The form guide says it’s all but over, the league table says it’s still very possible.

The bookies reckon it’s far-fetched, but a couple of brighter weekends and Carlisle United’s season would remain alive.

Who to believe and what to be steered by?

Certainly, few will be lumping on the Blues finishing in the top seven based on their recent results. More would probably bet on United’s play-off campaign being put out of its misery at some stage this month.

With six games to go and 18 points to play for, though, there has to remain at least some hope. Doesn’t there?

Here, we look at the various stats, permutations and possibilities from United’s run-in so far, and what is left of it.


It may be stating the obvious to say Carlisle’s form since the transfer window has been poor, but comparing them with the rest of League Two still underlines how badly results have fallen.

Using the post-January period as a form guide – the phase when squads are essentially complete for the rest of the campaign – it is alarming to see that very few of their rivals have lost their way as much as the Cumbrians.

Carlisle have taken seven points from 10 games since the window shut. That is the joint second worst return from the fourth tier’s 24 clubs.

Only 22nd-placed Yeovil, freefalling into serious relegation trouble, have fared worse, with a measly six points from 12 games in the same period.

United’s thin total is matched by 20th-placed Crawley, who have also won one, drawn four and lost five since the start of February.

All other 21 sides in the table, whether high-flyers, mid-table dwellers or relegation battlers, have done better, at least taking double-figure points from their fixtures since the end of the mid-season trading period.

The frustration when studying these numbers is that, even had Carlisle taken a mediocre share of points – one that matched, say, Port Vale’s record of three wins, two draws and five defeats since January – they’d still be in a play-off position. One can only envy, meanwhile, the best post-window sides, such as Tranmere (25 points from 11 games), MK Dons (22 from 11), Lincoln (21 from 11) and Cheltenham (19 from 11).

As it is, averaging 0.7 points per game will clearly only take you in one direction, and the time to halt this form is blatantly overdue if United want to make anything of what’s left of 2018/19.


If all clubs’ post-January form is maintained until the first weekend in May, the play-off line looks likely to fall around the 70-point mark.

Their current ratio, and those of other clubs, would clearly put the Blues nowhere near that. A finishing place of around 12th, on 62 points, would be the projection.

In other words, they need wins and quickly if this is not to be a disappointing path towards mid-table – something the bookies, who have their promotion odds as long as 35/1, seem to feel is their destiny.

As they are on 58 points currently, four victories from their last six games would get them to the 70 mark. Another point, from one of their other two fixtures, would also probably come in handy, given they trail most rivals in the goal difference department too.

Three wins and three draws would also put them in the ball-park for one of the bottom two play-off places (the other two are realistically out of reach). But anything less, and it may very well be an unlikely cause.

No pressure, then.

There are no guarantees with any of this, of course, and it is not uncommon for sides to hit periods of unreliable form when the finishing line comes into view. Indeed, some of those directly above and around United are showing increasingly clear signs of this.

Carlisle could take advantage if one or two stumble further. But that won’t matter a jot unless they pick their own form up.


If United fail to sort their results out, it could be a quick kill as we progress through April.

A deficit of six points plus goal difference, with five games to play, is the worst-case scenario if Bury leave Brunton Park with the points this weekend

Another bad afternoon at Stevenage the following Saturday would then leave the Cumbrians’ hopes at risk of being finished off over Easter.

That would depend on enough of the other contenders collecting sufficient points, of course. But either way, unless their position has improved by the traditional time of resurrection, it will be close to an impossible job, even if it’s mathematically still in reach.


United face the daunting challenge of recovering their fortunes against a couple of League Two’s strongest sides in the space of 14 days.

Bury, opponents on Saturday, have stumbled in the last four days, beaten by Swindon and Cambridge, but those were their first losses in the league since Boxing Day.

After a trip to 12th-placed Stevenage, who still have a slim chance of joining the race, leaders Lincoln City are the Good Friday visitors.

They have not been beaten in League Two in 2019, and have only lost four league games all term. Promotion could be very much theirs to complete by the time Danny Cowley and his men arrive in Cumbria.

Given the rest of Carlisle’s run-in, though, there would be merit in managing to stay in the race by the time the full-time whistle is blown against the Imps.

That is because the Blues will then complete their season against three sides in relatively poor nick.

First, Grimsby away on Easter Monday, the Mariners winless in seven. Then Crawley for the final home game, the Sussex side with one away win since September.

Finally, it is off to Huish Park to face statistically the most out-of-form side in the table.

If United have kept their season going to the last day, the challenge of beating Yeovil to make the play-offs is one others in the table would surely envy.

A great deal, though, must be done between now and then for that to become remotely realistic.