Carlisle United: Remember Them?

By Pete H

Boro’ and Carlisle United have come a long way since the Blues crushed our Football League dreams at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium back in 2005. And the irony there, of course, is that it’s a bloody long way from Broadhall Way to Brunton Park. A bloody long way. If you set off about now, you’ll probably just get there for 3pm on Saturday. It don’t even matter what day of the week it is. Except Saturday, obviously. Then you can start to indulge more in a story that – at time of writing – has been 17 years in the making. Enough time to get over the Britannia…

Who are Carlisle United Football Club?

Long before they were standing in the way of our long-held ambition, Carlisle United Football Club were technically formed in 1896 as Shaddongate United. But they decided to change the name to what we know it as now in 1904. For some, that’s where the actual story starts. You’ll have to make up your own mind. Into the Lancashire Combination league they went, enjoying some success in their formative years. Then, in 1910, to the North Eastern League they went.

The Blues’ North Eastern League title success in 1921 was probably their biggest success since forming. But their big break came a few years later; the Football League coming knocking with the offer of a place in Division Three North. There isn’t a huge amount to report after that for a fair while to be honest. In 1958, the reorganisation of the League structure saw them placed in Division Four. Any irritation, though, was short-lived with promotion to Division Three in 1962.

After spending the next few years yo-yoing between Divisions Three and Four, they bucked up their ideas and won the Division Three title in 1965; earning promotion to the second tier. Five years later, they made an appearance in the League Cup semi-finals – if you can believe it. And then,  four years later, they gained promotion to the top flight of English football. Yep, up they went to rub shoulders with the big boys.

Why do we know the Blues?

The top flight was a step too far. They came straight back down and, two years later, plunged down again; this time into Division Three. While they did get another appearance back in the second tier in 1982, two successive relegations saw them back in Division Four for the 1987-8 season. In modern times, that campaign would see them out of the League altogether too. If Newport County hadn’t have been so naff, they could have made it three straight relegations.

The early 1990s were kind to the Blues, to be fair. After twice missing out on promotion (goal difference in 1990 and then playoff defeat in 1994), they were back in the third tier in 1995. It kicked off another bit of yo-yoing between the lower two divisions of the League. This ended with relegation in 1998 (having been promoted in 1997). And things were about to get worse.

The Blues really struggled over the next six seasons. With the exception of the 2001-2 season, where they finished a lofty 17th(!), they were always haunted by relegation to the Conference. Let’s face it: it needed a last-minute goal from on loan keeper Jimmy Glass to save them from non-league purgatory in 1999. The great escapes couldn’t continue, however.

What is our record against them?

With two-up from the Conference finally introduced for the 2003-4 season, 23rd was no longer good enough to spare the Blues. They came down to take their place in non-league football for the first time in more than 80 years. And we weren’t going to be in awe of their long time in the Football League. We made the long trip north for a cold midweek fixture in February 2005, and won 2-1. It was a trick we repeated a week-and-a-half later at our place.

Of course, history clearly shows how the Blues had the last laugh. In doing so, they made their immediate return to the Football League; Peter Murphy heading home the decisive goal in the playoff final. Again, why did our best chance have to fall to Mickey Warner?

It’d be six-and-a-bit years before we’d meet them again. And we had to get promoted twice to make it happen too. Old habits, however, die hard. We travelled to Brunton Park in September 2011 and Peter Murphy headed home the decisive goal. Fortunately, we were able to get some form of revenge by winning the return fixture by a single goal too. It helped us kick on towards the League One playoffs, while they just missed out.

As our fortunes in League One dwindled, so too did our record against them. Two draws – one either side of a pair of defeats – steered our head-to-head record in their favour as our time in the third tier came to an end. The thing is they were only three points better than us come the end of the 2013-4 campaign. And this meant we were both heading back down together. We’d now got ourselves into a situation where they couldn’t bear to be without us. Apparently.

Carlisle United: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 22 — W 8 — D 4 — L 10 — F 22 — A 26 — Pts 28 — WR 36%
Our last tango: Stevenage 3-1 Carlisle United, 20 March 2021

What happened to them?

For the past however long, we’ve both been knocking around in League Two. And our record is not that great. It’s not dreadful, but it’s not great. And we’re tempted to leave it at that. But the fact is we can’t make out a pattern in our recent results. We’ve had success at home and joy up there too. In 13 League Two encounters, we’ve won five – three of which were at the Lamex. In comparison, they’ve won six – three at ours and three at theirs. No rhyme or reason, see?

Last season’s 4-0 away defeat is the most one-sided encounter there’s been between us. That’s not to say we don’t get our own way, though. The return fixture at the Lamex finished 3-1 to us, while a 3-0 home win in April 2019 is the biggest win we’ve recorded over them. In fact, we did the league double over the Blues during the 2018-9 season. It’s the first time we managed that since 2004-5. Themselves? They recorded two 1-0 wins during the 2015-6 campaign.

So, you can’t look to history to give you an idea of how things will go the next time we meet the Blues. And meet them again we certainly will. Settle in, then. We’ve a long journey ahead…

• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Carlisle United club profile

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