Cambridge United earned a point in a low quality Sky Bet League Two encounter with Carlisle United that ended goalless at Brunton Park.
United made five changes from their FA Cup replay against Exeter City, with Luke Hannant the most notable amend as the energetic midfielder returned from injury.
Colin Calderwood’s men got off to a positive start against a tentative looking Carlisle side in the opening ten minutes. George Taft got United’s first shot off on four minutes when the hosts could only clear a corner as far as the centre back who wrapped his right foot around the ball but saw his shot blocked by a cluster of defenders in blue.
Jack Roles was not far away either on five minutes when he collected a pass from Lewis on the edge of the area, took one touch to set himself but skidded an effort wide.
The remainder of the first half though saw both teams lack quality, and such was Colin Calderwood’s frustrations with the U’s offensive efforts that he replaced Jack Roles with Andrew Dallas on 35 minutes.
United were fortunate to get away with leaving Olufela Olomola unmarked at the back post from a free kick six minutes before the break, which saw the Carlisle man direct a header off target in their only chance of the half.
Good persistence from sub Dallas led to the U’s clearest opening of the first 45 minutes, when the Scot harried Jarrad Branthwaite and pinched possession inside the area before Smith latched on to the loose ball but blasted over from a strong position.
There was still time for a little controversy before half time, when Luke Hannant had seemingly given the U’s a lead with a volley from Dan Jones cross off the left, but referee Seb Stockbridge blew up to bring play back for a Carlisle man down with a head injury.
Dimitar Mitov produced a stunning save in his first piece of action of the game on 50 minute, with the Bulgarian reacting excellently to save Olomola’s header from six yards high to his left.
United put together a neat and tidy piece of play on 57 minutes, which released Knoyle to drive in field and lay a pass across for Maris to hit first time, but the midfielder’s strike clattered with a defender and ricocheted wide.
In truth though the second period lacked as much quality as the first, with neither side getting a grip of possession or laying a glove on the other offensively for long spells.
Harry Darling made a crucial clearance from a Nathan Thomas shot which looked to have wrong footed Mitov in the U’s goal eight minutes from time.
Whilst at the other end, George Maris worked room for a strike from 18 yards but fired high and wide when he pulled the trigger, and Paul Lewis glanced a header wide from a corner in stoppage time.
Carlisle United: Collin, Iredale, Carroll, Mellish, Thomas, M.Jones, McKirdy (Hope, 71 mins), G.Jones, Branthwaite, Olomola (Scougall, 61 mins), Loft
Bookings: Loft, Carroll
Cambridge United: Mitov, Knoyle, Taft (Taylor, 78 mins), Darling, Jones, Hannant (O’Neil, 64 mins), Maris, Lewis, Roles (35 mins), Dunk, Smith
Bookings: Hannant, Lewis, Smith
Attendance: 4,041 (191)
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