Friday, October 30, 2009

Carlisle preview

You have to admire the hardiness of the 527 Charlton fans making the 660 mile round trip to Carlisle.

For fans aged below thirty, this fixture is yet another otherwise meaningless Northern away day. However for their more experienced brethren, it has all the romance of a candlelit dinner for two.

In both 1981 and 1986, promotion was sealed for the Addicks at Brunton Park. In the case of the latter, it sealed a remarkable season in which Lennie Lawrence’s new-look side somehow managed to maintain momentum despite the destabilizing impact of leaving The Valley.

The special togetherness and bond between fans and players which still exists today, owes much to that season and the refusal of either to lose hope that a better future would lay ahead.

For a town hovering on the edge of some of England’s most beautiful countryside, Carlisle is a surprisingly rough place, with football fans to match.

Poor Nicky Bailey is likely to fill the ‘brunt’ (no pun intended) of their wrath on Saturday thanks to an incident whilst playing for Southend, during a vital late-season fixture in 2007/8.

Carlisle joined the Football League in 1929, and did not achieve their first promotion until 1964. A heady decade followed and culminated in a single appearance in Division One in 1974/75, finishing bottom.

Their experience since then has been bleak, particularly a dire spell from 1998-2004 in which they finished 23rd, 23rd, 23rd, 22nd, 17th, 22nd and 23rd respectively during seven consecutive Division Three campaigns.

Although goalkeeper Jimmy Glass’ heroics saved them once, they were finally and deservedly relegated to the Conference in 2004, before bouncing back with two straight promotions to the level they now find themselves in.

Play-off semi-final defeat to Leeds in 2008 marked the peak of their fortunes, and they narrowly avoided relegation last season finishing 21st, just one point above relegated Northampton thanks to a last-day home victory over Millwall.

Averaging just a point per game so far this season, there is little to suggest that 2009/10 will be anything other than another relegation dogfight. Brentford, Exeter, Brighton and Norwich have all left Brunton Park with the points this season, suggesting that travel fatigue cannot be used as an excuse by Phil Parkinson’s men.

Having been gifted the lead at Priestfield on Saturday, it was disappointing to lose defensive concentration just minutes later and give up two much-needed points. Phil Parkinson used the adjective ‘pleased’ to describe the point gained, a word he seems to be overusing given our rather dodgy recent form.

The draw did extend our unbeaten run to four games, but there is no denying that the momentum garnered by those extraordinary first six games, was firmly lost with the visit of Alan Pardew’s Southampton side on 12th September.

The subsequent accumulation of just 11 points from the 8 games since has been something of a ‘reality check’, and now injuries are beginning to take their toll.

The injury to Rob Elliot is highly unfortunate given he has proven himself to be a most able shot-stopper, even if he needs to improve his goalmouth presence.

With Darren Randolph largely unproven, it would be no surprise to see on-loan Carl Ikeme make his debut. This will no doubt please the Carlisle fans who witnessed the Nigerian concede six on his last visit to Brunton Park, whilst on-loan at Stockport.

At right-back there is another mini-crisis with continued doubts over Fraser Richardson (although he always seems to pull through), and an injury to understudy Chris Solly. If Richardson is not passed fit, Kelly Youga will presumably move to right-back with Grant Basey filling the gap on the left.

Jonjo Shelvey was again left on the bench on Saturday, a decision likely to be reversed in my view as Izale McLeod reverts back to the bench in favour of a 4-5-1.

Thus I think Parkinson will line them up as follows: Ikeme, Youga, Basey, Sodje, Dailly, Bailey, Shelvey, Semedo, Sam, Racon, Burton. Subs: Randolph, Llera, Spring, McLeod, Mooney, Wagstaff, Tuna.

NY Addick predicts: Carlisle 1 (Dobie), Charlton 2 (Burton, Shelvey). Att: 6,891.


At 8:18 AM, Blogger Wyn Grant said...

Of course this is a good day out for Charlton fans based in the north.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger StoneMuse said...

Ahhh, the delights of Carlsle .. I've been there 3 times so have no qualms about missing today and istening to CAFC Player in the comfort of home.


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