Cod Army’s dreams of Wembley live on

Antoni Sarcevic
Antoni Sarcevic
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Fleetwood Town claimed a third League One scalp to move themselves one step closer to Wembley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Town struggled to find space in the opening exchanges as Carlisle looked to close them out of the game.

But from their very first attack Graham Alexander’s men found the net.

David Ball launched a swift break down the right and his stinging shot was only parried by Greg Fleming.

Antoni Sarcevic picked the ball up on the edge of the box and drove to the byline, cutting the ball back for Ball to slam home from point blank range.

Town looked a real threat on the counter and set Carlisle hearts racing again minutes later when Jeff Hughes forged a path down the left.

Sarcevic chested the ball down inside the box, but blazed his shot over the bar.

The Cumbrians weren’t going to roll over easily and could have levelled with barely 10 minutes on the clock.

Fleetwood’s centre half pairing parted like the Red Sea and in came Mark Beck, his shot getting the better of Scott Davies but not the Fleetwood upright, with the woodwork protecting Town’s narrow lead.

Fleetwood should have extended their lead shortly afterwards. When the ball spun loose to Gareth Evans, Town had three chances inside the Carlisle six yard box. However, Sarcevic, Ball and Hughes were all unable to convert.

Sarcevic and forced another save from Fleming with a powerful drive from the edge of the box.

Town were breaking with real pace and intent, but needed to find a second while they were on top.

Ryan Cresswell came within a hair’s breadth of netting , his header from Steven Schumacher’s corner being scrambled off the line by Prince Buaben.

Ball was proving to be a real menace and created another chance before the break.

Showing great strength to win the ball wide on the right, he then charged into the box. Finding his angle covered, he laid the ball back to Gareth Evans, who should have done better than sending his shot wide.

Carlisle brought Lewis Guy into the attack, but it was Fleetwood who started the second half on the front foot.

Another charge through the Carlisle defence, this time from Stewart Murdoch, ended with Jeff Hughes blazing across the face of goal.

Back came Carlisle, with Town for a time looking like they might regret missed chances.

Conor Townsend forced a diving save from Davies as the Cumbrians enjoyed their first period of sustained possession.

But it was Fleetwood who struck next – a timely dose of route one football putting daylight between them and Carlisle.

Evans launched a speculative punt from deep. Sarcevic timed his run to perfection as the ball held in the air, chesting it down and launching a cheeky lob over Fleming, the ball nestling sweetly in the corner.

It looked like Carlisle were sunk, but on they ploughed, with David Symington trying his luck from distance and Beck blazing a free kick over.

Fleetwood still looked dangerous and Sarcevic should probably have had his second.

A mistake in the Carlisle defence left him with only the keeper to beat, but Fleming was brave to deny Town’s rampant midfield man.

Junior Brown was thrown on for Town and was unlucky not to get himself among the scorers after another good move started by Sarcevic.

His great awareness found Ball, who quickly moved it wide for the waiting Evans.

The cross came in, squirming across the Carlisle box, but Fleming was brave, sliding to cut it out as Brown advanced at the back stick.

Town should have put it to bed six minutes from the end.

Again it was a quick break. Following pinball in their own box, Cresswell banged the ball clear and Ball was sharp to feed Evans, who perfectly picked out the run of Sarcevic and his shot flashed past the back post.

Murdoch, Town’s driving force all night, almost served up the perfect finale, picking the ball up and, with a neat turn and fantastic vision, picking out Brown with a pass.

Brown’s effort looked goal bound right up to the point it struck the man mountain that is Jon Parkin, the Town striker inadvertently straying into the wrong place at the wrong time.

Justice wouldn’t really have been served if Parkin’s blast, a minute later, had stood, the referee blowing up for offside before he released the trigger , having been put through by Emmanuel Dieseruvwe.

It mattered not, Fleetwood were through to the area semi- finals and just three games from Wembley.

The Cod Army can, for now, keep dreaming.

Fleetwood: Davies 7, Murdoch 8, Roberts 7 (c), Evans 7, Schumacher 8, Hughes (Brown 78)7,McLaughlin 7, Cresswell 8, Sarcevic (Dieseruvwe 85) 8, Taylor 8, Ball 8 (Parkin 85). Subs (not used) : Lucas, Hogan, Dieseruvwe

Carlisle: Fleming, Townsend, Robson (Guy 45), Buaben (Lynch 65), Amoo (Gillies 65), Potts, Beck, Symington, Barrett, O’Hanlon (c), Ehmer Subs (not used) : Brass, Livesey.

Goals: Ball 6, Sarcevic 53

Att: 2,446

Referee: Stuart Atwell