From the press box: Carlisle United

Carlisle keeper Mark Gillespie saved Brett Williams' penalty when the two sides met earlier this sea

Carlisle keeper Mark Gillespie saved Brett Williams' penalty when the two sides met earlier this season. - Credit: Archant

Stevenage travel to Carlisle United this Saturday, so the Comet asked News and Star reporter Jon Colman for his take on the home team’s season,

Keith Curle has now had almost 18 months in charge. What sort of job has he done at the club?

A decent one, compared with what he inherited. He took the reins while Carlisle were in disarray near the foot of League Two and while last season was often extremely hard work to watch, he did lead them to safety. This season, after an overhaul of the squad, things have been much more interesting and, at times, very entertaining, with some high-scoring games and a couple of good cup runs involving big ties against Liverpool and Everton. They have stuttered recently, and haven’t really picked up their best form since the floods that devastated the club and city, but Curle has nevertheless been rewarded with a contract extension and often speaks about improving standards and raising the club’s ambition. He has certainly brought a fresh approach to a club that was going stale, but time will tell how far he can take them.

The club are within striking distance of the play-offs – do you think that they have enough about them to achieve it?

If you’d asked me in early to mid-December the answer would have been: definitely. It’s hard to be quite so confident now, as the victories have dried up a bit and a couple of injuries - including to influential captain Danny Grainger - have taken their toll. I do think there is enough experience and know-how in the squad to win some of the tight and tense games they are going to face in the next couple of months, so I do think they still have a decent chance. They could, though, perhaps do with an extra player or two, and a dash more flair, to get there.

Has the club now overcome the issues following the recent flooding?

Certainly not by a long way - the ground won’t be fully back to normal until the summer, the club’s directors are estimating. It has, though, been reassuring to see the stadium back in use so quickly after the floods. The comeback games against York and Everton at Brunton Park were extremely rewarding for the community after all that happened in December, and a tribute to the hard work of club staff. The ground is still surrounded by portacabins, and much of the ground flood internally remains out of use, and it’s hard to underestimate how hard a club is hit when so many of its facilities, equipment and documents are washed away. It required real spirit in adversity and, while the club’s efforts so far have been admirable, that spirit will continue to be needed through some tough months.

Most Read

Carlisle have as many as four games in hand on some of the clubs in the league. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

A couple of wins and suddenly they are right back in the play-off mix, so it has to be a good thing, on balance. If they fail to pick up many points from their games in hand, it will be an opportunity missed and a mid-table season will probably beckon. While the squad are going to cover a lot of miles travelling to and from these games, including some long midweek trips, they should be able to cope and ought to be looking forward to the opportunity to make up ground in the table. For the first time in several seasons, relegation does not seem to be a danger, so there is no reason not to attack the next few weeks with optimism and see where it leads.

Who is the club’s danger man ahead of this weekend’s game?

While Jabo Ibehre is the leading scorer, his goals have not been flowing as freely of late, though he remains a strong, physical danger for any defence. If in the mood, and given encouragement, Alex Gilliead could be another threat to Stevenage. The young Newcastle loan winger has natural ability and pace and, while not yet fully consistent, he has torn a couple of teams apart this season and seems to enjoy playing at Brunton Park in front of a supportive crowd