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Carlisle United 1 - 3 Oxford United | Post Match Review | BlueArmyBlog | A Carlisle United Blog

Another game down, and another defeat. It's the morning after and it feels like a sombre affair. The fan base is starting to fracture online regarding discourse about the manager. You know it's bad when the "adding a new post function" on the BJAFN Facebook page is disabled. Someone posted on Twitter "Where do we go from here", and in the reaction of defeat, it felt like only one answer.


Looking at the data of the game, it would appear to some that it wasn't too bad and we were unlucky, but what the eye test showed was a team lacking in confidence, unable to execute parts of the game plan, and lacking quality in both boxes.


Lineup

There were several changes to the lineup vs Exeter. Lewis made his debut in goal, Ellis came in for Emmanuel who was declared injured by Simmo after the game, it was Moxon in for Charters, McCalmont in for Gibson, and finally, Butterworth in for Maguire. The formation looked like a 5-2-2-1 on paper. My biggest question on the lineup was where is Huntington? He may not be the answer to our quandaries, but if he's fit can it get any worse? What have we got to lose?


My concern about pre-game was where we were going to create chances from. Ellis is a good solid defender, but as a wing-back, you need to add to the attack. McCalmont is a good off-the-ball player but doesn't create as much as Gibson. I was intrigued to see what our tactics would be when it kicked off.


The Game

The first half an hour was encouraging. Off the ball, it looked like we were playing Moxon behind a 3 of Butterworth, McCalmont, and Neal. We were in a mid-block and we were allowing their centrebacks to pass it around. Once there was a heavy touch, we pressed and won the ball high up on several occasions.


At 22 minutes we created a great chance for Armstrong. We had a nice bit of possession in the previous passage of play when Neal picked up a stray pass, eventually, Moxon passed straight to their player in the middle (this wasn't the only time he'd lose the ball), luckily it ricocheted to McCalmont. Whelan took it on and after laying it off continued his run into the box. He received it back in lots of space and put in a nice low cross to Armstrong. The shot came in from just outside the 6-yard box. It was miss struck and straight at the keeper. If he gets good contact on that and it's either side of the keeper, it's in. FotMob has that as the best chance of the game in their model at 0.47xG. No one has mentioned it as a good chance, and it is not on the extended highlights. Score that goal and the game pans out completely differently.


After half an hour Oxford took hold of the game and began to work the ball into our defensive third. They had not created anything to write home about up to this point but on 39 minutes we conceded a corner after pressure began to build.

From the resulting corner, Oxford scored. It was a frustrating goal to concede, mostly because we left their tallest player, Moore unmarked at the back post. He should have been man-marked, and it was Lavelle who lost him. Moore heads into the danger area and it looks like Moxon tries to control it in the 6-yard area!? It falls to Harris who finishes nicely off the bar with a flick over his shoulder. A poor goal to concede, and we're 1-0 down again, with two mistakes from Lavelle and Moxon.


There were a few half chances for the rest of the first period. Goodrham had a long ranger which was held well by Lewis. McCalmont had a low drive in injury time which was blocked wide after some nice build-up down the right. Neal was involved in everything we did well in the first half.


The second half started in the same manner that the first had ended with Oxford on top. Carlisle changed their shape and pushed Mellish into midfield. It only took 2 minutes and Carlisle found themselves 2-0 down. Whelan had pushed out of his position when there was no pressure on the man with the ball on the right midfield. There's a big gap in the defence as we're 4 at the back now. It's a simple through ball to the forward, he is through 1 on 1, takes it around the keeper, pauses and finishes well off the post with our players rushing back. The offside is super tight. Ellis could be just playing him on. Either way, the big gap in the defence should not be there.


At this point, considering the way we've been playing, the game was finished. Two goals at pretty much either side of half-time killed it.


The game evened out, but we conceded again from a good goal from Goodrham, a low curler into the bottom corner from the edge of the box. Moore pushed out of defence and put a nice through ball through. It was a well-worked goal, and there wasn't a lot we could do. Perhaps Moxon could have closed Moore down with more intensity when he pushed into midfield.


Now that the game was gone, we opened up a bit in our usual fashion. Gibson had come on and looked lively on the left. McCalmont scored a consolation on 71 minutes after a Gibson and subsequent blocked Armstrong shot fell to McCalmomt who slotted home.


We huffed and puffed for the rest of the game. Garner forced a good save from Cumming on 85 minutes, but that was that, another defeat.


Afterthoughts

We need to take our chances and score the first goal in games. We've had the chances in previous games as well as this one. We've paid good money for Armstrong, and if we are being unbiased when comparing him to Harris, Armstrong has had a poor game. Harris scores 2 off 0.7xG and Armstrong scores none off 0.59xG. Armstrong also lost the most duels (21) and had the least amount of touches (34) of any outfield player to play 90 minutes (not entirely his fault). I'm sure he'll come good and is rusty from not playing much this season.


The other thing which I had not noticed during the game, but doesn't make for good reading is the amount of duels we lost.

We must improve in this area, especially as we will be facing teams in mid-table with less to play for compared to us as we head towards the middle and end of the season. If we are less superior from a technical viewpoint in League One, one way to level the playing field is to win more duels.


This leaves us with 57 points to play for, and a target of 31 points to get to 51. The task becomes harder after every dropped point.


On to Barnsley.


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