D3D4 Carlisle United correspondent Nathan Ridley looks back on a difficult year for the Cumbrians…
For Carlisle United, 2017 was a tough year to say the least.
The year began bleakly with the departure of Charlie Wyke on transfer deadline day, and captain Danny Grainger & possible player of the season at the point of injury Mike Jones on the treatment table. A flurry of underwhelming signings arrived in hope of bolstering the squad.
It didn’t happen as Carlisle had a dismal time, losing their grip on even the play-off places and won just two home games in the second half of the season. Ultimately, it took the heroics of the likes of Nicky Adams and Jabo Ibehre to scramble into 6th place.
The play-offs were a nightmare as a last minute winner from former player Jack Stacey for Exeter City down in Devon meant that the tie finished 6-5 on aggregate which broke Cumbrian hearts and will always hurt.
A quiet yet intriguing summer ensued whilst key players such as long-time stopper Mark Gillespie, Ibehre and Michael Raynes left for pastures new and the many loans and short-term contracts of lesser-important players expired but the likes of Jason Kennedy and Reggie Lambe renewed their contracts. The squad didn’t change too much as regards to faces, as they looked to gain promotion in many key men’s final season under contract, including Curle.
It was a sluggish start and there was an uninspiring feeling about the group so full-back James Brown arrived on loan and made an impact to help things get moving on the pitch. Although, the biggest arrival was of veteran Clint Hill who transformed the side into a much more solid outfit and was a saving grace. Since then, Nicky Adams suffered injury which will keep him out of the team for the rest of the campaign and Jason Kennedy for near a full year due to an unknown injury but performances were improving, especially away as once more Brunton Park seemed a burden on the team.
Once a change of formation arrived in the home FA Cup victories (helping them into the third round) and was transferred into the league meaning defeats were rarer, Curle had men such as loanee goalkeeper Jack Bonham & Gary Liddle gushing with confidence and even Jamie Devitt in the team consistently performing at a high level. Moreover, Jones is back in the team playing an integral role and Hallam Hope is amongst the goals. That has all culminated in some great showings from the team; also with the help of Grainger’s output and Lambe’s consistency.
Going into the next year things are starting to look up despite nerves still being rife with the team as then continue in their classic ‘typical Carlisle’ form patterns. If the team can rally together with the backing of the fans, it might just be a successful time for the club. Home form is absolutely key as away, it’s often far better. The squad also isn’t in desperate need of any improvement in a position so there’s no need to panic.
Best player of 2017 Reggie Lambe (an incredible work-rate by playing in almost every game and great feet in tricky situations)
Most disappointing player of 2017: Shaun Miller (unable to take his chances and failed to live up to expectations he set the previous calendar year)
Best moment of 2017: Shaun Miller’s goal to make it 3-3 in the first leg of the play-offs to lift the roof off Brunton Park
Worst moment: Jack Stacey’s goal for Exeter City to make it 3-2 in the second leg of the play-offs match in the final moments
Key statistic: Carlisle won just 5 home league games (7 in all competitions) in 2017
New Year’s resolution: Brunton Park must be a fortress
Happy new year and all the best for 2018 on behalf of the Cumbrians supporters!