The second leg of the League Two Playoff semi-final is all-square after a pulsating first leg ended 3-3, although things may have been so different had the linesman understood the offside law in wrongly disallowing two City goals. There’s no use crying over spilt milk, however, and City will hope to register a win to book their place at Wembley. There is no away goals rule, so the fact City scored three at Brunton Park makes no difference, it’s winner takes all at the Park. Paul Tisdale has a number of selection headaches with an almost fully fit squad to choose from – one surprise from the first leg was Bobby Olejnik coming in for Christy Pym, who’d had a rough time in the league fixture between the sides but was also rumoured to be carrying a knock, so who gets the nod between the sticks will be one to watch. Reuben Reid came off the bench on Sunday and may be utilised as “supersub” again, while the likes of Lee Holmes may also have to be content with a cameo. Ethan Ampadu is someone else who may feature.
What’s to be said about Carlisle that hasn’t been said already the last couple of weeks? Manager Keith Curle was clearly fired up for the match, judging by his reaction to having come back from 3-1 down to draw the first leg, and he will have been delighted with the impact his substitutes made, two of them getting on the scoresheet soon after entering the fray. Curle started on Sunday with the formation that served him well in the second half of the league fixture but reverted to the formation he started with previously to good effect, so it may be that he starts on Thursday as he finished on Sunday.
While this marks City’s first foray into the playoffs in the Football League, the Grecians do have a 100% record in playoff semis overall, having overcome first Oxford and then Torquay while in the Conference. Carlisle too progressed via the playoffs in their only season in the Conference, but have failed in both of their previous attempts to progress past the semis in the Football League, losing to Wycombe (93/94) and Leeds (07/08) respectively.
Match officials for tonight are:
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Assistant Referees: Marc Wilson and Marvin Amphlett
Fourth Official John Brooks