Sky Bet League two returns this weekend after a dreary 3 month break, only made bearable by a magnificent World Cup. This Saturday, however, the real football is back and in the most classic of opening day fixtures Carlisle have to comprehend travelling 350 miles to play Exeter.
After a turbulent summer optimism isn’t high from the Blues faithful. With a new manager on board and some new personnel, this season is really quite hard to predict. Despite the debacle of the pitch, including unrest towards the owners, John Sheridan seems like a no-nonsense manager who will simply have the team set up solely to get the three points on Saturday.
Following a distinct lack of quality transfer business this summer, Sheridan enters the fray with a hard task. An abundance of know-how in the lower leagues however, most recently helping Fleetwood to survival in League One, will hopefully aid this uphill battle. He has managed to bring in a good mix of youth and experience, though unfortunately not the silk and swagger desperately required in a winger, and to replace the absence of outgoing star man Nicky Adams.
Last season wasn’t one to remember for the fans with a 10th place finish, though most bookmakers predict similar or worse for the Blues this year. Hopefully the team can prove doubters wrong, especially in a hard contest with Exeter to open the season.
Our opponents, nonetheless, will be no polished article.
Over the past two seasons thrills and heartache have defined the “Grecian’s” seasons with two Play-off final defeats meaning they have narrowly missed out on promotion, so could it be a third time lucky?
If it felt like all change at Carlisle this summer, then it certainly would have for Exeter, with a new manager for the first time in twelve years, following the departure of Paul Tisdale.
Big boots to fill rest on the young shoulders of Matt Taylor; a part of the coaching team last year and with over 150 Exeter appearances to his name. This could bode well for them in my eyes as he knows the clubs set up, and at least they didn’t take a few months to find a manager like Carlisle did!
How will Carlisle line up?
Going into the new season some positions are up for grabs, whilst Carlisle are arguably short in many.
The goalkeeper position seems very much up for grabs with a straight battle between Adam Collin and Joe Fryer.
Full backs Danny Grainger and Gary Miller seem pretty certain to start, while it may be expected that Gary Liddle and Tom Parkes start in the Central defensive roles, despite the signing of Newcastle’s Macaulay Gillesphey.
One part of the pitch I am optimistic about is the midfield and if Carlisle keep hold of Jamie Devitt then I believe he can be a real talismanic figure. Alongside him young George Clendon could deputise, whilst Mike Jones will be backed to have an improved season from last retaining his central midfield role.
In attack, nevertheless, Carlisle seem to be threadbare with few options. At this point it would be expected Hallam Hope may start one side of tall striker Richie Bennett, with young Jerry Yates from Rotherham on the other side complete the line up.
Predicted line up: Fryer, Miller, Liddle, Parkes, Grainger, Clendon, Jones, Devitt, Hope, Bennett, Yates.
In recent seasons this contest has resulted in goals galore. In the 2016/2017 season, the two matched up on four occasions with 21 goals scored in all!
The two met in the play off semi final in a classic encounter; Exeter eventually won 6-5 on aggregate.
Despite a 1-1 draw last season, Carlisle have a pretty dismal record on their long travels to Exeter and I predict a similar opening day result with a point to take back to Cumbria.