Carlisle United meeting the opposition.

Carlisle United. Meeting the opposition.

In the past week, it appears that Tranmere supporters have lowered their sights as they seemed to be set on an automatic promotion spot previously. This is solely down to their away form, failing to win any of their last seven. Poor away from home but great at home seems to be a constant throughout the 2021-22 campaign, Micky Mellon’s side top the League Two table when it comes to their performances at Prenton Park.

Carlisle United are the next team to travel to the Wirral and they are in great form following Paul Simpson’s appointment as interim manager. Since the news on 23rd February, United have won six league games and cemented their place in the division for next season when it seemed to be in doubt before. However, they are beatable as Rochdale found out with a 2-0 victory in midweek.

Before the upcoming fixture, I spoke to Carlisle fan and UCLAN Sports Journalism student Ben Pitkeathly who gave his thoughts on all matters on and off the pitch. We also spent a bit of time discussing the playing battles that will be made evident on Saturday afternoon.

Carlisle United are currently placed 18th in the League Two table. What were your expectations going into the season and what are they now as the campaign’s end is nearing?

I was hoping we would have built on last season where we just missed out on the playoffs, but instead, we lost key players so my expectations were never high. I never thought we’d be as low as we were before Simmo came in. 

Paul Simpson is the man currently in the United dugout, what are the supporters’ thoughts of him and was it the right time to part ways with Keith Millen? Would you say Simpson is the main reason for the fantastic recent form? Carlisle have won five of their last six.

Simmo is adored by Carlisle fans. He’s got a fantastic reputation and has a great bond with the fans having been born in the city. He won promotion from non-league and a League Two title when he was last with the club so he is held in extremely high regard. 

We weren’t going anywhere with Millen, he stabilised us for a bit at the start of his reign but the players had no confidence and there was no way he was going to turn it around. Nice guy but he didn’t really understand the club or the league.

Simmo is absolutely the reason for the recent form. The teams’ confidence has improved dramatically due to his guidance and this has been reflected in the performances. 

Who is the owner of United and what is their current relationship with the fanbase like?

Andrew Jenkins is the major shareholder. The relationship with the fans is broken beyond repair and the less said the better. I’m pretty confident there will be new owners in place by the start of next season. 

Who would you say are your side’s key players and where will the key battles be on Saturday afternoon?

We work so well as a unit it’s almost hard to pick out key players but striker Kristian Dennis is in great form with two in his last two games and perfectly complements the athleticism and skill of Omari Patrick upfront.

The back three have been immense since Simmo joined. Morgan Feeney is the rock that holds the defence together, a player you’ll be familiar with. Dynel Simeu has been excellent in recent games and looks far too good at this level. Jon Mellish never gets the plaudits he deserves and he has also been very good in defence.

I think if we can stop Kane Hemmings then we’ve got a very good chance and I’m confident that we can do so. 

Patrick up against Peter Clarke is a mismatch pace-wise and hopefully, we can exploit the veteran in the channels.

How do you see the upcoming ninety minutes pan out and why, if you do, do you believe this game will be different to the previous encounter between the two sides? (Rovers won 1-0 at Brunton Park in mid October)

We’re a much more controlled and disciplined football team from what you have seen from us before. Instead of relying on individual brilliance, we work as a team and our strikers will pull your defence all over the place. I think it will be much more even than past encounters. I’d say I’m pretty confident that we can get a result and I’d take a draw as long as we score. 

What starting eleven will be selected by Simpson and what is his opted playing style?

GK-Howard LWB- Armer CB-Simeu, Feeney, Mellish RWB- Riley CM- Dickenson, Devine, Gibson ST- Dennis, Patrick

Tactically we play when it’s on and go long when we need to, it’s quite simple. Keeping a clean sheet is always emphasised. 

What moments/goals/experiences stand out for you in previous Tranmere v Carlisle fixtures?

Tom Lawrence scored probably the best double I’ve seen at a game when we beat you 4-1 in 2013. First goal he flicked it up and volleyed past Fon Williams from the edge of the box and the second was a phenomenal solo effort. David Amoo and James Berrett got the others.

Touching on the January transfer window, how influential have your incomings and outgoings been?

Jamie Devitt, Dennis, Patrick and Simeu have all had positive impacts since they came in. 

Unfortunately Devitt is now injured. Joel Senior looked promising but he is out for the rest of the season. Mitchell Roberts, Tyrese Omotoye and Owen Windsor have had little impact since arriving on loan.

We managed to get rid of Zach Clough and Tristan Abrahams who struggled. Clough went to Adelaide on a free and Abrahams went out on loan to Grimsby. A few young players also went out on loan.

Carlisle United are the next team to travel to Prenton Park. Tranmere’s home record is better than any other side they share the division with.

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