GRAINGER HAMMERS ONE HOME
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.”
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