Clarke rewards Reds late on
Billy Clarke made an instant impact on his return after injury with an 88th minute equaliser at Brunton Park.
Reds looked on course for a fifth successive League One defeat when Liam Noble converted a 47th minute penalty. But Clarke surprised Ben Amos in the Carlisle goal with a long-range shot that the keeper allowed to slip through his grasp and reward Reds for concerted pressure after Richie Barker had made a triple substitution just past the hour mark. It was Clarke's fifth goal of the season.
Reds had made two changes to the side which had returned to winning ways in the FA Cup last week with Emile Sinclair and Kyle Bennett coming in for Jamie Proctor and the unwell Nicky Adams. Clarke was fit enough to return after five weeks out on the bench.
Both sides have been on poor runs in the League and neither were able to impose themselves in a pretty dire first half almost devoid of goalmouth incident.
Carlisle made the brighter start without threatening Reds’ goal too often before Sinclair led the visitors’ first raid with a strong run from the centre circle which Sean O’Hanlon ended when he got across to make a good challenge inside his own box.
Reds had the best chance of the half on 18 minutes. Josh Simpson released Kyle Bennett whose pass found Andy Drury in space down the left. He tried to surprise Amos at his near post but his low drive hit the outside of the upright.
It was a rare moment of quality in the first third of a contest littered with stoppages and although Reds began to keep possession better than their hosts they struggled to test Amos again in the first half while at the other end Paul Jones was similarly under-employed.
But within two minutes of the re-start Jones was picking the ball out of his net after Reds were caught cold at the start of the second half. First, Jones had to palm over a stinging 25-yard drive from Prince Buaben. Matty Robson swung the corner to the back post where Max Ehmer was tugged to the ground by Joe Walsh. Referee Harrington pointed to the spot despite Crawley protests and Liam NOBLE drove home the penalty.
David Amoo nearly scored a second for the hosts on 63 minutes when he burst through but dragged his shot just wide. Moments later Reds made a triple change with Clarke, Gary Alexander and Jamie Proctor all coming on as Reds went 4-4-2 with Clarke on the right and Drury alongside Dannie Bulman in central midfield.
The subs perked Reds up and Clarke was denied an equaliser by a superb covering tackle by Leon McSweeney, who deflected his goal-bound shot into Amos's grateful arms.
With 20 minutes remaining Carlisle appeared to be happy to hold on and Reds began to control possession, although the final ball was still not as good as some decent approach work.
But with two minutes remaining CLARKE grabbed a crucial equaliser when he let fly from 25 yards out on the left after being teed up by Alexander and Amos let the shot go through his fingers and into the bottom corner.
On the balance of play it was no more than Reds deserved from a disjointed encounter and perhaps can be the turning point with successive home games to come against Walsall and Swindon to try and build momentum.