Stevenage v Carlisle United: Next in line for Boro', it's the only team to do a proper number on us so far this season. Can we return the favour against them?
Photo: "Take me home" by daniel.d.slee is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Next in line for Boro’, it’s the only team to do a proper number on us so far in League Two this season. Carlisle United showed us no mercy when thrashing us by four goals back in December; something that no other side has come close to doing. But now the landscape is looking a little different. Can we return the favour against them? Our initial guess would be “no”. It’s not ‘cos they’re untouchable. It’s because we’d struggle to score four goals in four games – let alone all of them in just one 90-minute period.

Boro’ are fresh into this meeting; hopefully making the most of the benefit of a full week’s rest. Last time out saw us clock up our 157th goalless draw of the season; this time down at Southend United. Our guests, meanwhile, are slowly making the trip south; a midweek visit to Mansfield Town providing some small respite on a heroic adventure away from the Caledonian hinterlands that Carlisle borders. That’s Scotland in modern speak. You might have heard of the place. Oh never mind. Here’s what this game has to offer…

The Details: Stevenage v Carlisle United

Where’s the game?

As we made the long trip north back in December, the onus now falls on Carlisle United. The Lamex is where this game is at; the first of two back-to-back home fixtures for us.

Can I watch Stevenage v Carlisle United?

You can.

And thanks for asking.

But, on the off-chance you were hoping for a little more information than that, what you’ll need is an iFollow Match Pass. It’ll cost you a tenner – the price of a couple of pints in a pub that you can’t visit for another few weeks. So, why not chuck it towards the club?

Don’t forget – this game kicks off at 1pm.

How is Boro’s form looking at the moment?

Unbeaten in eight, it’s been so good to see Boro’ become one of the toughest nuts in the league to crack. Our defensive record (31 goals conceded) is second only to Salford City (27) and six straight clean sheets tells its own tale. This will undoubtedly be a big test for our back line. But we’ve shown ourselves to be completely unwilling to let any opposition score in recent weeks. If it continues, we could be moving into record-breaking territory.

But let’s hold that thought until we’re the other side of this fixture.

Goals, as we all know, are a still problem for us. Just as the defence comes back from a day’s work with ‘zero’ against their name, so too does our attack. In almost half (47%) of all our home matches, we’ve failed to score. And more than two-thirds (69%) ended with fewer than 2.5 goals. We’ve banged the drum before. But if we can add goals to the mix, we’ll flying up the table much faster – and giving a lot of sides something to worry about.

… and how are the Cumbrians doing right now?

Since the last time we met, Carlisle’s form has been far from perfect. Well, far from ideal for them. Just three wins in 14 league games is their return. To put that into context, they moved into third position after beating us in mid-December. Now, the Cumbrians sit 11th and have drifted a long way off the promotion pace. Over the last eight, only three teams have picked up fewer points and that puts them well down the form table.

A late Mansfield Town leveller in midweek didn’t do much to help that out either.

It’s at home that our next opposition excel; 32 points from 16 matches at Brunton Park is the second-best return indoors. On the road, however, it’s a different tale. With 16 points from 16, there are just four sides faring worse on their travels. It’s not all bright lights and sunshine for us, however. This is a team who know where the goal is; scoring in each of their last eight matches. Offrande Zanzala, late of this parish, is on a rich vein of scoring form too; bagging four in the last three and eager to show us what he couldn’t do here.

Our story with Carlisle United so far

This doesn’t make for a great read, all told. But it’s not a total disaster either. Leaving out our four-goal shambles at their gaff earlier this season, the balance of power between us and them isn’t that uneven. In 21 encounters up ’til this point, we’ve won seven of them – compared with 10 victories for the Cumbrians. See? It’s hardly dreadful, although there’s clear room for improvement. And this is the perfect chance to start work on that.

It might be fair to say that our wins against Carlisle United tend to come in pairs. After all, we recorded league doubles against them during both the 2004-5 and 2018-9 campaigns. Before the disaster that was last season, we were actually on a run of five league games without defeat against the Cumbrians (three wins and two draws). But times have moved on since then. And we need to start catching up with them – and the Cumbrians.

Last Time Out: Carlisle United 4-0 Stevenage, 12 December 2020

Who’s the referee in charge?

Brett Huxtable.

Mr Huxtable comes to the Lamex this weekend with 25 matches under his belt so far this campaign. With 84 yellow cards shown, there’s nothing too much out of the ordinary here. That’s an average of just over three yellows per outing. And that feels reasonable enough. But he did go a little mad with the reds lately; sending off three players in two League One matches, before calming down and keeping all 22 lads on the pitch last time out.

In terms of our record on Mr Huxtable’s watch, it’s not one to relive in too much of a hurry. We have won twice in eight previous encounters, which is fairly unremarkable. What isn’t so unremarkable is the fact that one of our three defeats was our 7-1 humiliation away to Luton in 2017. The good news is that we’re unbeaten (so far) at home when Mr Huxtable swings by our neck of the woods: returning both of our wins and, sigh, two goalless draws.

Last Time Out: Stevenage 0-0 Crawley Town, 07 December 2019

Stevenage v Carlisle United: Our verdict?

Well, what do we have to be worried about here? This isn’t the same Carlisle United side that demolished us in December. And we aren’t the same team we were that day. But it’s no reason to be complacent. Our guests might be struggling for form – but they still know where the goal is, which can’t necessarily be said for us. Let’s be bold with it though: 1-0.

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