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🔵 The Cumbrian Coverage - Jon Colman | News and Star

Carlisle journo has the opposition POV

19 November 2021

With Carlisle making the long trip south this weekend, joining them on the journey is award-winning journalist Jon Colman from the Carlisle News and Star.

Since 2005, Jon has reported on Carlisle United for the local press. A prestigious journalist, Jon has been named regional sportswriter of the year six times at the British Sports Journalism awards.

Away from football, Colman also has a keen eye on Cricket, having helped co-write Paul Nixon's autobiography 'Keeping Quiet', which had him longlisted for the MCC Book of the Year award in 2013. 

A man clearly no stranger to the Cumbrians, Jon took the time to answer our questions, to give us the Carlisle point of view ahead of Saturday's game.  

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Hi Jon, thanks for chatting to us! You've been covering Carlisle since 2005, but what have been your highlights in this time?

My first season was the most successful I have covered - Carlisle won the League Two title and went to the Football League Trophy final. They had a great side with some top players and characters like Kevin Gray, Keiren Westwood, Karl Hawley, Zigor Aranalde, Chris Lumsdon and Michael Bridges, and were positive off the field under the ownership of Fred Story and management of Paul Simpson.

It has seldom been as successful since, but being able to report on a Wembley victory (in 2011's Johnstone's Paint Trophy, when club legend Peter Murphy scored the winner) was another ambition fulfilled. Other memorable games include taking Liverpool to penalties at Anfield (in the League Cup in 2015) and of course the ridiculous Richard Offiong finale at St James' Park in 2010!

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It's been a slow start for the Cumbrians so far, sitting in 22nd. How would you sum up the season so far?  

Worrying. Carlisle have equalled a club record for the fewest goals scored in their first 16 league games - and only two wins from those matches tells you how things have been in general.

After a decline under Chris Beech, they have spent the last few weeks around the relegation places and the prospect of going down to non-league is a seriously concerning one among fans, given the strength of the National League and some of the off-field concerns fans also have at Carlisle.

The hope is that Keith Millen - who replaced the sacked Beech - can steadily chisel some points out of an under-performing squad, and then the club can get some much-needed help in the January transfer window to avoid the nightmare of the drop.

And what are your expectations come the end of season? 

Given the growing fears, I think many fans would accept 22nd if offered that now. Millen, though, is adamant that it is far too early to have the r-word (relegation) mentioned around the building.

If he can somehow get some goals out of the team, and marry that to the increased organisation and structure seen in his early games in charge, then Carlisle could climb away from the bottom two. But their lack of potency in attack is a major issue just now.

Keith Millen does possess a dangerous squad, which players should City be wary of?  

Jordan Gibson has been a positive addition since his move from Sligo Rovers in August; he is a creative-minded player who is keen to take defenders on.

Zach Clough is capable of moments of magic even though they have been fleeting so far. Jon Mellish is yet to emulate last season's form but if Carlisle can get him into attacking positions, he can grab goals in the box.

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How would you expect Millen to set up against Exeter? 

Millen has generally opted for 4-4-2 recently with wide players (Clough and Gibson) often tucking in, and their central midfielders being positionally disciplined. The new manager has sought to make United play more possession football after the often direct approach under Beech.

I'm sure that will be the aim against Exeter - to be as solid in their shape as possible and to stay in the game as long as they can against a team in brilliant unbeaten form, and hopefully break their recent league habit and nick a goal.

Games against Exeter are usually memorable affairs, what kind of game are you expecting on Saturday? Open? Cagey etc…?

 I think Carlisle will try and make it a game where patience and discipline trumps gung-ho, enterprising attacking. They will try and make Exeter work for whatever they get.

Whether they have the attacking ability to seriously threaten Matt Taylor's team is another matter. It would be interesting if Carlisle could manage to get themselves ahead; ideally with a goal in the 97th minute. 

And finally Jon what's your score prediction? 

1-1

Brilliant, thank you for chatting to us Jon! Safe travels down to Devon tomorrow!


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