The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Matt Hill

CARLISLE boss Keith Curle says even he was left a lit­tle stunned af­ter Cum­bri­ans cap­tain Danny Grainger pro­duced an in­jury-time won­der strike to grab a point against Portsmouth.

Grainger had put his side ahead with a first-half penalty be­fore Pom­pey turned things around through Caolan Lav­ery and Marc McNulty.

But it was a fairy­tale end­ing for the skip­per, who ri­fled a 30-yard drive home in the dy­ing sec­onds, much to the amaze­ment of his man­ager.

“We had a game plan ob­vi­ously, but it didn’t in­volve Danny cut­ting in onto his weak foot and do­ing that,” ad­mit­ted Curle. “I think ev­ery­one in the ground – me in­cluded – was prob­a­bly think­ing ‘what on earth are you do­ing?’ but then it flies in.

“Danny came in for quite a lot of stick last sea­son but his at­ti­tude and ap­proach to train­ing and ev­ery­thing else is fan­tas­tic.

“He’s be­come a huge player for us this year be­cause of that. They are the best unit we’ve come up against so to get a point shows the strides we are making.”

Lav­ery should have had the visi­tors ahead in­side five min­utes but he headed straight at Carlisle keeper Mark Gille­spie.

And the Cum­bri­ans’ stop­per was soon at it again, pro­duc­ing a trio of stun­ning saves to deny Portsmouth in a hec­tic goal­mouth scram­ble.

The con­test con­tin­ued in one-sided fash­ion with David Atkinson and Luke Joyce making a pair of des­per­ate blocks to keep things level. And on the stroke of half-time Carlisle’s re­silience was re­warded.

On a rare foray for­ward, Grainger was hauled down in­side the area by Chris­tian Burgess and he dusted him­self down to fire his side ahead.

Portsmouth con­tin­ued to pile the pres­sure on the plucky home de­fence af­ter the in­ter­val, and af­ter much re­sis­tance, the game was flipped on its head in two manic min­utes.

First, Paul Cook’s men drew level when sub­sti­tute Ben Tol­litt’s cross was ex­pertly fin­ished by Lav­ery and with the away sup­port still cel­e­brat­ing the equaliser, their side went one bet­ter vir­tu­ally from the restart. Fel­low sub­sti­tute McNulty seized upon a heavy Mark El­lis touch and fired through Gille­spie’s hands.

Carlisle went in search of a lev­eller and, with the odds and the clock against them, found one in sen­sa­tional cir­cum­stances. Grainger took a touch be­fore fir­ing an un­stop­pable drive into the top cor­ner from all of 30 yards.

Portsmouth’s man­ager, Cook, couldn’t hide his dis­ap­point­ment at the out­come.

“Great credit to Carlisle for hang­ing in there but we are really dis­ap­pointed to not have grabbed a third goal,” he said. “There were good per­for­mances all over the pitch for us. “We dom­i­nated the ball but we couldn’t fin­ish them off.

“There’s not a lot you can do about the late strike.You have to hold your hands up and say fair play.”

PIC­TURES: Pro Sport

IT’S CUM­BRIAN COM­PO­SURE: Carlisle de­fender Danny Grainger is the United hero

SO CLOSE: Kyle Ben­nett tries his luck with a vol­ley


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