Carlisle manager Chris Beech revealed his side got the Premier League treatment from Aston Villa before holding Cardiff to a 2-2 draw in the third round of the FA Cup.
Villa manager Dean Smith invited the League Two side to Bodymoor Heath to train and eat like top-flight players in the build-up to Saturday’s clash.
And it looked as if the preparation was paying off when they reached half-time with a two-goal advantage.
“We’ve been treated like Premier League players this week, we travelled down and organised to train at Aston Villa thanks to Dean Smith,” said Beech.
“I rang him and he supported us by keeping his chefs back, they cooked us salmon and pasta so we were fuelled up for the match.
“We stayed at a nice hotel in Cardiff and ate well, we’re trying to improve standards at the football club.”
A questionable penalty decision gave Carlisle hope of an upset. Jack Bridge went down after the softest of touches from Cardiff defender Sol Bamba, but referee Geoff Eltringham pointed to the spot.
Bridge dusted himself off to take the spot-kick but saw his effort saved by Alex Smithies before reacting quickly to head in the rebound.
And the visitors were in dreamland when Harry McKirdy headed Hallam Hope’s deep cross back across goal and into the net during first-half stoppage time.
But a quickfire double from Callum Paterson and Gavin Whyte after the break salvaged a replay in front of less than 6,000 fans at Cardiff City Stadium.
Beech added: “They gave a proud, positive performance in front of a loud supporter base, and I’m really proud of the football club.
“I enjoyed the fact that we passed the ball on a Championship ground. I’m really pleased with the response of the players when they hit back. But we obviously didn’t want that to come as quickly as it did.
“We’ve got to enjoy the occasion when they come to us. It will be a different occasion and I have no doubt (Cardiff boss) Neil (Harris) will pick a different team.
“They have the transfer window too, they could recruit someone who hasn’t played in the FA Cup. They’ve got a big budget and great facilities, completely different from us.”
Cardiff salvaged a replay three days on from a 6-1 league humbling at QPR, but manager Neil Harris believed they deserved more.
He said: “I couldn’t believe we were 2-0 down at half-time. The second goal was a bit of a killer because we gave ourselves a mountain to climb in a cup tie that ultimately we should win.
“I said to the boys at half-time, I wasn’t panicked, just disappointed with being behind. I knew the way we played in the first half, if we did it with a bit more tempo, chances would come our way.
“Scoring two early goals, then it was one-way traffic for so long, it was disappointing not to get a third and fourth goal. The game could’ve gone either way at the end – it was a proper cup tie.
“I’m split on how I feel. Two down but still in the draw, so I’m pleased with some individual performances but I think we should’ve won the game.”
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