Carlisle United 3, City 0
City’s dreams of a double-header derby with Leeds were dashed in chilly Cumbria.
Simon Ramsden’s first-half red card proved the killer blow as the ten-man Bantams ran out of legs.
Their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy adventure effectively ended the moment Ramsden was given his marching orders after 39 minutes.
Carlisle were in front before the break through his opposite right back Richard Keogh and, despite a spirited City rally early in the second half, they were eventually picked off with two more goals following the injection of substitute Scott Dobie’s extra pace.
So Greg Abbott enjoyed bragging rights over his old pal Stuart McCall, who will have to lift spirits – and restore energy levels – to stop a third defeat in a week at Aldershot on Saturday.
The most welcome sight was Omar Daley on the bench – his first appearance since that season-ending knee injury against Darlington in February.
Getting this far in the competition was uncharted territory for City but Carlisle were veterans of four finals and had lifted the trophy twice.
The home side had City under the cosh from their first corner after five minutes.
Matty Robson’s kick looked too deep but Ian Harte kept it alive beyond the far post. Vincent Pericard’s looping header was blocked on the line by Rehman and then Luke O’Brien did the same to thwart Harte’s follow-up.
City had made an edgy start and were nearly in trouble as left back Evan Horwood slipped past Scott Neilson to drill in a low cross which just beat the lunging Pericard.
Suddenly out the blue, the Bantams were inches away from snatching the lead. James Hanson’s header dropped to Neilson 25 yards out and the winger’s smash on the turn flew past startled keeper Lenny Pidgeley but the wrong side of the post.
That lifted City and Ramsden, booked for a trip on the dangerous Robson, drifted a header across goal from Neilson’s corner.
Neilson’s pace was rattling Carlisle as City settled into a very open game. The backing they were getting from the away fans was superb.
Luke O’Brien made a crucial block in the area from Kevan Hurst and Harte, Carlisle’s top scorer with eight goals, should have done better with a free header from the resulting corner.
Hanson felt the same about his chance at the other end two minutes later, planting the ball straight at Pidgeley after more good work from Neilson.
City continued to give as good as they got. Gareth Evans flashed a drive across goal and Neilson turned Danny Livesey inside out before forcing a diving save from Pidgeley.
But they were dealt a huge blow six minutes before half-time when Ramsden was shown a second yellow card for tugging back Robson as the winger went to close down Neilson’s clearance.
Jon Bateson was hastily summoned from the dugout to take over at right back, with James O’Brien the unlucky fall guy.
But Carlisle had the initiative now and grabbed the lead a minute later. Pericard played in Robson, whose shot was parried by Simon Eastwood but the rebound fell into the path of Keogh to slam into the unguarded net.
McCall was fuming about Ramsden’s dismissal and let referee Tony Bates know it as he argued with the official down the tunnel at half-time. After a half that had promised much, it suddenly looked a long way back with ten men.
But Evans won a corner straight away when Pidgeley spilled his shot off the skiddy surface. The keeper flapped at the corner to launch a goalmouth scramble which saw Rehman’s close-range stab blocked on the line by Horwood.
Evans shot over as City tried to take the game to the home side. Clarke was holding his own with Pericard and dispossessed the Frenchman to clear upfield for lone striker Hanson to warm Pidgeley’s hands with a half-volley.
City began piling on the pressure and thought they had levelled on the hour. Evans’ shot was parried goalwards by Pidgeley; the loose ball was scrambled from the on-rushing Hanson and back to his strike partner, whose second effort was also spilled by the keeper before Horwood hacked it to safety from in front of the net.
Pidgeley then raced from his goal as Evans burst through – and watched with his heart in his mouth as Hanson’s first-time chip dropped wide.
Carlisle had the chance to double their lead with a three-on-one break but Rehman, the solo defender, smothered Robson’s square pass in the City box.
City’s relief was short-lived as Carlisle had their second goal after 68 minutes. Lee Bullock was caught in possession midway inside their half and Hurst fed Dobie to drill past Eastwood.
Daley came on to huge away cheers with 18 minutes left but his first corner sparked Carlisle’s third goal.
Pericard cleared it as far as Robson, who broke from one end to the other before slotting home. City were out on their feet.
Carlisle: Pidgeley 6, Keogh 7, Livesey 7 (Aldred 89), Harte 6, Horwood 7, Hurst 8, Murphy 7, Taiwo 6 (Dobie 63), Robson 9, Clayton 7, Pericard 7 (Bridge-Wilkinson 80). Subs (not used): Kane, Collin.
City: Eastwood 6, Ramsden 5, Rehman 7, Clarke 7, L O’Brien 7, Bullock 6, Flynn 6 (Brandon 82), J O’Brien 6 (Bateson 43, 6), Neilson 7 (Daley 72), Hanson 6, Evans 7. Subs (not used): Horne, McLaughlin.