With the euphoria surrounding City’s qualification for the playoffs still resonating, Paul Tisdale has been very quick to try to keep his players’ feet on the ground ahead of what is still, for the division and City’s opponents at least, a vital final fixture of the regular season. Tisdale knows that confidence plays a huge part in performance, and thus any changes for the visit of Carlisle are likely to be kept to a minimum – there may be starts for the likes of Jordan Tillson, Ethan Ampadu and Liam McAlinden, while players on the way back from injury such as Lee Holmes and Matt Oakley may get some pitch time in the latter stages. Craig Woodman too is on his way back but Saturday may be too soon.
Halfway through the season had you said that City would go into the final day already guaranteed a playoff place but Carlisle would in all honesty need a win to make it, brows would be furrowed. Moreover, had you said it after the reverse fixture sent City to the bottom of the table, you’d have been locked up for your own sanity. However, while City’s form since that day in November has been nothing short of remarkable, so too has the fall from grace of the Cumbrians. From effectively in a 3-way battle for top spot and having lost just once in the league up to the end of 2016, Carlisle have recorded just five wins in 2017 including a run of six defeats and a draw from seven matches, to slump out of the automatic promotion spots and as low as 10th before a come from behind 2-1 win against Newport on Saturday propelled them back into sixth place in what is a ridiculously tight playoff race.
Manager Keith Curle, however, knows that his side must win on Saturday as defeat could see them finish as low as 11th, while even a draw is unlikely to be enough. The main player to watch is likely to be Nicky Adams, who has been pulling the strings from midfield, while Jabo Ibehre is always a threat and has 14 goals in all competitions – the loss of top scorer Charlie Wyke in January (18 goals) thought to be a big reason behind their slump.
The aforementioned fixture at Brunton Park was perhaps the catalyst for City’s season – an undeserved 3-2 defeat the last time City would taste defeat in the league for over two months. City took the lead through a first minute Reuben Reid goal, this was cancelled out by Wyke. Lee Holmes restored the lead only for Carlisle to score twice (Wyke and Miller), have Devitt sent off and City had a goal disallowed, all in the dying minutes of the match. The match at the Park last season was also eventful for different reasons – the match having to be suspended due to smoke emerging from the Old Grandstand, which turned out to be a visiting miscreant setting off a smoke bomb in the toilets. The match itself finished 2-2, City twice taking the lead (Stockley and Wheeler) but being cancelled out by goals from Wyke and Hope. City have the edge in league head to heads with 22 wins to Carlisle’s 18 (15 draws).
The match officials for the game are:-
Referee: Stephen Martin
Assistant Referees: Andrew Fox and Ian Cooper
Fourth Official: to be confirmed
Highlights of last season’s came can be found at