Almost a decade on from having made his league debut against MK Dons, Cumbrian goalkeeper Adam Collin will again line-up against the Dons with Carlisle United this weekend.

Much has changed in the nine years since that November evening, though.

In 2009, both teams were playing in League One, now the side’s will be meeting in English football’s four-tier, albeit MK Dons are top. In contrast, the Blues have been inconsistent and sit 11th but only four points outside the play-offs, with their sole focus now on the league.

“I think we won 4-3,” Collin, from Great Salkeld, recalls from his debut.

“I probably didn’t know until we were just about leaving the hotel, when [then-manager] Greg Abbott named the team. He put my name on the board and, obviously, that was it. The rest is history.”

The 33-year-old is speaking after Carlisle’s 2-0 FA Cup loss at Lincoln’s Sincil Bank which saw the Imps score inside the first minute through Matt Rhead before substitute John Akinde added a second late on.

Collin was particularly frustrated with Lincoln’s opening goal.

“We said, just before we went out of dressing room, they are going to start quickly,” he says. “We just switched off and it’s a poor goal to concede, especially allowing their big No.9 a tap-in from inside the six-yard box.”

But Collin felt there were positives for the Blues to take from the game.

“I have had to make a couple of saves, which is obviously my job, but you still want to keep a clean-sheet. We were camped in their half for large parts of the first half and the second half, but we haven’t been clinical enough,” he admits.

“We had good spells. They’re going to be top-three probably at the end of the season, they’re a good outfit.

"I think we caused them problems without getting the ball in the net.

"Their goalkeeper [Josh Vickers] got man-of-the-match anyway, so it proves we created some chances, we just couldn’t put them away.”

And despite their up and down form this campaign, Collin believes United are playing good football.

He adds: "I think we are playing some good football and we have been playing some good football all season. We are creating chances, we just haven’t put them away, really.

"I think a team is going to get a good hiding off us soon.

"If we weren’t creating chances and weren’t working their goalie, then we would have issues. But we are so it’s just that frustration.

“We are not far off the play-offs. We have some big games coming up, and we have to get ourselves up and ready – it’s our job at the end of the day. We will be ready for MK Dons.”

Boss John Sheridan has called for more vocal characters in the dressing room.

Asked for his thoughts on his manager’s comments, experienced Collin replies: “It comes from both sides, really.

"The management have got to say their bit, and us as players, have to take responsibility, as well. We can’t have one dominating the other if you like. You need a nice balance.

"There is Me, Jez [Anthony Gerrard], Lids [Gary Liddle] and Jonah [Mike Jones] in there now, so there is experience. There’s only so much you can say without upsetting the apple-cart.

"There is young lads in there as well, so you need to be careful with how you go about it.

"We’re not playing badly, that’s the thing.”

The future of a number of United players, including Gerrard, Ashley Nadesan, Jack Sowerby, Adam Campbell and Jerry Yates, are all uncertain with their current deals up at the turn of the year.

But Collin says those under contract at least until the end of the season should try not to concern themselves with their team-mates’ futures.

“I think the lads under contract know that they will be staying until the end of the season. The loan players are out of those lads’ hands,” he concedes.

“That’s the thing with taking loan players on, you always run the risk of losing them in January.

"But that’s for the management and people in the boardroom to worry about.”

And sitting narrowly outside the top-seven, Collin wants Carlisle to put together a good run of form over a tough run of festive fixtures.

He says: “It’s going to be tough [at MK Dons] and we have Colchester the week after.

"Then, you have the busy Christmas period after that. It’s going to be a busy 4-5 weeks, really, when the league sorts itself out.

"By probably the second week of January, it sorts itself out and then it’s a sprint finish until April or May time.”

This Saturday’s opponents, MK Dons, meanwhile, are now managed by Paul Tisdale, the former Exeter boss who ended Carlisle’s play-off hopes in the 2016/17 season.

Collin says United will know what to expect from Tisdale’s team.

“They’ll play a different style of football to what Lincoln do,” he says. “We know what to expect, so we’ll do our prep and go again.

"It’s going to be tough. MK Dons is not an easy place to go.

"But we definitely feel like we can go there and get something out the game.”