortably contained Oliver and Ntumba Massanka for long periods.
McEvoy also reminded City supporters of his threat against tiring legs with a sprightly right-wing cameo off the bench.
Earlier, Carlisle had controlled first-half proceedings as Jackie McNamara’s new-look diamond formation – with Summerfield at its summit and skipper Russell Penn in an inside-right role – failed to cut it.
Carlisle found lots of space in the middle of the park and, after Mark Ellis’ downward header from a David Atkinson free kick was saved low to his right by Scott Flinders, an ambitious 30-yard Kennedy strike bounced well wide before the ex-Bradford midfielder displayed greater composure to open the scoring on 15 minutes.
Collecting the ball on the edge of City’s penalty box, Kennedy waltzed past challenges from Penn and a vulnerable Dave Winfield before beating the exposed Flinders from eight yards.
Jabo Ibehre went on to head off target from an inswinging Macauley Gilliesphey free kick.
Moments later, Gilliesphey headed over a gaping goal, himself, after Flinders had failed to deal with Tom Miller’s long throw amid vain protests that he had been impeded.
Ibehre also headed too high from a left-wing Derek Asamoah cross that was drilled in at a difficult height and pace.
Following the restart, meanwhile, Gilliesphey wastefully blasted against the roof of a stand from distance after a Luke Hendrie error before City mustered their first threat – a 20-yard Oliver attempt that was deflected over.
At the other end, a clever free-kick routine created space for Atkinson, whose low 25-yard drive was gathered by Flinders.
Penn, who had been cautioned earlier, then narrowly avoided a red card after his late lunge was only punished with a free kick.
He was substituted moments later, while Asamoah sidefooted wide from eight yards after Kennedy had pulled the ball back from the left byline.
On 63 minutes, Femi Ilesanmi called home keeper Mark Gillespie into action for the first time when the City left back’s intended cross only required a routine catch from under the hosts’ crossbar.
Asamoah went on to see an edge-of-the-box effort deflected wide by Hendrie’s determined challenge before setting up striking partner Ibehre for a straightforward four-yard opportunity that he headed well off target.
That miss seemed to galvanise City with Fewster seeing a near-post attempt, from McEvoy’s low right-wing cross, deflected over.
Oliver, who had strayed offside a frustrating seven times, then found good space in the home penalty box and was picked out expertly by Galbraith, only for his ten-yard shot to be blocked by Ellis.
On 85 minutes, Atkinson burst past Galbraith, Matty Dixon and Hendrie before releasing Hallam Hope for a free run on Flinders’ goal but the City keeper got the merest of touches on the home sub’s shot to push it narrowly wide.
The significance of that save heightened considerably following the game’s next attack when Galbraith’s thumping 25-yard drive hit the base of Gillespie’s left-hand upright before falling to Summerfield in the inside-left channel.
He went on to sweep the ball across Gillespie and inside the same post from 12 yards.
Ibehre subsequently brushed the sidenetting for Carlisle in stoppage time but City were not to be denied their fifth point from a possible 30 under McNamara.
Scott Flinders: 6 – in difficulty for one long throw but made vital late save from Hope
Luke Hendrie: 6 – willing and tigerish runner but could have used the ball better
Dave Winfield: 6 – made a couple of mistakes and caught a little flat-footed for goal
Kyle Cameron: 7 – competed well in the air and held his own against powerful Ibehre
Femi Ilesanmi: 6 – defended his flank but failed to threaten going forward
Russell Penn: 5 – looked a little uncomfortable in his off-centre role and could have been red-carded
Matty Dixon: 6 – neat and tidy in possession without really hurting the hosts
Luke Summerfield: 6 – not at his creative best but kept composure to bag equaliser
Michael Coulson: 6 – plugged away without getting the better of home side
Vadaine Oliver: 6 – flagged offside far too many times but threatened twice in second half
Ntumba Massanka: 5 – yet to get a sniff of goal during first two pro outings
Substitutes: Bradley Fewster 7 – enthusiastic (for Massanka, 64), Kenny McEvoy 7 – threatening (for Penn, 64), STAR MAN Danny Galbraith – provided some much needed invention and imagination (for Coulson, 75).
Subs not used: Josh Carson, George Swan, Taron Hare, Michael Ingham.
Mark Gillespie, David Atkinson, Michael Raynes, Mark Ellis, Macauley Gilliesphey, Tom Miller (Alex Gilliead, 64), Jason Kennedy, Gary Dicker, Bastien Hery (Antony Sweeney, 84), Jabo Ibehre, Derek Asamoah (Hallam Hope, 80). Subs not used: Charlie Wyke, Dan Hanford, Brandon Comley, Alex McQueen.
Carlisle star man: Atkinson – strong defensively and also threatened at other end
Referee: Andy Haines rating: 7/10 – home fans would argue Penn should have been sent off but generally good
Booked: Penn 51, Massanka 59, Raynes 87, Oliver 90+4.
Attendance: 7,461 (327 from City)
Shots on target: Carlisle 4, City 3
Shots off target: Carlisle 11, City 3
Corners: Carlisle 4, City 6
Fouls conceded: Carlisle 7, City 11
Offsides: Carlisle 4, City 8