Fan’s View 23/24 – No.30: Carlisle away

Article by Paul Beasley Tuesday, January 16th, 2024  

FAN’S VIEW 23/24 – NO.30: CARLISLE AWAY

The week gone by

Monday

James Beadle: When he wasn’t in goal for us at Coventry we’d worked this one out. Recalled by Brighton. Immediately off to Sheffield Wednesday was also what was expected. I wouldn’t have thought he would have gone to Hillsborough without the guarantee of lots of first team action. Cameron Dawson, the Owl’s goalkeeper, who had let in just one goal in four games, won’t be enamoured with this loan. That leaves us with Simon Eastwood as our number one stopper once again. Just very temporarily? His role this season has been very much as back up. He’s a completely different type of keeper to Beadle who, lest we forget, is still only 19. His future looks bright although obviously nowhere near the finished article. Needs to better command his area and be much more positive when dead balls are played in. Very much wish he was still with us though. Our other keeper, Eddie McGinty, was given a three year deal before the start of last season. The coaching staff at the time insisted that he was going to be really good. Apparently that was the reason Jack Stevens was let go. Every time McGinty has played he’s caused panic in the stands so I suspect it may have been the same on the pitch.

Stan Mills: Is “realistically going to miss the rest of the season” and has gone back to Everton. So, more bad news. His pace was an asset but he didn’t leave full-backs in his wake anywhere near as often as I thought he would when we first saw him in a yellow shirt. I don’t think that was just down to him though.

Kyle Edwards: Was one of the players that fans, me included, thought would get us back to being much more of an attacking force when he came back from injury. I’ve got this vision of a footballer steaming through the opposition. A glance at the record books however shows that he hardly played for us. In the League he made three starts, came on as sub twice and scored once. In September he played 205 league minutes then did his hamstring in training when we were told that he would be out for two months. He reappeared at Cheltenham on Nov 25 as sub in the 65th minute and three days later started the home game against Bolton. He didn’t reappear for the second half and that was that. It had gone again. “Out until the New Year” we were informed. Out out more like. He’s gone back to Ipswich to continue his rehabilitation programme.  They can’t be happy with the state we’ve returned him in. Getting injured in training and then breaking down almost immediately on his return could just be unlucky. Truthfully can’t say we’ll really miss him because we’ve hardly had him. Disappointing nonetheless.

Tuesday

New stadium update from the club: At last some communication. “It’s taken slightly longer than anticipated” Designs have been adjusted in response to the consultation. We all understand what a challenging task this is and it has to be done correctly so we don’t tumble over unspotted hurdles or get choked in endless red tape. However there is no deadline mentioned in the release. That’s wise if the club really don’t know and don’t want to set a target that they can’t meet but my initial reaction of positivity that came with at last something has been said soon return to one of some concern. We’ve been told – and it’s obvious – that time is of the essence. No wiggle room. No plan B when the lease at the Kassam runs out. The original target for the planning application to be submitted was November. We’re now nearly halfway through January.

The Bristol Street Motors Wimbledon defeat: I’d forgotten we had played this game until my son informed me that we’d lost and ended up with 10 men and Oisin Smyth in goal. Much as I can’t abide this competition my reaction was “oh, ffs”. Then I saw the team. Jordan Thorniley, Fin Stevens, Josh McEachran, Joe Bennet, Cameron Brannagan, James Henry, Mark Harris, Marcus McGuane, Tyler Goodrham, Gatlin O’Donkor and Simon Eastwood all participated and we couldn’t even beat a L2 side that have lost two of their last three league matches to the bottom two sides in the division. A friend had written on FB “FFS 1 down, no defence”. No defence. A lot of the time now we can’t defend individually or collectively. This has become a major problem since Des came in. TERRIBLE.

Wednesday

Tyler Burey: At last a signing. I got a bit excited. I read the blurb. “On loan from Danish Super League (DSL) team Odense”. “Exciting, quick, stretches the game, has good delivery”. I’m seduced by it all. The word “super” has worked on me. Then I stopped to think what the equivalent English level to the DSL is because it sure ain’t the Premier League and better check what he did there. Well, he started one game for Odense and came on as sub five times. He appeared once in August, twice in September, once in October and twice in November. His total game time was 164 minutes. Best here to be underwhelmed so having no expectations can’t feel disappointed. Go, our second Tyler. We’ll be behind you.

Joe Bennett: Deal extended until the end of the season. His experience has been of great value and will continue to be so. A good thing indeed.

Des’s suggestion that the announcement of Chris Hackett as his assistant was revealed earlier than planned to me is very worrying. I don’t need to explain why do I?

Thurs

Tyler Goodrham: New long term contract. At last some excellent news. This young man excites.

Jamie Cumming: A replacement for Beadle. No idea how good he is but if he is as good as the kid who had just left we’ll be well served. So more good news.

Fri

Alex Gorrin: With his short term deal having run out he’s now signed for Forest Green Rovers. Injuries have been so cruel to him. Obviously he goes with the very best wishes for success in the remainder of his career. His departure will make no difference to the strength of our squad.

Overall though I still detect a feeling of negativity within the fan base. That was hugely evident after the Coventry game and the events noted above won’t have done much to negate that. It’s as if we’ve set ourselves up ready to go into “wheels have come off” mode.

Carlisle are second bottom only two points above Fleetwood, who have a game in hand. They’ve lost seven, drawn three, and won one of their last 11 league games. Now if we can’t beat them it could get very messy. Even given our current situation there has to be an expectation that we’ll win. If there wasn’t what’s the point in any of it? That though brings pressure.

I’m now going to turn all positive. Elliott Moore will be back – our defence just isn’t the same without him and Greg Leigh returns to the squad. He has been our biggest miss this season.

 

CARLISLE UNITED 1 OXFORD UNITED 3

This is our furthest trip of the season which meant being picked up at 7:30. No complaints about traffic hold ups. We were parked up close to the ground just gone midday having had a couple of quick stops. One involved a few boxes of milking gloves being picked up from a dairy farm near Chorley. Brain wasn’t functioning – I’m not used to getting up early. I opened the gate to let my mate drive his pick-up back out onto the road then shut it again. Whoops, I needed to open it again to get out myself. Good job I wasn’t driving.

The pub we’d arranged to meet others in was the Good Beer Guide listed 301 Miles from London. It’s situated within the railway station and serves 6 changing ales – or so I thought. I was much looking forward to getting in there. As we’d just walked past Brunton Park I got a text telling me it was permanently closed. Note to self – do better research. Never mind, the CAMRA app came to the rescue giving the location of the next closest pub in the GBG: King’s Head, Fisher Street. Having entered that into google maps off we set. More incompetence. Couldn’t find it but looked up to see the Sportsman Inn – also in the GBG so in we went. A very happy accident as they say.

It couldn’t have been friendlier in there from the lady behind the bar to the couple of Carlisle fans we got chatting to. There were a good number of customers, with a few wearing blue scarves, but the pub was nowhere near being packed. Most of the clientele fell into the older age bracket but there was a younger lad and his dad sat near us. I asked how Paul Simpson was doing as manager for them. Some really like him for what he has done previously and recognise he hasn’t got much to work with. Others aren’t so sure. We were then told that the owners who took over in November had put some money in to the club and the Cumbrians had made signings.

Those new owners are Castle Sports Group Limited which was set up specifically for the purpose of taking over the club and is owned by the Piatak family from Jacksonville, Florida, USA. In the Fan’s View for our home game with Carlisle Colin B gave us the heads up that this would likely happen. The usual question – what’s in it for them?

We then got talking about away followings. “We’ve sold 400” my mate said. I added that’s without those paying on the day. I thought our final figure of 562 was a very creditable turnout given our form and the time of the year. The lad pointed out that they took about 800 to the Kassam. 770 to be precise. I countered yes but you’re just back in L1 and it was your first away game of the season. My mate added “all probably from London”. All good light-hearted banter. I then asked if he went to most away games. He said yes but had missed four. “Missed four, that’s poor.”  Then I told him how much I genuinely admired fans like himself who have to travel such long distances for almost every away game. He knew how many miles he’d already travelled this season to watch his team and it was a lot more than us, that’s for sure. Well into the thousands. He then asked if I had heard of the Oldham Groundhopper. Of course I had. It’s a well-known personal football blog Facebook page. It’s always popping up on my feed. He then showed me a picture on his phone of two Carlisle fans holding up a CUFC flag as they are about to board an EasyJet flight the previous weekend on their way to a 2-0 defeat at Exeter. It was a picture I’d already seen and had been mightily impressed with. “That’s me” he said, pointing to the bloke on the right.

They left the Sportsman before we did with best wishes for the future being passed both ways. A chance encounter that makes away days special.

The beer had been good enough for staying put to be no problem but we decided to have another go at finding the King’s Head and this time we were successful. The ale in here was just as good, with northern bitters and their unique taste really hitting the mark. It might just be me but I don’t think they’re poured with such a tight creamy head as they used to be. The atmosphere in here was a bit different though. Much more crowded and with many looking dressed for a night out even though it was early afternoon. I didn’t see any home colours in here but the man stood next to me at the bar was asked by one of the staff if he was going to the match. His reply was “yes but I might as well just get hold of the money I’m going to pay to get in and chuck it down on the floor here”. I might have got this wrong but I got the impression that regulars might have got served quicker than tourists like me.

In the concourse Dave Self, brother of Selfy, was about to interview Cameron Brannagan’s Dad for Oxford Sport Online.

Not having yet checked our starting XI my mate got his phone, tapped the screen a few times then held it up to me and asked “Who are these guys?”.  Luke Armstrong and Daniel Butterworth, um? Let me think. Have we made some signings of which I was unaware? Could it be that our injury crisis had got worse to such an extent that we’ve had to bring in youngsters from the youth teams we’ve never heard of? It took me a couple of seconds to twig. Take a closer look sir, that’s both teams you’ve got up on screen there. Those two are the Carlisle strike force.

For just over half an hour we were pretty dreadful. For a long time we hardly got over the halfway line. It was all passing in our own half. That’s all well and good but if every 25th pass, or whatever, is going to be one where you give the ball away it’s a cause for concern.

As for touches in the Carlisle penalty area, they just weren’t happening. In the 19th minute, after a great pass from Brannagan which was out of keeping with the game thus far, Ruben Rodrigues nearly did but left the ball behind as he ran into the box. 30 minutes on the clock and it still hadn’t happened.

The hosts were looking the more likely to score particularly with us starting to give the ball away more frequently. Their poor finishing aided our cause.

As a collective though, our fans didn’t turn on the team. It was individuals such as myself yelling out in exasperation. It was clear that some boredom with what was happening on the pitch had set in. “Shoes off if you hate Swindon”. Although I didn’t take my eyes off what was going on my mind did wander a bit. “Football in a Library” our fans sang. I just commented to no one in particular that I’d like to actually take a football into the Bicester branch and dribble it around the book shelves singing this song. “Stick that in your blog” said John “Give us an Ooooo” Duggan not for the last time. We certainly weren’t being gripped by the action, because there wasn’t any from Oxford United.

Sleep inducing as it was I was nevertheless pleased with the robustness with which Ciaron Brown was defending and Elliott Moore wasn’t far behind him in that regard.

Although I was angry with the way we were playing I still had some optimism that we could win because Carlisle were clearly a limited outfit.

On 35 minutes we nearly managed it but again, no. Harris let the ball run past him and out for a goal kick.

A minute later that first touch came. A wild blast over from Rodrigues but we had just started to play our passing a bit further up the field. Doing so we were more able to win the ball back having lost it and we began to move it quicker. Were we at last getting into our stride?

We put together four passes around the halfway line but just into enemy territory. This was progress indeed. Brannagan made a forward pass which Rodrigues cleverly dummied, letting it run through his legs and on to Harris. That’s why I like RR, little bits like that. Harris’s second touch was a shot which was obviously our best by far. The referee judged that there had been a slight deflection and we got a corner. Couldn’t tell from the stands. Carlisle thought goal kick.

Brannagan put it beyond the far post where Moore was located, having peeled off from the crowd and arrived there unmarked. His header into the crowd scene in the six yard box was put in the net by Harris. It was impossible to tell how on the day and still very difficult when watching replays. As our no.9 was facing the wrong way I’ll go for a back-heel.

The game had changed. Our class was now showing and we were attacking. That said, Carlisle had a chance or two to level things up before the break. In the very last seconds of added time, out of character, Brannagan lost the ball on the bye-line instead of just knocking it out for a throw. The shot which followed hit Moore and went inches wide. Phew!

Two minutes after the players had returned we’d doubled our lead. The build-up play was patient but we were looking for a way forward. It involved Moore bringing the ball out from the back and this became a second half feature. Harris let Fin Stevens’ first time pass run and he was one on one with Harry Lewis in the Carlisle goal. The keeper got a half tackle in as Harris tried to round him, but our striker (I’ll call him that now he’s scoring goals) kept his composure, stopped, turned around and put the ball in off the post. Fine margins and an obvious appeal for offside. I’ve played it back numerous times and as an Oxford fan would say it was inconclusive. I would have been aggrieved if it had gone against us. Yes, fine margins but we usually find we’re on the wrong end of them. He wasn’t “off by a mile” though as the local radio commentators would have it. Or even “a yard or two”. Then they became more reasoned. Passionate game this football.

Brannagan forced Lewis to scramble one away and we looked comfortable.

In the 67th minute, Goodrham was flipped to the ground and a free-kick was awarded. We didn’t put bodies in the box. At 2-0 up there was no pressing need. Brannagan played it simply to Marcus McGuane, who knocked it back to Elliott Moore in the centre circle just in our half. He gave it to Brannagan and got it back again before bringing it forward a couple of paces then pushing the most precise of through-balls in to Goodrham. Having our captain back puts so much more steel into our rear-guard and now he added a bit of Beckenbauer to his Rob Dickie/Ron Atkinson impersonations. TG took it beautifully, cut inside and finished from right on the edge of the area.

Game over. Then it got even better with Greg Leigh coming on.

Carlisle didn’t throw the towel in though. Jordan Gibson kept catching the eye and was causing some problems for us down our right side. Wonder why he didn’t start.

Four minutes after our third the score became 3-1. Gibson had a shot which Cummin got down to at his near post to keep out although not with total comfort.  Smyth seemed very lazy in trying to prevent Luke Armstrong having the loose ball. Armstrong’s shot cannoned off Moore to Alfie McCalmont who scored.

There were no further goals although we no longer had the control we’d previously established and we had to rely on Cumming to prevent our lead being further whittled away. Gibson set up Joe Garner and our new no.1 had to go to his left to paw the effort away. Luckily Garner’s connection wasn’t true. A very good save anyway.

We can be reassured by Cumming’s debut. The way he took the ball and the way he dropped to the ground after gathering it was very like the way Beadle did it. Probably how the younger keepers are coached these days. Cumming is five years older than Beadle and with that should come more experience. He wasn’t bombarded at all here but probably has the potential to dominate his area more than Beadle did. He can play with his feet, which of course is now a basic requirement. Probably went long a bit more than Beadle, but that may have been down to the nature of the game and the instructions he’d been given.

Back home by 9:23 p.m. after a very enjoyable day out.

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