Carlisle United have their redemption.
A year after being humbled by Southampton in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final the team from Cumbria made the long journey back to Wembley to triumph with a display that was as restricted in the second half as it had been rampant in the first. The loss of control mattered little, however, given that Brentford's eventual domination failed to yield a single shot on target.
Such a lack of potency will haunt the Londoners as they reflect on defeat but should not concern Carlisle as they revel in overcoming their own bad luck in this competition. After all, this was a record sixth appearance in the final for Carlisle but only their second triumph, after the previous win in 1997. Victory was also a source of personal atonement within the Carlisle ranks. Their winning goal was scored by the centre-back Peter Murphy, who has featured in three of the club's final defeats and was directly at fault for Southampton's opener 12 months ago. The 30-year-old went from villain to hero and sent the 14,000 supporters gathered in blue into raptures with a strike of eye-catching quality.
Stationed in the opposition area as James Berrett delivered a corner on 12 minutes , Murphy reacted first to a knockdown from the Carlisle forward François Zoko before controlling the ball on his knee and thrashing a volley beyond the Brentford goalkeeper, Simon Moore. He celebrated with arms cradled, in recognition of the son his partner Lisa gave birth to on Friday, running towards the pair in the stands.
"It's been a very good weekend for me," said Murphy. "After last year, we felt we had something to prove and hopefully this win has shut some people up. I haven't had the chance to spend much time with them [his partner and baby] but I will do so now."
There was also praise for the player who joined Carlisle in 2001 and has gone on to make over 400 appearances for the club from his manager, Greg Abbott. He said: "Peter's had a year to dwell on what happened [against Southampton]. He took a lot of criticism, but he's now scored a winning goal in a cup final. It's a wonderful achievement, I'm pleased for him.
"Last year's defeat was something that as a club we needed to put right. It was the worst I have ever felt, we never performed. It was an absolute disaster. Today we put that right, it is without doubt the proudest day of my career."
The frustration for Carlisle lay in their failure to make this triumph more comfortable. They dominated possession and territory in the first half, with the team's midfield suffocating their counterparts in red and white. In possession, they attacked regularly with intent, most notably in the move that led to Murphy's goal when Zoko glanced a header at goal which Moore tipped around the post for the decisive corner.
Brentford were becoming increasingly frustrated, demonstrated starkly when Adam Reed lunged into Ben Marshall with a two-footed tackle on 23 minutes that resulted in the Carlisle forward, up to then their most creative player, leaving the pitch on a stretcher. The 20-year-old has damaged ligaments in his right ankle and is likely to miss the rest of the season.
Brentford, losers in the final for a third time, showed more gusto after the interval and came close to scoring on 56 minutes when their on-loan striker Jeffrey Schlupp, who scored twice in Brentford's 2-1 League One win over Carlisle last month, hit the near post from close range. Despite their dominance, that was as good as it got for Nicky Forster's men and the game ended in ignominy for them when Toumani Diagouraga was sent off for two bookable offences.
"I'm disappointed we never tested their goalkeeper," said Forster, who became Brentford's caretaker manager in February. He has since taken the team from relegation trouble to ninth in League One and within eight points of the play-offs. "Everyone's dejected but we've still got seven games to play and we can win them all." Carlisle, 13th in League One, probably do not care if they fail to win another game from now until next season.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010