REBUILT or not, Wembley remains the spiritual home of footballing romance, but even by its standards the story Peter Murphy wrote yesterday was a remarkable one.
Little over a year ago, the Irishman was the villain whose handball conceded the penalty which kick-started a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final humiliation against Southampton. He was the mere figurehead of a collective Carlisle United failure, but his moment of madness was emblematic of a heartbreaking day.
It was fitting, then, that for the second time in a Blues career about to enter its testimonial year, Murphy should score their only goal in a final, finally picking up the trophy at his fourth last-day attempt.
Fifty-six hours earlier, Murphy’s girlfriend Lisa had given birth to a son, delaying his journey south a few hours. She spent her first Mothers Day in the stands of football’s most famous stadium, watching as her newborn’s dad collected the man-of-the-match award.
Even in the match-day programme, Murphy was trying to explain away the moment which set the tone for last season’s final, at pains to point out the detailed thought process apparently behind the split-second decision which saw him handle in the penalty area. He need not have bothered because what he did in the same 18-yard box at virtually the same stage of the 2011 game guaranteed lifelong forgiveness.
Twelve minutes in, the match had yet to really catch fire. Ben Marshall was making the most of his freedom at the point of their midfield diamond, but his crosses were yet to pick out a blue shirt.
The first real chance of the game was a good one, but Murphy headed wide from a corner. When Francois Zoko forced a good stretching save from Simon Moore a minute later, he was presented with another.
Zoko nodded James Berrett’s corner to Murphy, who calmly controlled on his thigh and volleyed with the aplomb of the left-winger he was when scoring the winning goal in the 2005 Conference play-off final, rather than the centre-back he is now. The elated Murphy ran two thirds of the length of the field to celebrate in front of his girlfriend as she cradled their new addition.
If it was the perfect way for Murphy to put right the wrongs of the previous year, Marshall’s Wembley misfortune would continue.
The man on loan from Stoke City sat out last year’s showpiece, cup-tied by a spell at Northampton Town. He looked ready to make the most of his second chance when a thudding tackle from 19-year-old Adam Reed ended his afternoon after only 20 minutes.
Although there was no malice, the Hartlepool-born midfielder, on loan from Sunderland, was fortunate to only pick up a yellow card for his rush of blood.
Even without Marshall, Carlisle continued to dominate, though the lively Zoko was caught by Craig Woodman as he skipped past him.