20 May 2023

Ben Barclay heads Carlisle into League Two play-off final

20 May 2023

Ben Barclay earned Carlisle a thrilling 3-2 aggregate victory over Bradford but is will miss the Sky Bet League Two play-off final against Stockport.

Defender Barclay, on loan from County, headed United’s third and semi-final clinching goal in the second period of extra time after Mark Hughes’ Bantams threatened to take the game to penalties.

The final whistle produced a mass pitch invasion with thousands of jubilant home supporters celebrating victory.

Carlisle trailed 1-0 from the first leg at Valley Parade but levelled the tie when defender Brad Halliday put through his own goal after 21 minutes.

That is the way it stayed for the rest of normal time with Bradford offering little in response up front.

Callum Guy, a former Bradford loanee, then put Carlisle in the driving seat, scoring his fourth goal of the season in the 98th minute.

But with the majority of a sell out 15,401 crowd dreaming of the club’s first Wembley appearance since 2011, the visitors hit back.

Only 29 seconds into the second period of extra time Crystal Palace loanee Scott Banks set-up an opportunity and 37-year-old Matt Derbyshire levelled the game on aggregate.

However, Carlisle found another gear.

Outstanding Owen Moxon’s delivery into the box found Barclay in space and he headed beyond stranded Harry Lewis to ultimately seal victory.

Carlisle had dominated the opening half, energised by striker JK Gordon’s return after a three-game retrospective ban.

Only three minutes had elapsed when Gordon cut in from the home left and fired in a low shot Lewis comfortably saved.

Carlisle’s second half of the season fadeout in front of goal cost them a possible automatic promotion place.

Gordon was fired up to make up for lost opportunities and only Lewis’ right glove and then the upright prevented Gordon scoring his first goal since January 28 after 16 minutes.

The breakthrough eventually came six minutes later. Lewis produced a superb save to deny star midfielder Moxon.

Lewis, however, could not hold the shot with Gordon and Halliday converging on the rebound. Gordon wheeled away in celebration as the ball went in though the Bradford defender was credited with getting an unwanted final touch.

Scoring chances were in shorter supply after the break and  the stalemate remained through to the final whistle, including nine minutes of stoppage time.

But extra time erupted with action culminating in Barclay’s 112th-minute winner, his second and final goal before returning to Edgeley Park.

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