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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

Former Millwall man Olaofe denied Wembley glory by late Carlisle comeback

Carlisle United (0) 1 Patrick 84

Stockport County (1) 1 Mellish OG 34

Carlisle win 5-4 on penalties

A deflected effort from former Millwall man Isaac Olaofe was not enough to help Stockport County to victory against Carlisle United in the League Two play-off final at Wembley.

The striker’s cross-shot flicked off the heel of Carlisle’s Jon Mellish and looped over goalkeeper Tomas Holy to give his side the lead but a dramatic late comeback from the Cumbrians denied Olaofe promotion.

He left the Den for Greater Manchester in January, and was his side’s greatest threat throughout a tightly-contested battle as the curtain came down on another fourth tier season.

An Omari Patrick strike took the game to extra time before fellow substitute Taylor Charters stroked home the winning penalty after Ryan Rydel had been denied by Holy.

Stockport captain Paddy Madden had the first chance of the afternoon when his header looped on to the roof of the Carlisle net after just two minutes, but it was Olaofe who caught the eye from that point onwards.

The 23-year-old from Lewisham previously enjoyed promotion success during a loan spell at Sutton United, and he soon set about adding to his CV at the home of English football.

Dave Challinor’s side dominated possession throughout the opening stages but struggled to fashion efforts at goal.

This was typified when Olaofe expertly controlled a cross on 20 minutes before failing to get a shot away before a defender closed him down.

Although Carlisle relied heavily on counterattacking for much of the afternoon, they nearly took the lead when a header from experienced forward Joe Garner forced Ben Hinchliffe into a save at full stretch.

That warning sign jolted Stockport into life, as a rapid breakaway just after the half hour mark ended with Olaofe’s effort from wide taking a decisive touch off Mellish to find the net.

Falling behind did bring Carlisle’s own London-born forward to life. Crystal Palace loanee John-Kymani Gordon was hardly involved until the stroke of half-time but a fabulous dribble in injury-time ended with the 20-year-old shooting over the bar from inside the box.

Gordon and his teammates were not able to carry that momentum into the second period though, and Stockport should have gone further ahead on 57 minutes when centre-back Akil Wright headed a Chris Hussey free-kick wide of the target with the goal at his mercy.

That miss looked all the more glaring five minutes from time when Carlisle managed to draw level.

Manager Paul Simpson emptied his bench in an attempt to rescue the game, summoning previously injured top-scorer Kristian Dennis with less than 10 minutes left to play.

However, it was another substitute in Patrick who found the vital goal as he reacted quickly to a loose ball to pick out the bottom corner of Hinchliffe’s net.

Simpson’s decision to move Mellish into midfield was the true catalyst for the game’s shift in momentum – he had seen an effort cleared off the line seconds before the equaliser and continued to dominate the middle of the park for what remained of regular time.

It was Stockport who had the first chance of extra time as Jack Stretton, who replaced Olaofe moments before Patrick’s equaliser, turned on the edge of the box and blasted an effort towards the top corner that was only kept out by the outstretched arm of Holy.

Dennis almost added to his 20 goals in the regular season not long after, but his flicked header from a corner was expertly kept out by Hinchliffe in the Stockport goal.

It would not be until penalties that the contest was decided though. Rydel was denied by Holy from Stockport’s second kick, meaning Charters cool final effort was enough to win the final for Carlisle and send them back to League One for the first time since 2014.

Carlisle (3-4-1-2): Holy – Whelan, Huntington, Mellish – Senior, Guy (Charters 77), Moxon, Armer (Dennis 81) – McCalmont (Patrick 61) – Garner (Edmondson 61), Gordon (Gibson 77). Subs not used: Kelly, Robinson

Stockport (3-5-2): Hinchliffe – Wright (Collar 68), Horsfall, Hussey – Knoyle, Camps (Byrne 85), Croasdale, Sarcevic (Evans 113), Rydel – Madden (Hippolyte 68), Olaofe (Stretton 82). Subs not used: Jaros, Lewis


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