Carlisle United FC meeting the opposition.

Tranmere Rovers put in a promising performance under the lights of Prenton Park last Friday in Ian Dawes’ first home game back as interim manager, following the dismissal of Micky Mellon. 

Rhys Hughes scored a fantastic free kick, it went down in the books as an own goal from the goalkeeper but you have to make your own luck and full-backs Ethan Bristow and Josh Cogley continued to make great runs down the wing. 

It was Mateusz Hewelt’s first game back in net for a while, the experienced Joe Murphy being favoured recently, and he made a fantastic save to keep a point before picking up the man of the match award for his efforts. 

Next up are Paul Simpson’s Carlisle United, on Friday afternoon, who will be looking to bounce back following their narrow away defeat at Leyton Orient last time out. 

Ahead of the game at Brunton Park, I spoke to Carlisle supporter Ben Pitkeathly and it’s safe to say he’s feeling optimistic about the club’s future. 

Carlisle United finished last season just outside the relegation zone and are currently positioned inside the play-offs as finishing inside the automatic promotion spots is a possibility. With us getting into the latter stages now, how would you describe the campaign? 

Unexpectedly brilliant, up there with one of the best seasons I’ve had following the Blues. I was expecting a mid table season and laying the foundations for a promotion charge next year, but we’ve surpassed all expectations. I still expect us to get promoted either through the playoffs or automatically. Recent games have been poor, but every team has a dip in form and there’ll be more twists and turns.  

Carlisle were beaten 1-0 away at Leyton Orient in their last outing, do you believe that will have any say on their mindset going into the game against Tranmere?

It’s become a must win for us. The gap between us and those below us has become a worry. We’re struggling to score goals so we could do with a confidence building win to put us back on track and possibly leapfrog Stevenage.  

What are the reasons behind the success?

Simmo simple as that, plus a few gambles that have paid off. We’ve got the majority of the recruitment right with a good blend of experience and youth.  The emergence of Owen Moxon as one of the best midfielders in the league along with Kristian Dennis’ goals has got us in the position we are in.  

In the January transfer window, players such as Fleetwood Town striker Joe Garner and Middlesbrough left back Jack Robinson were recruited. How have they settled in and were all the issues that needed to be addressed focused on?

We lost striker Jack Stretton in January so more depth in that area was needed and we brought Garner back again. He brings a bit of gamesmanship and nastiness which we needed up top. Alfie McCalmont looks a great addition, a little terrier in midfield and someone I’d love us to get permanently. Robinson hasn’t featured much due to the form of Jon Mellish but showed promise in some substitute appearances. We brought John Kymani Gordon in from Palace and he looked too good for the level but has faded in recent weeks.  

Carlisle’s manager is England U20 World Cup Winner Paul Simpson, he was appointed in late February 2022. What are your thoughts on him, his playing style and his relationship with fans?

The best manager in the league, said without a hint of bias. Taken us from a broken club with a poisonous atmosphere and has reunited the city with its team. He’s a Carlisle lad and instils his passion in the team which gets results. His style is solid and gets the best out of the players we have and there’s plenty of combinations to use. He’s seen as the messiah by the fans and whatever happens this season he will always be in favour.  

The Blues are owned by Andrew Jenkins, a man who has spent more than sixty years at the club. How would you describe the fans’ relationship with him, the work he has recently done and the upcoming plans?

He’s taken a back seat in recent years due to age and is not well liked. But in fairness he has got many of the big decisions right recently so credit to him for that but again too late to repair the relationship with fans. It’s time for him to go and for new investment to propel the club  to its true potential. 

One man to watch out for on Saturday afternoon is 33-year-old Kristian Dennis as he has netted (18g + 4a in 22g). How would you describe his playing style and his importance to the team?

A true poacher with a superb first touch and instinct in the box but he’s been off the boil recently. Not sure he’ll start but we could do with him finding his shooting boots again.  

Where will the key battles be played out at Brunton Park?

Most games in League two are won or lost in midfield and we dominated that area in the wins against you this season. But we can’t score at the moment so if it clicks upfront, we’ll be better for it. 

What is your score prediction? The last time the two clubs met was in early November as a late Neill Byrne goal wasn’t enough to stop Tranmere exiting the FA Cup up in Cumbria.  

2-0 Carlisle, slow start to the first half but get a goal before half time and then pick Tranmere off on the break when you search for an equaliser.  

What are your thoughts on The Whites? Since Ian Dawes has been in interim charge Tranmere have drawn both of their games 1-1, their last outing being against Harrogate Town at Prenton Park.

Seems too much loyalty to Micky Mellon has been your downfall. You’ll be better from a fresh start with a new manager in the summer.  

Brunton Park is the venue of this Good Friday fixture. Tranmere have won two of their last three fixtures here, dating back to a 3-2 thriller in February 2021. However, a late goal from Neill Byrne wasn’t enough to keep Tranmere in the FA Cup against United in November.

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