City’s recent upturn took a dive on New Year’s Day with a 3-2 defeat at fellow strugglers Reading, a result which saw Gary Caldwell’s side drop into the bottom four for the first time this season. That City scored twice in a league game for the first time since September will have provided some encouragement but City will look at the second goal in particular as symptomatic of the errors that a side in poor shape will make.
The January window is now open and Caldwell has already swooped, bringing in summer target Luke Harris on loan from Fulham, and the teenager is expected to go straight into the side on Saturday. Further signings may be made in time for the Carlisle match with reinforcements up front especially a priority. Will Aimson’s late injury before the Reading match saw 41 year old coach David Perkins named on the bench, but the signing of Harris plus the option to recall some of City’s youngsters from their loan spells should mean that was a one-off. Elsewhere Sonny Cox should return up front while the arrival of Harris may mean a shift elsewhere with possibly Jack Aitchison making way.
Carlisle’s promotion last season under returning manager Paul Simpson was perhaps a surprise, and the pundits predicted a season of struggle – so it has proved so far with Carlisle alongside City in the bottom four. The Cumbrians did, however, kick off 2024 with a 2-1 win over Port Vale, giving Simpson and his side hope of pulling clear should they build on this. Like City Carlisle have found goals hard to come by with 23 in all competitions, the same as City (albeit in three fewer matches), and to that end they too have acted quickly in January to sign Luke Armstrong from Harrogate. Carlisle will be hoping he recreates his form of last season when he scored 16 goals, rather than this season’s Armstrong who has just one goal in the fourth tier to his name. Elsewhere the main goal threat appears to be Jordan Gibson who has six league goals (eight in total) out of those 23. Luke Plange is another name to look for – the loanee was a regular in Derby’s Championship relegation side before Crystal Palace took advantage of Derby’s financial issues to plunder the young talent.
The reverse fixture back in August saw then high-flying City come away with a 2-0 win thanks to second half goals from Mitchell and Trevitt. City were also triumphant on Carlisle’s last long trip down the M6 and M5, winning 2-1 against a Carlisle side reduced to 10 men with the sending off of Jon Mellish just before half time. Goals from Sam Nombe and a first goal for Jake Caprice (after his effort at Salford had been taken from him as an own goal) opened up a 2-0 lead before Gibson reduced the arrears late on. In fact, City have won seven of the last ten games between the sides with Carlisle winning just once – opening up a strong league head to head lead with 29 wins to Carlisle’s 20, 17 matches finishing level.
The match officials for this game will be:-
Referee: Carl Brook
Assistant Referees: Kevin Howick and Daniel Flynn
Fourth Official : Sam Ogles
Carl Brook last took charge of Exeter in September when City played Reading in the EFL Trophy.
Pre-match interview with Kevin Nicholson