Carlisle had a disappointing 18th place finish in League 2 in the Covid affected 2019/20 season. This led to a new manager (Chris Beech), a raft of new player signings and a new playing system. Early signs weren’t good, as Carlisle lost their first 3 games. Since then, the club have found their feet and have rocketed to 2nd place in League 2. They are ahead of Rovers by a couple of points. Over the last 9 matches, they are the form team in league 2. The Blues have been underpinned by their home form (8 wins out of 9) but 3 away wins and 2 away draws show they have resilience on the road as well.

One of the keys to their success so far has been the emergence of their No 12 Jon Mellish. Mellish has scored 7 league and 3 FA Cup goals this season (at one point this was almost as many goals as the rest of his team put together). What is remarkable about Mellish’s run of goals is that he started the season as a defender and converted to a defensive midfielder for this campaign. He is contracted until the end of the season but Carlisle are nonetheless worried they may lose the left-footed 23 year old in January if his form continues.

Free scoring Carlisle No 12 Jon Mellish
  • 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. Both Southend and Exeter involve 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’.
Olga the fox – Carlisle’s mascot
  • Carlisle’s best player last season, 17 year old Jarrad Branthwaite, was sold to Everton in January. The undisclosed fee for the transfer (said to be ‘substantial’) has given Carlisle scope to invest in new players. Branthwaite (who is valued at something like £1.8 million) made 4 appearances for Everton last season and has trained with the England U-19 squad, though injury has slowed down his start to this season.
Jarrad Branthwaite at Everton
  • This is the 1st meeting this season between FGR and the Cumbrian team.
  • Carlisle were drawn at Cardiff City in the 3rd round of last season’s FA Cup in January and led 2-0 before being pegged back to 2-2. The replay in Carlisle was one of the most exciting games of that round – Cardiff edged it 3-4. This season, after defeating Hayes & Yeading in the 1st round, they were beaten 2-1 by Doncaster Rovers in the 2nd.