Carlisle United 0-1 Blackpool: Demetri Mitchell continues his impressive pre-season form as Seasiders edge out League Two side
Demetri Mitchell continued his fine pre-season form as a depleted Blackpool side edged out Carlisle United.
The Seasiders returned to action at Brunton Park after their pre-season preparations were disrupted in midweek with the cancellation of their friendly against Rangers due to a Covid outbreak.
Despite being without a host of first-teamers, Neil Critchley was still able to name a strong starting XI thanks to the club’s impressive strength in depth.
The Seasiders dominated the opening half but had to wait until the 37th minute to edge ahead, Mitchell scoring his third goal in as many friendlies with a composed effort on the break.
The visitors made a host of changes in the second-half, handing a debut to recent signing Richard Keogh and giving game time to a number of youngsters.
Pool came under some late pressure from their League Two opponents, but they managed to hold on for their second victory of pre-season.
Chris Maxwell and Jerry Yates, fresh from signing new long-term contracts this week, were among the starters.
Due to a lack of options in midfield, youth-team midfielder Tayt Trusty was named in central midfield alongside Grant Ward.
New recruit Richard Keogh was named on an otherwise youthful looking bench, which also included an unnamed trialist.
In total, 16 first-team players were missing for a whole variety of reasons, varying from injury to the likes of Daniel Gretarsson and Gary Madine, Covid for others and a mysterious ‘club matter’ for Bez Lubala.
Carlisle, managed by Blackpool-born former Seasider Chris Beech, named Callum Guy in their starting XI.
The midfielder, who captains the League Two outfit, departed Bloomfield Road to join the Cumbrians in January 2020.
The hosts looked to catch Critchley’s men out early on with a couple of long balls over the top, but Pool - and James Husband in particular - dealt with them well.
The Seasiders, meanwhile, were neat and tidy in possession while offering an attacking threat, Yates going close early on with a header at full stretch from Demetri Mitchell’s teasing cross.
Second-year scholar Trusty started brightly, spraying the ball with impressive poise and technique.
A Luke Garbutt corner caused some confusion inside the Carlisle box. After a bit of pinball, the ball looked set to drop to Marvin Ekpiteta, but the home defence desperately scrambled clear just in time.
The League Two side looked nervy early on, centre-back Aaron Hayden almost producing an embarrassing own goal with an overhit back pass to keeper Lukas Jensen, who just managed to control the ball before it skipped past him and into the back of the net.
Keshi Anderson had a brief sight of goal when CJ Hamilton pulled the ball back into his own path, but his powerful effort from the edge of the Carlisle box was well blocked.
The Cumbrians ventured forward for the first time on 16 minutes, working the ball well down the right to tee it up for Lewis Bell on the edge of the Pool box, but he scuffed his effort well wide.
Marvin Ekpiteta found Callum Connolly in space with a defence-splitting pass halfway through the opening half, but the full-back overhit his cross as he opted to take it first time after spotting Yates all on his own in the middle.
Despite a lull in the game, Trusty continued to catch the eye with some smart, incisive forward-passing. The youngster certainly didn’t look out of his place among his more experienced teammates.
Pool finally broke the deadlock eight minutes before the interval through Demetri Mitchell.
The goal actually began with a Carlisle corner, which Garbutt dealt well with. The defender’s clearance began a swift counter from the Seasiders, which saw Mitchell nip in ahead of a Carlisle player on the halfway line to collect Keshi Anderson’s clever flick-on.
Mitchell still had plenty to do, but he skipped past another desperate lunge to go one-on-one with keeper Jensen, where he slotted home confidently.
It was a third goal in as many pre-season games for the 24-year-old, who has been Pool’s standout performer so far this summer.
Critchley made just one alteration at the break, replacing Trusty with a trialist, who played at right-back allowing Connolly to move into central midfield.
Mitchell almost bagged a second of the afternoon when his deflected effort from just inside the box beat the keeper, only to bounce the wrong side of the post and into the side netting.
The Seasiders had the ball in the back of the net on the hour-mark through Hamilton’s finish across the keeper, but the ‘goal’ was ruled out for offside - the referee noticing the referee’s raised flag four or five seconds later than he ought to have done.
Yates then wasted a good chance to double Pool’s lead, blazing over after creating some space for himself inside the Carlisle box.
At the other end, the visitors survived a brief scare when Maxwell’s pass out from the back went straight to a Carlisle man, but the Seasiders did well to get bodies back and recover.
Another gilt-edged chance came and went for Pool as Connolly somehow missed the target despite having the goal at his mercy 10 yards out.
Critchley would make wholesale changes a minute later, introducing eight off the bench in total - Maxwell, Marvin Ekpiteta and the right-back trialist the three to stay on.
Among those to come off the bench were new signing Richard Keogh - who received a healthy round of applause from fans of his former club - Sonny Carey and Oliver Sarkic, along with a host of youngsters.
Two of them combined well, Ewan Bange laying the ball off for Brad Holmes who fired harmlessly wide.
Bange, a rangey, tall striker, was involved in the thick of the action again, linking up with Welsh Under-18 international Luke Mariette to tee up Sarkic who dragged his shot wide of the far post.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, the away side were given a scare when Zach Clough flashed a header just wide from Guy’s free-kick. Joe Riley then curled wastefully wide when well placed.
Pool came under a bit of pressure late on, which was to be expected given the majority of their side was made up of youngsters.
With just five minutes remaining, they were given a major let-off when Brennan Dickenson lofted the ball over Maxwell but wide, after being found in acres of space.
The Seasiders had the chance to put the game to bed for good on 87 minutes, but Arnold Matshazi could only shoot straight at Carlisle’s sub keeper Magnus Norman, despite having options either side of him.
Carlisle continued to bang at the door and ought to have levelled with a minute to spare through substitute and former AFC Fylde man Gime Toure, but he could only fire over Maxwell’s crossbar after twisting and turning his man.
It turned out to be Carlisle’s final opportunity of the game, as Pool’s youngsters stood firm to ensure a clean sheet and a second victory of pre-season - building on the opening friendly win at Southport.
Critchley’s men return to action on Tuesday night, hosting Premier League side Burnley, before making the trip to Morecambe in their final friendly of the summer ahead of their league opener at Bristol City.
Carlisle: Jensen, Armer, Hayden, Feeney, Riley, Whelan, Bell, Mellish, Guy, Clough, Abrahams
Subs: Norman, Simons, Tanner, Dickenson, Charters, Dixon, Mampala, Toure, Fishburn
Blackpool: Maxwell, Connolly, Ekpiteta, Husband, Garbutt, Ward, Trust, Hamilton, Mitchell, Anderson, Yates
Subs: Monks, Moore, Keogh, Trialist, Fitzgerald, Mariette, Matshazi, Carey, Sarkic, Bange, Holmes
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Attendance: 1,863 (256 Blackpool)
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