Carlisle are making the long journey to Nailsworth on Saturday 22nd January.  This is the 2nd meeting between the sides this season.  The match at Brunton Park on 2nd October finished 2-0 to Rovers, with goals from Jamille Matt and Nicky Cadden, both around the half-hour mark.

Last season’s games finished 2-1 to Rovers in Carlisle and 1-0 to Rovers at home, so recent history seems to favour the men in green and black.

When Rovers last played Carlisle, their manager was Chris Beech.  Beech was sacked in October after a reasonable start to the season descended into a poor run of form.  Carlisle’s biggest defeat for 7 years in the league (a 4-0 defeat at Sutton Utd) led to booing from the 480 travelling fans and marked the beginning of the end for their manager.  The new man in charge is Keith Millen, appointed at the end of October.

Millen is starting to make an impact and Carlisle have been described as much improved.  In their last 7 games Carlisle have won 4 (2 home, 2 away), drawn 2 and lost 1.  The return of striker Lewi Alessandra from injury and some promising loan signings this month will make the Cumbrians no easy proposition.  Scoring goals has been an issue for them this season (just 19 in 25 games) and this is where Millen seems to have directed his recent resources.

Carlisle did need a boost.  Even now they are in 19th place in the league with 27 points from 25 games.  But they now have a cushion of 8 points between them and the relegation places.

One of Carlisle’s most reliable players in recent seasons has been  their No 12 Jon Mellish.  Mellish has been a regular goalscorer for the Cumbrians and he has 3 this season.  What is remarkable about Mellish’s scoring record is that he started last season as a defender and then converted to a defensive midfielder.  He ended last season with 16 goals to his name.  He is now looking more and more like an attacking midfielder.  Carlisle’s former manager believed every team needs a Jon Mellish and he praised the left-footed 23 year old midfielder as ‘selfless’.

Free scoring Carlisle No 12 Jon Mellish

Other than Mellish, Carlisle’s strike threat may come from a number of areas.  Tristan Abrahams (number 14) joined from Newport last summer and has netted 3 times this season (but this week he went on loan to Grimsby).  Lewi Alessandra (number 9) returned from injury to grab a last minute equaliser at home to Crawley recently.  Winger Jordan Gibson (number 27) is top scorer with 4 goals.

But Rovers will need to be mindful of 2 new Carlisle signings in the January transfer window.  Norwich loanee, 19 year-old Tyrese Omotoye (number 29), has great pace and has impressed in his first couple of weeks at the club.  Also with pace and power is Omari Patrick who has returned to Carlisle after a short period at Burton Albion.

Omotoye and Patrick may trouble Rovers with their pace.

Carlisle manager, Keith Millen, has had management spells at Bristol City, Crystal Palace & MK Dons (mostly in a caretaker capacity).

You’ll note the ties in the photo opposite!  Dale Vince sat with travelling Rovers fans at Brunton Park because he refused to wear a tie (a Carlisle requirement in the directors’ box).  Dale wrote on his Facebook page – “Carlisle have a strict dress code, no tie no entry – so I’m with our fans for the game, nothing lost there….. And we have a ‘mirror dress code policy’ that will bite Carlisle later in the season (when they visit us) – whatever they ban we insist on, whatever they insist on we ban – so it’s obligatory jeans and trainers for them and no shirts or ties…”  That’ll be jeans and trainers for the visitors on Saturday then!?

It’s not the first brush between the 2 sides.  Back in 2018 Blues chairman, Andrew Jenkins, the head of Pioneer Foodservice, said that he ‘couldn’t bring himself’ to sample the cuisine on offer at all-vegan Forest Green.  In his programme notes, Jenkins said “I don’t really want to be sarcastic, but what would happen if, when vegetarians came to our club, all we could offer was an all-meat menu?”  Dale Vince responded by suggesting that, in the future, families who made their living in the meat trade would be regarded in the same way as people who ran the slave trade.  In spite of all this, Carlisle have provided a vegan menu at Brunton Park!

Chris Beech (top) was sacked in October and replaced by Keith Millen.

  • Back in 1066, Carlisle was in Scotland. The town is, of course, English these days but is only 7 miles from the Scottish border.
  • Carlisle’s geography means they travel long distances to away games. Their shortest trip to an away game is a 175 mile round trip to Barrow – a mere 3 or 4 hours on the road. Exeter involves an 11 hour round trip of up to 700 miles.  Compared with these journeys, the 500 mile round trip to Nailsworth is a piece of cake!
  • Carlisle have played one season in the top flight of English football (1974/75 season). They won their first 3 games of the season to go top of the division but eventually finished bottom and were relegated back to the 2nd tier.
  • Bill Shankly (a former Carlisle manager), at the time, called Carlisle’s rise to the top “the greatest feat in the history of the game”.
  • These days known as ‘The Blues’, they are also sometimes known as ‘The Foxes’ due to a historical local connection with huntsman John Peel. Older club badges feature a fox head underneath Carlisle Castle and the club mascot is still Olga the Fox (Olga because it’s an anagram of goal!).
  • Carlisle fans are known as ‘the blue army’. Among their chants Carlisle supporters sing ‘Proud to be a Cumbrian, Super Carlisle from the North’.
  • In 1915, the Government was worried about the effect of excessive alcohol consumption on munitions production for the war effort.  It decided to nationalise some pubs.  The problem was considered to be most acute in the Carlisle/Gretna area.  By 1916 most of the pubs in north Cumbria (some 300 of them) and all the breweries were owned by the State.  Beers were made a little weaker, prices were raised, advertising was stripped out of pubs, and landlords were salaried (no incentive to sell more beer!).  The ‘Carlisle Experiment’ as it became known was considered a great success and continued in diluted form until the 1970’s.

Carlisle’s mascot, Olga the Fox, takes some time out at local Cumbrian attraction, Hadrian’s Wall.  Below, Olga with a couple of FGR fans!

Legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly took his first step in management in 1949 at Carlisle, where he stayed for 2 years.