Carlisle 0 Portsmouth 1: Neil Allen's verdict - Ruthless Blues' trail of destruction as drive towards Championship continues

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The Pompey juggernaut's drive towards the Championship is gathering speed - and unmercifully amassing plenty collateral damage.

Firstly they had broken Carlisle's hearts, then they shattered the front window of their reception area, albeit somehow the glass remaining intact as a growing crowd marvelled at the feat.

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The team coach clipped a metal barrier as it journeyed away from Brunton Park into the Cumbrian night, seemingly oblivious that, as a consequence, the portable railing had crashed into the building in its wake.

Certainly the Blues won't be invited back following a day of destruction, both to the Cumbrians' League One survival hopes and now to a 115-year-old ground undergoing a renaissance under new American owner Tom Piatak.

Skipper Marlon Pack celebrates following victory at Carlisle. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImagesSkipper Marlon Pack celebrates following victory at Carlisle. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages
Skipper Marlon Pack celebrates following victory at Carlisle. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

Clearly both clubs will be operating in different divisions next season, anyway. Not being presumptuous, you understand, at the very least rock-bottom Carlisle are rapidly heading back to League Two following their latest demoralising defeat.

As for Pompey, we shall see. Yet John Mousinho's reinvigorated side have now recorded four wins from their last five matches amid rivals rather helpfully collectively beginning to flag.

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The team-coach's collision was hardly a metaphor for a smash and grab, the Blues fully deserved a 1-0 outcome which now extends their lead at the top to six points.

Nonetheless, it was ruthless and cold blooded, performed with brutal efficiency and without a hint of conscience - on and off the pitch.

The swagger displayed against Northampton in one of their finest performances of the campaign was nowhere to be seen. Rather than winning with a flourish, one moment of magic was enough to drag them over the line, much to the delight of the 1,848 travelling faithful.

Indeed, Carlisle's own fans must have wondered what the fuss was about with the long-time League One leaders, who, in the first half especially, were sloppy, below par and laboured against a team who finished the day five points adrift at the bottom.

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It had been joked in the pre-match press conference that Northampton must view Pompey as Manchester City following their two encounters. Well, Carlisle must regard them as a Crystal Palace.

Conor Shaughnessy's stoppage-time header settled Fratton Park matters in October when the visitors deserved a draw, while, for Saturday's reverse fixture, a sublime pass from substitute Abu Kamara finally broke the strugglers.

Not that Paul Simpson's side ever looked like scoring, with Will Norris not challenged with making a single save and the reunited Shaughnessy and Sean Raggett absolute rocks. The result really was as narrow as the scoreline suggested.

Admittedly, Pompey struck the post in the first-half following Tom Lowery's deflected shot, while Shaughnessy also hit the woodwork with a header from Marlon Pack's second-half free-kick.

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Regardless, it was a muted showing from the leaders. Comfortable and in control, yet, ultimately, merely separated by Kamara's vision and the flourishing Paddy Lane's 10th goal of the campaign.

Full credit to Mousinho's men, though, who continue to rack up the wins and, in the case of recent trips to Fleetwood and Port Vale, are equipped with an important knack of grinding them out.

Staggeringly, the Blues have kept 10 clean sheets in 16 away League One fixtures this season - the most of any side in the top four divisions of the English game.

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The previous occasion they achieved that was in the 2016-17 campaign under Paul Cook in League Two. The last time it occurred in the third tier was in 1982-83 under Bobby Campbell. Encouragingly, both years resulted in title wins.

Despite season-ending injuries to Regan Poole and now Tom McIntyre, Pompey possess an admirable defensive resilience on their travels, irrespective of who is partnering the cultured Shaughnessy at centre-half.

With promotion trips to Peterborough and Bolton remaining, that may well prove to be their trump card, rather than blowing apart teams away from Fratton Park.

Perhaps Myles Peart-Harris encapsulated the fitful attacking display at Brunton Park. A mercurial talent who, by the very nature of his ability, will suffer off days - and Carlisle was that day.

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Nothing went right in a puzzlingly lethargic display characterised by frequently throwing himself to the turf and pleading for free-kicks which were never going to arrive.

Not to worry, his overall impact during the last four matches has been encouraging, but it was his substitution on 57 minutes which provided the attacking spark so lacking from the Brentford loanee.

Within five minutes of his introduction, Kamara, one of the surprise hits this term, picked up the ball on the right wing, cut inside and produced a sublime diagonal pass into the path of Lane on the left channel.

Such was the brilliance of the delivery, the Northern Ireland international didn't have to break his stride and was able to calmly stroke a first-time left-footed shot past Harry Lewis for the decisive goal.

It ensured Pompey left Brunton Park clutching another crucial away victory - and a bill for the repair of a reception window.

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