CARLISLE UNITED

Date of Visit: 26th September 2017

Competition: EFL League Two

Ground Number: 101

  • Distance Travelled: 153,5 miles
  • Travel Time:            2 hours 52 minutes

 

CLUB DETAILS

Carlisle United

  • Club Name: Carlisle United Football Club
  • Ground: Brunton Park, Warwick Road, Carlisle, Cumbria CA1 1LL
  • Club Colours: Blue shirts with white trim, white shorts and blue socks
  • League Position: 15th – English League Two [25/09/2017]

 

CLUB HISTORY

Club Established/Founded: 1904

Honours:

  • 1 x English Third Division / Division Two / League One Winners
  • 2 x English Fourth Division / Division Three / League Two Winners
  • 1 x English Conference / National League Playoff Winners
  • 1 x North Eastern League Winners
  • 1 x Lancashire Combination Division Two Winners
  • 2 x Football League Trophy Winners
  • 8 x Cumberland Cup Winners

Highest League Finish        English First Division – 22nd [1974-75]

2016-17 Performance:    

  • English League Two – 6th
  • English FA Cup – Round 2
  • English League Cup – Round 2
  • English Football League Trophy – Round 2

2016-17 EFL League Two Table
The 2016-17 League Two Table. [Image: Wikipedia\2016–17 EFL League Two]
Carlisle United was officially founded in 1904 when the club members of Carlisle-based side, Shaddongate United, voted to change the club’s name to the current name in their annual AGM. The newly renamed club originally played at Milholme Bank, before next moving to Devonshire Park, and then finally settling at their current home of Brunton Park in 1909.

The club originally joined the Lancashire Combination league in 1905, after they agreed with the league to pay for all travelling teams’ expenses for the first two years of their league membership, due to the club not being located in Lancashire (Carlisle being situated in the historic county of Cumberland). Carlisle would spend five seasons in the Lancashire Combination, winning the second division in the 1906-07 season, and then finishing as runners-up in the first division in the following season. This was followed up by a sixth place and then a seventh place finish the next two consecutive seasons before the club left the Lancashire Combination in 1910. This abandonment of the Lancashire Combination was because the club’s board felt that the new league reorganisation was not beneficial to the club’s future. As a result, Carlisle’s first team replaced their reserve side and became full members of the North Eastern League, which covered Northumberland, County Durham, Northern Yorkshire as well as parts of the Scottish border region.

Carlisle United would play in the North Eastern League system from 1910 until 1928, where they would win the league on just the single occasion in the 1921-22 season. They would also finish as runners-up to the league champions, Sunderland Reserves, in their final season in the NE League. In 1928 they applied to become a member of the Football League, and were up against Chester City, Durham City (applying for re-election), Nelson and York City for a place in the league system. After a Football League meeting in June 1928, which voted on the applicant clubs, Carlisle received the second-most amount of votes for election, which meant they replaced Durham City (who received just 11 votes) as members of the Football League.

Durham City
Carlisle would replace Durham City in the Football League in 1928.

The club were elected to join the Football League’s Division Three North, where they competed in from 1928 until 1958, when the two regional leagues were combined together to create Divisions Three and Four. During this period, their highest league placing was achieving a third place finish in the 1950-51 season and finishing nine points behind that season’s champions, Rotherham United. Their manager for that impressive season was a certain Bill Shankly, who had started his managerial career with United. During his tenure, he would win 42 matches from 95 games played (an impressive 44.2% win rate), but the legendary Scottish manager would resign at the end of the 1950-51 season after falling out with the club’s board. He was upset over the non-payment of supposedly agreed bonus payments to the players for finishing in the top three positions. He would leave Carlisle for Grimsby Town, before moving onto fellow Cumbrian side Workington, Huddersfield Town and eventually ending up at Liverpool.

Bill Shankly
Legendary manager, Bill Shankly, started his managerial career at Carlisle United. [Image: Wikipedia]
Carlisle would play in the new Fourth Division for four seasons before they achieved their first promotion in their history by finishing in fourth place in the 1961-62 season, achieving the feat by a single point from Bradford City in fifth spot. Their stay in the Third Division would be a brief visit as they were relegated straight back down to the fourth tier, having finished in twenty-third position in the 1962-63 season. United would only be staying in Fourth Division for a single season as they would return back to the third tier at the first time of asking by finishing runners-up to Gillingham (despite having won more games and scored more goals than the Gills). This would be the start of Carlisle’s rise through the leagues and their “golden period”.

After having spent only one season at England’s third tier previously, history would repeat itself once more as they would only spend another single season in the Third Division. Happily for United fans, they would be exiting the league in the right direction as they would win the 1964-65 Third Division title, finishing a point clear of nearest rivals, Bristol City and Mansfield Town. This would be Carlisle’s first piece of silverware within the English leagues, and would see them play in the Second Division for the first time in their history.

1964-65 Division Three Table
The 1964-65 Division Three table. Carlisle United’s first piece of silverware in their history! [Image: Wikipedia/1964–65 in English football]
They would consolidate their position within the second tier of English football and become an established side within the Second Division, often finishing in the top half of the table during their nine seasons tenure. Carlisle would get close to a further promotion to the top flight when they finished in third place in the 1966-67 season (although only the top two teams got promoted at that time), and finish in fourth in the 1970-71 season. It was during this time when Carlisle managed to play in European competition, when they competed in the 1972 Anglo-Italian Cup. They would have a great tournament, staying undefeated from their four games and beating eventual winners A.S. Roma 3-2 at the Stadio Olympico (Roma’s only defeat in the competition). Carlisle would be incredibly unlucky not to make the final as the English representative, having narrowly losing out to Blackpool, who won all four of their matches. It does however give Carlisle the interesting stat of not having lost to European opposition in any competitive matches / competitions as it would be their only appearance in the Anglo-Italian Cup.

In the 1973-74 season, Carlisle’s dreams of achieving top flight status would finally be achieved when they finished in third position to get promoted alongside Middlesbrough and Luton Town to the First Division. Promotion had been a tight contest at the end of the season as they only achieved it by a single point, beating closest rivals Orient F.C. to the berth. By achieving promotion to the First Division, Carlisle became the smallest location, by terms of population, to have a top flight English football team since 1903 (when Grimsby Town last played top flight football).

Carlisle’s start to First Division football would be almost perfect as they managed to win their first three games in their 1974-75 league campaign. This fantastic start would put Carlisle top of the Division One table and thus the whole English football pyramid, making it the zenith point of their whole “golden era”. Unfortunately success at Carlisle was short-lived, and although they achieved memorable victories over Everton (home and away), eventual league champions Derby County, as well as former league champions in Arsenal, Tottenham, Ipswich and Wolves, United would finish at the bottom of the table. Carlisle’s main problem was not scoring enough goals as they only managed to net forty-three goals from their forty-two game season (second lowest in the league), and would lose twenty-five games to ensure their return back to the Second Division after just one season away. It would be the only time that Carlisle has ever played in the top tier of English football.

1974-75 Division One Table
The 1974-75 Division One table. The only season when Carlisle United played in the top flight of English football. [Image: Wikipedia/1974–75 in English football]
It was also during that single season in the First Division that Carlisle achieved their best run in the FA Cup, when they reached the Quarter Finals (Round 6) of the national cup competition. Starting in the third round, they would beat Preston North End, West Bromwich Albion and Mansfield Town before being disappointingly knocked out to Division Two side Fulham, by the only goal in the tie that was played at Brunton Park.

Carlisle United’s 1974-75 FA Cup campaign:

  • R3: Preston North End (a) 1 – 0
  • R4: West Bromwich Albion (h) 3 – 2
  • R5: Mansfield Town (a) 1 – 0
  • R6: Fulham (h) 0 – 1

 

Their return back to the Second Division did not go as planned for United as they barely avoided relegation in the 1975-76 season by finishing nineteenth out of twenty-two teams, before suffering their second relegation in three years in the following season. This time they would be the losers in a three-way tie to stay in the division, with Cardiff City and Orient also on thirty-four points. Unfortunately for Carlisle, they had the worse goal difference of -26 which saw the Cumberland side finish in twentieth position, and return to the Third Division for the first time in twelve years. Carlisle would spend the next five seasons in England’s third tier before returning back to the Second Division in 1982 under the management of legendary Sunderland manager, Bob Stokoe.

United would play in the Second Division until 1986 when two consecutive relegations in two seasons saw the Cumbrian side drop into the fourth tier of English football for the first time since 1964. They would remain there throughout the late 1980’s and early 1990’s before winning the Division Three title (renamed in 1992) in the 1994-95 season, losing just five times in their forty-two game season. For the next three seasons, they would act as a ‘yo-yo’ club flitting between Division Two and Three as they suffered relegation, promotion then relegation again.

One highlight from this period would be Carlisle winning their first cup competition as they won the 1996-97 Football League Trophy. They had come so close two seasons earlier as they reached the 1995 final, but a Paul Tait extra-time winner had ensured Birmingham City would claim the trophy. In the 1997 final at Wembley, it would be another nerve-jangling occasion for Carlisle supporters as the game went to penalties after a goalless 120 minutes against Colchester United. It would be goalkeeper Tony Caig who would prove the hero of the hour as he managed to save Colchester’s final two penalties to ensure Carlisle would win 4-3 on spot kicks. They would appear in yet another Football League Trophy final six years later, their third in nine years, but would lose to Bristol City on that occasion.

Carlisle United’s 1996-97 Football League Trophy campaign:

  • NR1: Rochdale (h) 2 – 0
  • NR2: Hull City (h) 4 – 0
  • NQF: York City (a) 2 – 0
  • NSF: Shrewsbury Town (a) 2 – 1
  • NF: Stockport County (agg) 2 – 0
  • F: Colchester United (n) 0 – 0 [4 – 3 on pens]

 

Towards the end of the millennium would see the darkest and toughest times in Carlisle’s history as they continued to battle against relegation for the Football League entirely and potential extinction. Between the 1998-99 season and the 2003-04 season, Carlisle would finish in the bottom three place of the Division Three table in every season bar one, avoiding relegation to the Conference on many occasions. The most famous ‘great escape’ was in the final game of the 1998-99 season when Carlisle needed to beat Plymouth Argyle at home to avoid relegation. With the game tied at 1-1, and the game deep into injury time, Carlisle were awarded a corner. From the resulting corner, the goalkeeper, Jimmy Glass (who was an emergency loan signing), advanced into the Plymouth penalty box, latched onto the corner and drove home a last-gasp winner which ensured Carlisle would maintain their Football League status, and relegate Scarborough (now sadly defunct).

Despite continually avoiding the clutches of relegation, their luck finally ran out in 2004 when they finished in twenty-third position and dropped out of the Football League, ending their seventy-six year stay. Despite picking up forty points from a possible seventy-five available in the second half of the season, their first half of the season had been their downfall as they lost eighteen of their twenty-first league games. Their drop into the Conference meant they picked up the unenviable statistic of being the first club to have played in all five tiers of the English football pyramid (other teams have since followed).

Their Football League exile would only last a season as they managed to gain promotion back to League Two in the 2004-05 season. Although they finished third in the table, and thirteen points behind league champions Barnet, they would gain promotion via the playoffs. It would take penalties to defeat Aldershot Town in the semi-finals, after drawing 2-2 on aggregate, before a single goal from Peter Murphy was enough to defeat Stevenage Borough at Stoke City’s ground to send Carlisle back into the Football League.

Carlisle’s return to the Football League would prove to be a successful start as they achieved their second promotion in as many seasons, when they won the 2005-06 League Two title. They would also reach the final of the Football League Trophy once again that season, but was unable to make it a double-winning season as they lost 1-2 to League One playoff finalists Swansea City at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Adam Murray getting Carlisle’s goal whilst club legend Lee Trundle and “The Beast” Adebayo Akinfenwa scoring for the Swans. It was also a game which saw future Premier League managers, Garry Monk and Roberto Martinez play in, as well as current Swansea stalwart, Leon Britton.

2007-08 League One Table
The 2007-08 League One table. Carlisle’s best league finish in the 21st century. [Image: Wikipedia/2007–08 in English football]
The Cumbrians would play in League One for the next eight seasons, with their best placed finish of fourth coming in the 2007-08 season (losing to Leeds United 2-3 on aggregate in the playoffs). During that period in League One, they would appear in two consecutive Football League Trophy finals in 2010 and 2011. In that first final, they would suffer a heavy 1-4 defeat to Southampton, which would be the catalyst of the resurgence of the Saints back to the Premier League. However in the following year, they finally made amends for the three lost cup finals as they claimed their second trophy by beating Brentford through a Peter Murphy goal in the twelfth minute, to win at the new Wembley.

Carlisle United’s 2010-11 Football League Trophy campaign:

  • NR2: Port Vale (h) 2 – 2 [4 – 3 on pens]
  • NQF: Crewe Alexandra (h) 3 – 1
  • NSF: Sheffield Wednesday (h) 3 – 1
  • NF: Huddersfield Town (agg) 4 – 3
  • F: Brentford (n) 1 – 0

 

Carlisle would return back to League Two in 2014 after finishing in twenty-second position in the 2013-14 League One season, and they have spent the last three seasons in England’s fourth tier. A tough season back in League Two resulted in a disappointing finish of twentieth place, however results have since improved for the Cumbrians under the management of Keith Curle. A respectable tenth place finish in 2015-16, along with a creditable and gutsy Third Round defeat in the FA Cup, by Premier League side Liverpool, on penalties, was improved upon last season when they finished in sixth place.

Carlisle could and perhaps should have earned themselves a higher league position having lost only once in their first half of league matches, and standing in second place. Unfortunately United would encounter a poor second half of the season, winning just four of the next twenty-one league games and dropping from second to tenth position, with just two games to go. Nevertheless, a comeback win against Newport County and another comeback against Exeter City, along with favourable results elsewhere, ensured they managed to claim a playoff spot in the final game of the season. Alas Carlisle would fail in the semi-finals of the League Two playoffs as Exeter City would beat them 5-6 on aggregate to condemn the Cumbrians to their fourth season in League Two.

CURRENT FORM

2017-18 League Two table - 26th Sept 17
The middle of the League Two table prior to the upcoming game. Carlisle situated in 15th place whilst Stevenage are up in 9th.

Carlisle United’s previous five match results:

  • Sat 2nd September: Mansfield Town (h) 1 – 1
  • Sat 9th September: Accrington Stanley (a) 0 – 3
  • Tue 12th September: Coventry City (a) 0 – 2
  • Sat 16th September: Barnet (h) 1 – 1
  • Sat 23rd September: Crewe Alexandra (a) 5 – 0

 

Prior to this match, Carlisle United were sitting in a lowly fifteenth position in the English League Two table having earned themselves eleven points from their nine league games played so far. The Cumbrians did manage to win two of their first three league games, having claimed victories over Cambridge United and Cheltenham Town in mid-August. However since their impressive 3-0 home win against Cheltenham, Carlisle went on a rough run of form by not winning a game in their next five league matches by conceding eleven goals and scoring just three. Their 1-4 defeat by Lincoln City being their heaviest defeat within the poor run.

United’s fortunes finally improved in their last match when they finally ended their winless streak by demolishing Crewe Alexandra 5-0 at Gresty Road. Two goals from the captain Danny Grainger, a long range shot in the first half and a second half penalty ensured Carlisle had a great start in the game. An own goal from Crewe’s Michael Raynes on the seventy-second minute increased Carlisle’s advantage, before top scorer Reggie Lambe added a fourth goal two minutes after the third. Finally an injury time finale from substitute Hallam Hope ensured all three points would be earned by the Cumbrians, and they would achieve their first league victory since the 19th August.

THE OPPOSITION – STEVENAGE F.C.

Stevenage FC

Stevenage’s previous five match results:

  • Sat 2nd September: Cheltenham Town (a) 1 – 0
  • Sat 9th September: Lincoln City (h) 1 – 2
  • Tue 12th September: Crawley Town (h) 1 – 1
  • Sat 16th September: Swindon Town (a) 2 – 3
  • Sat 23rd September: Morecambe (h) 2 – 1

 

Stevenage would be approaching this upcoming match with Carlisle in a better position than their opponents as they were situated in ninth place in League Two, and earned themselves fifteen points from their nine league matches. The Boro would begin their league campaign in great form by staying undefeated in their first five league games, achieving two draws followed by three consecutive victories. Unfortunately this was soon followed by a three game winless streak, beginning with their first league defeat to Lincoln City, a home draw against Crawley Town and then a disappointing away defeat to Swindon Town.

They would end their September slump in their last league game when they managed to get a 2-1 victory against Morecambe at the Lamex Stadium. Matt Gooden would give The Boro the lead after twenty-seven minutes before Steven Old levelled the scores up nine minutes later. It wouldn’t be until the sixty-sixth minute when substitute, and deadline day loan signing Kyle Wooten (brought in from Scunthorpe United), scored the winner with only the first touches of his Stevenage career. Replacing this season’s top goalscorer Danny Newton, he would make an instant impact by scoring seconds after his introduction to ensure Stevenage achieved their fourth league win of the season.

Stevenage would be hoping for an improvement from last season’s fixture when they achieved a 1-1 draw at Brunton Park on Easter Monday. A penalty from Steven Schumacher (now at National League North side Southport F.C.) ensured the visitors took the lead before a seventy-third equaliser from forward Jabo Ibehre (now at Cambridge United) ensured the points were shared out.

BRUNTON PARK GROUNDHOP

Attendance: 3701

Weather Conditions: Overcast but mild

  • Match Ticket: £19.00
  • Programme: £3.00
  • Hot Dog: £3.00
  • Cup of Coffee: £1.50
  • Mug: £6.50
  • Pin Badge: £3.50

This groundhop to Carlisle United would be the fantastic conclusion to a short midweek break that I had taken in the Cumbrian city of Carlisle. As you may have been aware, I am currently on a sabbatical from work and during my work vacation I am attempting to visit a number of towns and cities in the United Kingdom that I have wished to visit and explore for a long period of time. Carlisle was one such place on the list of locations I had wished to visit, and so I would plan to spend a couple of days at the end of September exploring the historical border city. Luckily Carlisle United would also be playing a home fixture during my stay in Carlisle, taking on Stevenage in an EFL League Two game, and so it would be foolish if I had passed on such an opportunity to add to “The English 92” of groundhops.

The reason I had wanted to visit Carlisle was down to its history, and the fact is has a famous castle and cathedral that was worth visiting. The city has its roots in the old Celtic tribes who lived in the area, although the settlement grew in prominence during the Roman occupation of Britannia, when it was an important town along the Hadrian’s Wall. It would later become capital of the old Brythonic kingdom of Rheged (part of ‘Y Hen Ogledd’), where it was called Caer Luel, before the area was fought over by the kingdoms of Strathclyde and Northumbria. By the time of the Norman Conquest, Carlisle and Cumberland (the city’s historic county) was part of Scotland, before it was invaded by the Norman dynasty in 1092 and incorporated into England.

This invasion would be the flashpoint to a long period of tension and open hostilities between the two countries, which saw Carlisle change hands a number of times throughout the centuries and often the epicentre of the troubles. This border region would become a lawless area, with Carlisle bang in the middle of it, and the infamous ‘Border Reivers’ being prevalent during this chaotic time. It would not be until 1681, when the two separate countries had the same monarch (King Charles II) when reiving was no longer an issue, and the 1707 Act of Union ensured that Carlisle was no longer an active frontier town although the Cumberland settlement was just ten miles from the Scottish border.

Today the City of Carlisle has a population of 75,300 inhabitants and is the county town (and only city) within the county of Cumbria. It has become the main cultural, commercial and industrial centre for northern Cumbria, as well as an important tourist location and travel hub for people wishing to visit the Scottish Border region or the Lake District.

I would be travelling to Carlisle the Monday after completing my century of groundhops at Llansantffraid Village (blog can be found here), and so I was naturally elated and excited for the journey up north to ‘Reiver Country’. Originally the plan was to drive up there but in the end, I decided to take all the stresses out of the holiday by letting ‘the train take the strain’. My train journey would start off at the quiet Flint train station, picking up an Arriva Wales train that would take me towards Warrington Quay Bank, before alighting the train there to change trains.

Flint Station - 25th Sept 17
Starting the train journey from Flint train station.

The train journey seemed slow and laborious as we trundled through Flintshire and Cheshire, whilst the train carriage itself was fairly busy even though it was Monday midday. After about an hour, Warrington Bank Quay appeared, complete with its neighbouring eyesore factory which blocks any view of the surrounding area from the platform. It would only be the briefest of stops at Warrington before I boarded the comfortable, cross-country Virgin Trains Pendolino train that was heading northwards towards Edinburgh Waverley. The journey on the Pendolino seemed much quicker and slicker than the previous train ride even though it was a longer distance in miles and time. Plus it was a much more appealing and luxurious train carriage compared to Arriva’s more functional, bus-like carriage.

Carlisle Station - 25th Sept 17
Arriving at Carlisle train station, where a large amount of improvements were ongoing inside.

After about 90 minutes on the leaning train in relative luxury, I finally arrived at my destination as the train stopped at Carlisle train station. Carlisle’s railway station seems like a relatively big station, which is probably not surprising considering it is a major transport hub for both the border region and the Lake District. However when I arrived, there seemed to be a lot of upgrade and improvements being made to the inside of the station as there was framework after framework of scaffolding erected in the majority of the building. Not the best welcoming for weary travellers currently! However the external appearance of the station is a complete opposite to the internal view, as it has a glorious sandstone façade. The building was built in 1847 and is now a Grade II listed building, with its unique grand entrance designed in a neo-Tudor style by Sir William Tite. All very impressive!!

Carlisle Station
The impressive facade of Carlisle’s train station.

For my two nights stay in Carlisle, I would be staying in the Ibis Hotel situated on Botchergate, about five minutes’ walk from the train station. I chose the Ibis as it seemed like a good value hotel that was well rated on TripAdvisor, and was situated in an ideal location for my Carlisle visit being equidistant between the city centre and football ground. In addition the hotel was near to a number of bars, restaurants and two Wetherspoons establishments (weirdly very near to each other).

It would be a quick check-in into the hotel and gaining my room key before dumping my rucksack in the surprisingly spacious, modern decor room and making the twenty minute walk to Brunton Park. I was eager to head to Brunton Park as quickly as possible as I was keen to obtain a match ticket on the day prior to the game as it would cost three pounds cheaper than buying it on the actual night. Plus considering it was now half three and the ticket office was scheduled to close at five o’clock, and I was a little unsure of the route, I needed to be fairly brisk towards the football ground in case of any delays in getting lost en route through the residential streets. Thankfully I needn’t have worried as I arrived at Brunton Park well before four o’clock, and thus had plenty of time to spare.

Brunton Park - 25th Sept 17
Arriving at Brunton Park with plenty of time to spare!

The first building I noticed when I arrived was the club shop situated right at the entrance to the ground, so that would be my first port of call to try and obtain tickets. In addition, it would also allow me to add to my respective football collections by purchasing a Carlisle United branded mug and crest pin badge. The official club shop is a large standalone building separated from the actual ground, and has a large amount of Carlisle United replica shirts, memorabilia and merchandise available for purchase. I was able to pick up a smart looking mug along with a Carlisle United pin badge for a combined total of £10 – certainly not the cheapest I have bought but welcome additions none the least.

Carlisle Club Shop
The front of the club’s official shop.
Carlisle Cup & Badge
The mug and pin badge which was bought.

Alas I was unable to buy a match ticket from the club shop also, but the friendly woman at the club shop directed me to the ticket office where they were selling the tickets for upcoming league game. The ticket office is located inside the East Stand of the ground, and so it was a short walk from the club shop towards the East Stand, following the signs pointing in the direction of the ticket office. Eventually I was able to find the correct location, climbing a few flights of steps inside of the stand before arriving at the hatch. I would not be the only person there as a few other people had arrived and were queuing for match tickets, whilst enquiring about discounted season tickets.

Brunton Park - 25th Sept 17 (2)
The unique South stand at Brunton Park, on the walk towards the ticket office.
Brunton Park - 25th Sept 17 (3)
Directions to the ticket office, located in the East Stand.

Now I had intended to buy a ticket for the mixed terraced section of the Paddock located in the Main West Stand, which would have cost me £16. However at the last moment, I decided to treat myself to a covered seat in the Main Stand for just three pounds extra. The reason for the change? I was on holiday in Carlisle, so why not treat myself? Plus I thought that if the weather turned a little sour, at least I would be dry for the ninety minutes that are played ha!

With the match ticket securely acquired, it was time for the walk back to the hotel but not before admiring the statue which is located just outside the club shop and the entrance to Brunton Park. The bronze statue is a fantastic life-size casting of former player and club legend, Hugh McIlmoyle, who is depicted in the action of jumping up to header a ball. The Glasgow-born centre forward had three spells at Carlisle United between 1962 and 1975, playing 174 games for United and scoring 76 goals (a decent strike rate). His most successful season at Carlisle being the 1963-64 season where he scored 39 goals, making him the top goalscorer in the English Fourth Division that season, as well as propelling Carlisle to the runners-up spot and subsequent promotion to the Third Division.

Brunton Park - 25th Sept 17 (4)
‘The Hughie McIlmoyle Wall of Fame’ just outside the club shop.
Brunton Park - 25th Sept 17 (6)
The Hughie McIlmoyle statue at the entrance to Brunton Park.
Brunton Park - 25th Sept 17 (5)
The plaque at the bottom of the statue.

Having gotten back to the spacious hotel, and resting for an hour or so, I ventured along Botchergate for some food. The Spanish restaurant ‘Lorca’ situated opposite the hotel, which had caught my eye earlier, was disappointingly closed on Mondays so I decided upon the safe option of a Spoons fish and chips meal from the ‘Woodrow Wilson’. Initially I was confused why a Wetherspoons establishment was named after the twenty-eighth President of the United States of America. At first I thought it was because he was the US President during the First World War and there may have been some kind of a link there. However it is because his mother, Janet Woodrow, was born in Carlisle (making him half-Cumbrian) and that Wilson had made a number of ‘homecoming’ visits to his mother’s birthplace during his presidency. Therefore this pub was named in his honour – a local lad ‘done good’ (so to speak).

Woodrow Wilson Pub
The ‘Woodrow Wilson’ pub – one of two Wetherspoon pubs on Botchergate street.

Anyway the large pub itself was busy with a mixture of locals and fellow waterproof jacket-clad tourists (who were staying in Ibis also and were staying for the single night before continuing their journey towards Scotland). Thankfully I was able to get a free table and eventually order the fish and chips meal, despite a long wait at the bar to place the food order. The food was quickly brought out and I thoroughly enjoyed the meal that had been produced – you cannot go too far wrong with Spoons’ fish and chips! Having tried a couple of flavoursome local ales at the Wilson, I ventured across the road to the Walkabout bar in an attempt to watch the West Brom-Arsenal game that was being shown as part of Sky Sports’ ‘Monday Night Football’. However after one bottle of ‘Aussie Pale Ale’, exhaustion finally crept upon me and I headed back to the hotel for an early night. A big sleep would be needed for the next day’s planned itinerary!

The following day would be busy as I would go exploring the landmarks of Carlisle in the daytime before venturing to Brunton Park in the evening. My first visit was to Carlisle Castle, located just on the western outskirts of the city centre, and it would take about a twenty minutes’ walk through the city centre to get there from the hotel. The city centre itself surprised me at how architecturally scenic the place was, with its many historical buildings (some of which were medieval) and city walls within close proximity to the centre. The most obvious of them was the orange-pink bricked Citadel, which is the first building you notice as you arrive at Carlisle from the train station. Whilst the tourist information centre, situated in the middle of the city, is positioned within the old town hall that was originally built in the 1660’s.

Carlisle Citadel
Carlisle Citadel.
Carlisle High Street
The high street at Carlisle.

Carlisle Castle itself is a hugely imposing fortress when approaching it from the city centre, and still fantastically intact when compared with castles in North Wales. I was surprised at how large an area the castle grounds took up, but considering the turbulent history of the area, it needed to be a sturdy defensive construction. The castle is situated at the point where the River Calder confluences with the River Eden, thus producing a strong strategically defendable position. This strategic location was originally exploited by the Romans, as part of their monumental defensive complex along Hadrian’s Wall, which protected the northern boundary of the Roman Empire from the Caledonians and Picts beyond.

Carlisle Castle (2)
The front to Carlisle Castle.

Later the Normans would use this location to strengthen their northern border against a potentially threatening Scotland, by first building a typical wooden motte and bailey at the site. This was later upgraded to a stone castle with the city walls and the current stone keep being constructed between 1122 and 1135 to ensure English dominance over the once Scottish-owned Cumberland area. As a result, Carlisle Castle would often be in the centre of the chaos which often occurred in the turbulent border region between the two kingdoms, usually being the first line of defence during the many Scottish invasions into Cumberland. This lead to the castle and city being captured and recaptured by the two rival countries many times over the centuries.

Carlisle Castle (1)
The entrance to Carlisle Castle, now ran by English Heritage.

Thankfully when I visited the castle, there was complete calmness and none of the threat of attack from an invading force. The only invasion force threatening the fortress was from curious tourists like myself, and I was looking forward to seeing inside as I ventured towards the gatehouse entrance. Today the castle is ran by English Heritage, who naturally charge an admission price to enter the castle grounds, although I was granted free entry due to being a fully-paid Cadw member (very much worth the membership fee if you like castles).

Inside Carlisle Castle, the first thing you notice is a number of military buildings located within the castle walls. This is because the castle was the traditional home of the historic individual 34th (Cumberland) and 55th (Westmorland) Regiments, as well as their later amalgamation to the Border Regiment. The castle remained the depot of the Border Regiment until 1959, until they were subjected to another merger and became the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment. However parts of the castle is still in use by the British Army as it continues to be a base for their Army Reserve battalion, attached to the Royal Border Regiment. I noticed this continued usage as I walked around the castle grounds, and spotted signs on the various buildings detailing where each section of the Army Reserve was based, such as the Engineers, Logistics etc.

Carlisle Castle (3)
Some of the buildings within the castle grounds which are still occupied by the Army Reserve.

In the middle of all of this is the Royal Border Regiment’s military museum, which is available for all visitors who come to Carlisle Castle. Again my Cadw card provided free entry into the museum and I must say it is one of the best military museums I have seen on my sabbatical (and I have a large number of them). It detailed the history of the two former regiments, with both of them having illustrious lists of service, especially during the early British Raj days in India. It also detailed the history of the Border Regiment during the two World Wars, with a vast array of exhibits on display such as grand uniforms, weaponry used throughout the centuries, and much more. I spent about an hour just looking around the museum and found it very interesting – certainly worth visiting if you are heading to Carlisle Castle.

Borders Military Museum (1)
A field gun outside of the military museum.
Borders Military Museum (2)
One of the mannequin displays in the museum.
Borders Military Museum (3)
Napoleonic uniforms and weapons.
Borders Military Museum (4)
World War I weapons.
Borders Military Museum (5)
Still waiting for the next Luftwaffe raid…

The actual Norman-built keep is enclosed within its own section of the castle grounds, and allows visitors to climb onto the castle walls and walk around the section. From the castle walls, it provided excellent views of the city and the landscape beyond, which were no doubt helped by the superb weather the city was experiencing on this late September morning. The stone keep itself is an impressive construction, and I was impressed at how solid a construction it was – no wonder Mary, Queen of Scots was kept imprisoned here by Queen Elizabeth I for a few months, during Elizabeth’s reign in the sixteenth century.

Carlisle Castle (4)
The stone keep within the castle grounds.
Carlisle Castle (5)
The view of Carlisle, and its cathedral in the background, from the castle walls.
Carlisle Castle (6)
Looking from the castle walls.
Carlisle Castle (7)
Some sturdy defence!
Carlisle Castle (8)
The Norman-built stone keep.

Alas I found the keep to be a little disappointing as you were not able to climb right to the top of the keep, and I found the information provided within the keep’s various levels to be a little sparse and somewhat unfulfilled. It did have a little display about the Jacobite rebellion, and how Carlisle Castle was captured and seized by the Jacobites on their ill-fated invasion of England, before it was recaptured by Government forces not long afterwards. However it didn’t have much more else about the castle’s history in as much depth, and I found it lacked historical information displayed, when compared with other castles I have visited.

Carlisle Castle (9)
Inside one of the rooms in the keep.
Carlisle Castle (10)
Some of the Jacobite information displayed.
Carlisle Castle (11)
Some additional displays in a room facing the stone keep.

From Carlisle Castle, it was a short walk across the road to Tullie House, which the city’s main art gallery and museum. Alas my Cadw card would not provide free entry to this place but the £6 entry fee allows entry to the museum for the entire year, which is pretty good in fairness. Despite paying to get into the place, it is a huge building with a vast amount of information concerning Carlisle’s history contained within it and I spent a good two hours looking around. It detailed every section of habitation within the area, from its Roman foundations to the current day, and had plenty of interactive displays which break up the information. There are numerous amounts of paintings and sculptures also on display, from all parts of the art spectrum. They especially promoted the works of local artist Percy Kelly, of whom I had never heard of before, but actually quite liked a number of his paintings…certainly a feast for the cultural part of the soul!

Tullie House (1)
One of the Roman statues on display at Tullie House.
Tullie House (2)
Some more Roman displays.
Tullie House (3)
A display concerning Carlisle’s position as a border city.
Tullie House (4)
Some Carlisle United history on display.

The next stop on the Carlisle experience was the impressive looking cathedral that I had passed on my way to the castle. The gothic-Norman styled building was constructed during the reign of King Henry I as a priory before it was upgraded to a cathedral in 1133, and is England’s second smallest ancient cathedral (after Oxford). Entry to the cathedral is free although they do suggest a donation of £5 for the continual upkeep and maintenance. Although it may be a small cathedral, it does harbour absolutely glorious architecture within it and has superbly colourful stained glassed windows (the East Window particularly). They were a delight to behold as the sunlight beamed through them, making the colours seem so vibrant and intense.

Carlisle Cathedral (1)
Carlisle Cathedral.
Carlisle Cathedral (2)
An impressive ecclesiastical construction.

However the cathedral’s most breath-taking display has to be its ceiling which has been designed as if it was a starry night, with panels of midnight blue bespectacled with golden stars, and lining the length of the alter. Both myself and other visitors who arrived at the cathedral (it was quite busy with tourists considering it was a Tuesday afternoon) were gobsmacked when we first spotted it – if the cathedral had a pound for every time someone lifted their head and said “WOW” (or words to that effect) on their first instinctive reaction upon viewing the ceiling, the church would be raking in the money!!

Carlisle Cathedral (3)
The fantastic ceiling which displays a starry sky.
Carlisle Cathedral (4)
One of the stained glass windows at the cathedral.

Having enjoyed visiting the major landmarks of the border city, I decided to get an early dinner in preparation for this evening’s game. Armed with copies of the local newspaper, the ‘News and Star’, as well as a copy of ‘The Football League Paper’, which were both bought from the high street, I ventured back towards Botchergate to experience the second Wetherspoons on the street. The newspapers were bought to give me something to read in Spoons whilst having a look at the form of the two teams prior to the upcoming game that evenings. Rather amusingly this day’s copy of the News & Star came complete with a team picture of the Carlisle United squad…needless to say it has not been pinned up on the walls of The 94th Minute HQ ha!

The second Wetherspoons on Botchergate (and less than a minute’s walk from the Woodrow Wilson) is called the ‘William Rufus’, and this establishment is named after King William II, who was William the Conqueror’s son. It was William Rufus who invaded the Cumberland and Westmorland region in 1092, and incorporated the historic Cumbrian counties and Carlisle into the English kingdom. It was also him who ordered the construction of the original motte and bailey castle within the city to defend against Scottish counter-invasions of Carlisle. At least this person had a more obvious connection to Carlisle than Woodrow Wilson, but whatever…

William Rufus Pub
The William Rufus – the second Wetherspoon’s pub on Botchergate street.

I found the William Rufus to be slightly bigger than the Woodrow Wilson but no different to its sister Spoons pub, with the same décor and menu available. As I had fish and chips the previous day, I decided to get myself the steak and ale pie (with chips and mushy peas) as that would keep the hunger at bay until match time. As the Rufus was a lot less busy than the Wilson, I had my choice of tables and ordering food was done very quickly, with it appearing from the kitchen in a quick fashion also. The steak and ale pie was cooked nicely and it was a decent meal at good value – can’t ask for anything more than that! Once the tasty food was consumed, I supped a couple of cups of black coffee whilst reading about the upcoming league match from the two newspapers. It seemed as if Stevenage were favourites for the match as they were in better league form, but Carlisle had a good result at the weekend and could make life difficult for the Boro this coming evening! I was really looking forward to the match now!

I walked back towards Brunton Park about 7pm, ensuring I had plenty of time before the 7:45pm kick off time. Even at this early stage, lots of people were slowly congregating towards the football stadium, appearing at every junction and from every street or avenue on my walk towards the ground. It was looking as if it was going to be a decent crowd for this midweek game, and the mild and dry weather conditions of the evening were certainly encouraging people to head out this evening!

Just as I reached the stadium, I bought myself a match programme for £3 from one of the sellers situated just outside of the ground. As you would imagine for a Football League team, the programme is excellent and well produced with plenty of information on both teams as well as their respective league forms this season. It had information and articles about past seasons, and games between the two teams, as well as interviews with certain players. One such article was about the on-loan goalkeeper Shamal George, who ironically would be the centre of attention on the pitch as well as being highlighted in the programme, but that shall be discussed later…

Carlisle Programme
The match programme that was bought.

Brunton Park soon appeared before me and it was fantastic to see the old stadium all lit-up with the floodlights, and bustling with eager supporters in a state of pre-match excitement. I made my way towards the main stand but not before buying some food from a large stall set outside of the entrances to the club offices, and within the car park. The queue was quite long at this stage of the evening but the wait was totally worth it as I managed to purchase a hotdog for three pounds. Now you may be thinking it is a little costly for a hotdog but it was absolutely massive (and I only got the normal sized one!) with a long Cumberland sausage (naturally considering the location) being barely contained within the long bun. Completed with a topping of fried onions and plenty of ketchup, it was absolutely exceptional and the ideal pre-match snack!

After having consumed the food, it was time to take my seat in the Main Stand, which was located in Block C of the stand. Having climbed the steps up to the correct row, I spotted it was an old school style wooden seat (a change for the usual plastic ones) which was situated right in the middle of all the Carlisle United season ticket holders. All the seats surrounding my seat had a plaque stating that it was reserved with the ticket holder’s name below, and my designated seat was the only one of these seats which did not have a plaque attached. Clearly this must have been a former season ticket holder’s seat who had not re-subscribed for this season, and thus it was open for the general public to buy. Although I found the wooden seat to be increasingly uncomfortable throughout the game (despite being used to the wooden benches in the main stand at Halkyn Road), the view of the entire pitch was brilliant! I couldn’t have found a better seat to watch the game, which I was very pleased about!

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (1)
Approaching Brunton Park with the floodlights lighting up the old school ground.
Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (2)
The club’s offices situated in the Main Stand.
Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (3)
On the way towards my seat in Block C, with the old crest of the club shown (which seems very pro-EU haha).

Brunton Park has a current capacity of 17,949, and it is currently the largest football stadium in England which is not all-seated. Opened in 1909, the ground has had a few unfortunate incidents in its history with its main grandstand burning down in 1953 due to a blaze caused by an electrical fault, and then the ground getting completely flooded in both 2005 and 2015. With the ground situated in a meander of the River Petteril, which flows to the east and north of the ground, its location has resulted in the ground being vulnerable to flooding in the past. Because of these floods, it has meant Carlisle have had to play “home” games at Morecambe (in 2005), Preston, Blackburn and Blackpool (all in 2015 due to Storm Desmond) whilst flood clearance and repairs took place at Brunton Park.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (7)
My viewing position for the game – absolutely brilliant!

As stated previously, for this upcoming game I would have a seat in the Main (West) / Paddock Stand which is a 6,000 capacity mixed terraced and seating area. I would be in the upper tier of the stand, which contains the covered seats that are claimed by season ticket holders, whilst the lower section of the stand contains the terraced area (known as The Paddock), and it would be very busy for this evening’s game. It is within this stand that the club’s offices are situated, as well as the changing rooms and media facilities for radio and television coverage. In addition the home and away dugouts are also positioned in front of this stand, and I would be able to have a good view of both dugouts and managers gesticulating within their designated technical areas throughout the entire match.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (5)
The East Stand at Brunton Park.

Opposite the main stand is the East Stand, currently known as the ‘Pioneer Foods Stand’ for sponsorship reasons, and is a 6,000 all-seater, single-tiered cantilever stand. This stand is the newest of the four stands within Brunton Park, and houses the ticket offices within it. It is also the stand where the Stevenage fans would be situated for the game, with a large section of the left-hand side of the stand allocated to the away fans. Alas such a large allocation was perhaps a little optimistic for this evening, especially when only thirty-four hardy but loyally partisan souls had made the gruelling five hour, 286 mile journey north on a Tuesday afternoon/evening. Despite their small contingent, the Stevenage fans certainly made themselves heard and were a credit to themselves and the club throughout the game! Much respect to them all!!

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (4)
The Warwick Road End with its unique shaped roof.

To the right of my seated position was the Warwick Road End stand (currently known as the ‘Newcastle International Airport End’ again due to sponsorship reasons), and this houses a covered capacity of 3,500 supporters. This southern stand is the most distinctive of the four stands due to its unique triple-triangle roof, and a considerable number of supporters would be situated within the end stand for the game. At the opposite end of the pitch is the Waterworks / Petteril End, which is the only uncovered stand in the ground. Being only a small capacity terrace of 2,000, it was seemingly closed for this midweek game as there were no supporters located upon the terracing throughout the entire game. However it is at this end where the ground’s electronic scoreboard is currently situated.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (6)
The uncovered terrace of the Petteril End.

From my viewing position I was naturally impressed with the ground, and its old school feel. In my opinion it’s how a traditional English football ground should look like, with its four differing stands which have been built at different periods of the club’s history. Alas such traditional and unique grounds are slowly being replaced within the English leagues for brand new, all-seater grounds. Whilst I cannot begrudge a team getting a modern, all-seater ground which probably reduces maintenance costs considerably, the new grounds all look alike and thus loses that uniqueness and “soul” that the old grounds had. Sadly it seems as if Brunton Park may be joining the list of lost grounds in the near future as plans are afoot for Carlisle United to move into a new 12,000 all-seater stadium in the Kingmoor area of the city.

As time ticked nearer towards kick-off, more people arrived inside the ground, which naturally built up the atmosphere within the old stadium. The Paddock below me was filling up with vocal supporters standing on the terraces, whilst the loyal season ticket holders were occupying their reserved wooden seats around me, and ensuring the stand would seem bustling and frenetic prior to the start of the game. Unsurprisingly the volume within the stand and entire stadium lifted considerably when both sides, along with the officials, ascending onto the pitch in preparation for the game.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (8)
The Carlisle side preparing for the game with some pre-match warm up routines.

The most notable name in the Carlisle line-up was the former Tranmere Rovers, Crystal Palace, QPR and Rangers centre-back Clint Hill. The 38-year old experienced defender would be making his home debut for the Cumbrians this evening, having signed a short team deal with the club the previous week. He made his full debut for Carlisle in the victory against Crewe on the Saturday previous. Carlisle’s top goalscorer (with four goals), the Bermudan international Reggie Lambe, would also be in the starting line-up for this game, as well as left-back and club captain Danny Grainger, who managed to score a brace against Crewe just four days ago. Also attention would be paid to midfielder Nicky Adams for patriotic reasons considering he had been capped for Wales’ under-21 squad on five occasions. Finally Carlisle’s manager is the former Manchester City and Wolves stalwart, and England international, Keith Curle, who has been in charge of the club for three years and one week exactly.

Stevenage’s young manager, Darren Sarll, would name an unchanged starting eleven for this game following their win against Morecambe. The Guyana international, Terrance Vancooten, would maintain his place despite Luke Wilkinson being available again after suspension. Both goalscorers from the previous match, on-loan forward Kyle Wooten and Stevenage’s Player of the Year, Matty Gooden, would also start the match, as well as this season’s top goalscorer for Stevenage, Danny Newton. Newton was signed in the summer by Stevenage after impressing as part of Jamie Vardy’s ‘V9 Academy’, which was launched by the Leicester striker to help non-league footballers into the Football League. It would seem Newton could potentially follow Vardy’s career trajectory having scored five league goals already this season, and scoring a goal in each of his first three games played. Certainly proof that there is talent within the lower leagues of English football!

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (9)
Pre-match handshakes.

Both sides would be playing in their home kits for this game, with Carlisle United playing in their royal blue shirts with white trim, white shorts and royal blue socks, whilst Stevenage were in white shirts with faded red stripes, red shorts and red socks.

MATCH DETAILS – FIRST HALF

Carlisle would start the livelier of the two teams at the beginning of the first half, and would have the first half-chances of the match, although nothing that would trouble the on-loan Stevenage keeper, Joe Fryer. A set piece from fellow Welshman Nicky Adams would trouble the visiting defence before an infringement by a Carlisle player in the penalty box was spotted by the referee. Whilst another free kick, this time from Danny Grainger, would be launched into the penalty box but would evaded everyone allowing Fryer to easily gather up the loose ball.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (10)
An early attacking free-kick for Carlisle.

Stevenage would eventually work their way into the match, and would have their first opportunity on the Carlisle goal after eleven minutes. A quick counter-attack, with slick passing between the Stevenage players, left striker Ben Kennedy with enough space to take a shot on goal. He attempted a low shot from twelve yards out, but could only see his effort take a deflection off one of the covering Carlisle defenders and eventually bounce off the outside of the post.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (11)
The small yet loyal Stevenage support in the East Stand.

Spurred on by the home crowd, Carlisle continued to threaten the Stevenage goal and would have more chances to break the deadlock. A move started by the experienced Clint Hill from his own half, and some fantastic one-touch passing from the midfield, brought Shaun Miller into play. From his position he managed to craft a chance with a deft flick of his heel towards the onrushing Reggie Lamb, who was advancing into space in a central position. Alas for the Bermudian, he could not direct his effort correctly and bend the shot wide of the crossbar. Carlisle were certainly getting closer!

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (13)
A corner for Stevenage.

About five minutes later and the home side would earn themselves a corner after some excellent play from their midfield. A short corner routine eventually brought a cross from the effervescent wide-man Adams, which was aimed towards Hill situated around the penalty spot. The centre-back managed to get above the pack to connect with the cross, but his downward firm header deflected off a challenging Stevenage defender and the ball looped onto the roof of the net. Fellow centre-back Tom Parkes would get another headed opportunity on the resulting corner, but he failed to connect with Lambe’s cross correctly and deflected the ball high over the crossbar.

It would roughly around this time when the atmosphere in the stadium changed a little when a slight smell of burning floated over the ground. Not long afterwards, a fire engine with its flashing blue lights drove behind the East Stand and parked next to the Petteril End, whilst continuing to flash its lights throughout the first half. Eventually the stadium announcer asked for the club’s Duty Electrician to make his way over to the Petteril End, meaning there must have been some kind of electrical fault which has caused a fire! It was like 1953 happening all over again! Naturally murmurings started to occur around me in the stand as everyone wondered what was happening in the adjacent, if empty, stand. These murmurings certainly increased when five minutes after the stadium announcement, a second fire engine, with its blue lights flashing, parked next to the Petteril End and the first fire engine.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (14)
A quick team talk during a break in the match.

Despite ongoing off-field antics, the match continued unabated and Carlisle continued to search for an opener. They came close through a route one pass up-field from on-loan keeper Shamal George, whose long pass found Hill in the Stevenage penalty box. The big defender managed to avoid the challenge from the covering defender but could only divert the pass into the side netting from ten yards out. A few moments later and they had another great chance to break the deadlock when Parkes held off the challenges of three Boro players to lay the ball up to Adams on the edge of the box. The Welshman attempted to bend the ball into the top corner but could only see his effort drift agonisingly over the crossbar. A superb effort all round from Carlisle, which brought the applause from everyone in the ground.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (15)
Match action.

At the other end of the pitch, Stevenage would have a few chances themselves to end the first half stalemate. Firstly Tom Pett would have his effort blocked, before Stevenage’s best chance of the half appeared through Ben Kennedy. The full-back Joe Martin had made strides down the left flank and had advanced into the Carlisle penalty box. He eventually pulled the ball back towards Kennedy, who found himself in space within a central position, and fired a powerful shot on target. Alas for the travelling supporters, George was equal to the effort and superbly saved the fierce shot by diverting the ball out for a corner.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (16)
Match action.

With the first half coming to a conclusion, both teams had seemingly cancelled each other out with the battle in the midfield finding no victor, and resulting in no good chances being made. However Carlisle did have half a chance towards the end of the half through Lambe, after an Adams cross was not cleared away effectively enough. His first effort was blocked by a diving Stevenage boot before it rebounded back towards him and he attempted another chance on goal. His second opportunity beat the covering defender but was just too powerful as it curled past the corner of the woodwork.

With both sides seemingly equal to each other, it was no surprise that at the half-time break, the scoreline was goalless. I was hopefully for some goals in the second half although after the first half performance of both teams, I was certainly not confident!

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (17)
The teams head into the changing rooms with the scores level.

HALF TIME: CARLISLE UNITED 0 – 0 STEVENAGE F.C.

 

During the half-time break, I decided to get myself a drink as I was a little thirsty towards the end of the first half. I ventured down to the bar situated within the main stand, but having got to the bar area, found it to be packed with queues which were a number of people thick. Not wanting to wait for ages to get served so I can just order a coffee, I ambled back down the stairs and returned to the food stall situated in the car park.

Thankfully the queue was much more reasonable at the food stall and I was able to buy a good-sized cup of black coffee for £1.50. Rather oddly, the coffee was served inside a large diffusion bag – almost like a large tea bag but with coffee inside it and not tea. Now I have not seen this before but thinking about it, it makes logical sense considering tea bags are considered the norm nowadays. It makes it a lot easier to strengthen the taste of your coffee to your own preference, and it’s much easier to deal with – I was impressed I’ll be honest! When will we see these ‘coffee bags’ appear in the Welsh leagues??

Having been impressed with the smallest and simplest of things (simple things impress simple minds I guess…ha), I strolled back up to my wooden seat in preparation for the second half. I also noted that the blue lights were no longer flashing on the other side of the pitch, so the potential fire issue must have been sorted or at least quenched…

MATCH DETAILS – SECOND HALF

Unlike in the first half, it would be Stevenage who started the brighter of the two teams and imposed some early pressure on the Carlisle defence, without causing too much problems. However after six minutes of play in the second half, the away side would be celebrating as they took the lead in rather fortunate circumstances. From a Stevenage corner, it was fired towards the crowd of players in the penalty spot but it looked as if it would be an easy catch for Shamal George as he jumped up to catch the ball. However as he descended back onto the ground, he fumbled the catch and lost possession of the ball to spill it back into the danger area. It would be Ben Kennedy who would react first to the spillage and stab the loose ball into the back of the net! A nightmare start for Carlisle and the young keeper!

Carlisle United 0 – 1 Stevenage F.C.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (18)
Stevenage take the lead after a goalkeeper mistake.

Things would go worse on the night for the on-loan Liverpool goalkeeper as another mistake from the number one would give Stevenage their second goal of the game. On the sixtieth minute, Tom Pett managed to loop a header back into the danger zone for his forwards to run onto. George must have been in two minds whether to catch the headed ball or put it over the crossbar, and in the end he did neither. His indecision proved incredibly costly as he failed to deal with the looping ball and could only claw the ball into his own net. Unfortunately another clanger from the youngster which drew the ire and groans from the home crowd! He was having a shocking second half!!

Carlisle United 0 – 2 Stevenage F.C.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (19)
Match action.

Having gone two goals down in just ten minutes, the home manager Keith Curle attempted to change the game in his favour by bringing on a couple of strikers to provide support to his lone striker in Shaun Miller. By bringing on Hallam Hope and Richie Bennett, he had hoped (pardon the pun) that they would bring more attacking impetus to the Carlisle game. However it would prove to be a frustrating evening for the Curle and the Cumbrians as Stevenage slowed the game down (through some rather impressive time “management” tactics) and controlled the game in their favour.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (20)
Carlisle’s manager, Keith Curle, bringing on some substitutes to hope to change the game.
Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (21)
Attacking free kick for Stevenage.

With Stevenage now in the driving seat, and having control of the game, Carlisle were restricted to half-chances throughout the majority of the second half. There were an opportunity for Mike Jones to change the game, but he was only restricted to a long range effort which drifted high over the crossbar. Whereas any attempt from the home midfield to create chances were easily dealt with by the Stevenage defence or quickly stamped out by the combative midfield. It did not make an entertaining second half that is for sure! The only cheers coming from the home support were the ironic cheers for George when he managed to successfully catch or hold onto a ball.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (22)
A quick substitution for Stevenage.

Unfortunately the last twenty-five minutes of the game proved to be a bit of a non-event with Carlisle trying to create something but Stevenage successfully stopping the danger at every stroke. The home side would finally get a clear chance late on in the game when they were awarded a direct free-kick in a dangerous position, just outside of the penalty box. Sadly for the home supporters, the free-kick from substitute Jamie Devitt was not a good one, and the Irishman could only put his attempt over the crossbar. It was just not going to be Carlisle’s evening, and waves of supporters started to leave the ground soon after the missed free-kick, having clearly seen enough.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (23)
Carlisle looking to reduce the arrears.
Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (24)
The official cautioning Richie Bennett after a late tackle.

Carlisle almost grabbed a consolation goal with the very last kick of the game when Luke Joyce managed to latch onto an awkward bounce off the Stevenage defender, and fire goalwards from eight yards out. Although the midfielder got his attempt on target, it was at a comfortable height for Joe Fryer to make a diving save and stamp out the danger. It would be the final act in this evening’s play as the official, Mr Michael Salisbury, blew the whistle for full time and officially end the contest.

Carlisle vs Stevenage - 26th Sept 17 (25)
Carlisle desperately trying to find a goal that could change the momentum in the match.

FULL TIME: CARLISLE UNITED 0 – 2 STEVENAGE F.C.

POST MATCH & CONCLUSION

After the full time whistle had sounded, the small Stevenage contingent in the far corner naturally made a lot of noise and cheers, no doubt ecstatic at seeing their side perform a spirited and gutsy (if slightly fortuitous) away performance. All the more sweet considering the monumental journey they had made to reach Brunton Park on this midweek September match, and the return journey they would making late in the evening. This win would be Stevenage’s first victory in Carlisle in twelve years, and would see The Boro lift themselves up to sixth in the League Two table.

As for the Carlisle support, they were naturally disheartened, especially having lost to two goalkeeping errors. Also I thought the performance from the home side wasn’t the best sadly, particularly when they went two goals down. Even though they had three strikers on the pitch, it didn’t look like they were going to score as they didn’t show any urgency nor drive until injury time. Perhaps that shows the excellent work that Stevenage did in slowing the game right down for their own advantage. However for a home game, perhaps Carlisle should have shown more gumption when they were trying to attack as the crowd had little to cheer for, for the majority of the second half.

After the momentum gained from their impressive away victory at Crewe Alexandra in their previous game, it seemed they were back to ‘square one’ again. Their fifth defeat of the league campaign would see the Cumbrians drop to eighteenth in the League Two table.

I really enjoyed my visit to Brunton Park, even though the game may not have been the most entertaining I have seen this season so far. Despite that, the ground is a cracking one and my view for the match was fantastic – I was glad I paid that little bit extra for the seat. The groundhop was the ideal conclusion to my brief break in Carlisle and it helped tick off another ground from “The English 92”. Overall I really enjoyed my break in Carlisle and found it to be a really nice, quaint city with its many interesting landmarks and history of the place. The people I interacted with were really friendly and welcoming, which I certainly appreciated!

So I would certainly encourage people to come to Carlisle for a small break, and certainly ideal if you like football and history (like I do). Also it would be interesting what the city would be like during the weekend as I can imagine the many pubs along Botchergate would be a lot busier and noisier than what I encountered midweek – perhaps a night out in Carlisle is required in the near future?? I can probably imagine the Ibis Hotel might not be as quiet as I encountered it anyway! Anyway thanks to the City of Carlisle for a great trip, and best of luck to Carlisle United for the rest of the season ahead!

Diolch!

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