Wasn’t what we saw at the weekend just typical Carlisle United?

A poor run of form, a game against a high-flying opponent, score after 29 seconds, lose control of things, go behind, have a man sent off, everyone fearing the worst – then a thrilling victory.

Suddenly we are all walking out of Brunton Park thinking the play-offs are back on!

Those are the games where you almost have to forget about tactics, performances, what went right and what went wrong. Those things can be dissected later in the week if necessary.

In the moment, you just have to say, ‘I’m going to enjoy that for what it was.’

It was two teams going for it and playing the right way. There was no time-wasting, no feigning injuries, no gamesmanship. Both managers have been brought up the right way football-wise and the fact their teams went toe-to-toe made for a really good game. There was some excellent stuff played at times and you came away hoping Bury go up and Carlisle make those play-offs.

Winning with 10 men against the top scorers in the division, after those bad days against the likes of Notts County, Tranmere and so on, is just typical of League Two and it’s why the division can swallow up some managers.

Those who have been great Premier League footballers, for example, sometimes fail in League Two because it can be completely random and you have to accept that and live with it.

You usually get a couple of very consistent teams, but otherwise it comes down to who puts a sequence of results together at the right time, or gets a run of luck.

Players have so many ups and downs. Saturday saw some excellent individual performances, a few others were off the boil, but most importantly they came together when it mattered.

There were times when a player would have a 10-minute spell when nothing went right, but in the next 10 minutes everything was coming off for them.

That applied to both teams. For Bury, their number six, Eoghan O’Connell, started the game like Glenn Hoddle but by the end he was absolutely shattered, because of the way Callum O’Hare was running off him and Kelvin Etuhu was getting close to him.

That’s the way the game was in general.

I have to mention Adam Collin’s great goalkeeping display, meanwhile.

Very early in the game he made his first point-blank save, from Byron Moore, but it was in the second half that his work really caught the eye.

That strong hand to tip Nicky Maynard’s shot over the bar was superb, and the moment he saved from Dom Telford later on was also telling. The rebound should have been put away by Caolan Lavery but it must have been in his mind that the margins were so small because Carlisle’s keeper was saving practically everything. As a result he put it wide and you have to say Collin earned that.

If Collin hadn’t made those saves, Bury would have won – its that simple. Possession and chances, though, aren’t the be-all and end-all and talking about the goalkeeper’s performance is something else we could all enjoy when leaving the ground.

I remember playing in front of a keeper who had plenty of inspired days in Keiren Westwood. He was easily the top keeper in the league any time we played, and more often than not we knew he was going to be bang in form.

Nine times out of 10 we were very confident that anything that got through us wouldn’t get any further because of how good our goalkeeper was. He would make saves he had no right to make and I’m sure after about 60 minutes on Saturday Carlisle’s players started feeling it was just going to be Adam’s day, and the team’s day.

To be fair to Bury, they didn’t struggle against 10 men in the way teams sometimes can. They manipulated the ball really well, worked the defence, dragged Carlisle out at times and created some clear-cut chances.

All that was stopping them was bad finishing and some great saves. Carlisle rode all that, kept going and got their reward with Hallam Hope’s 89th-minute winner.

You can’t overstate the importance of this weekend at Stevenage now. What we don’t want to see is a defeat immediately after such a great win, which would put the Bury performance at risk of counting for nothing.

It might suit United going away to play on a tight pitch, and Carlisle’s record at Stevenage’s ground has been pretty good in recent seasons.

You can usually expect a narrow battle with them, and they are a typical League Two team. They can be very good on their day, poor on another, or somewhere bang in the middle.

There should be no reason why Carlisle can’t go there and win – and if that’s the case, they are massively back in the race.

The players shouldn’t give anyone an excuse to say they only raised their game against Bury because they were one of the better sides in the division. What is needed is a tough and solid performance that gets a result which keeps the challenge ticking over ahead of some further tough games.

Going away and taking a point is always fine if you are winning your home games. Given how the table is looking, though, and how little time is left, I think we have to be looking at another victory.


Sometimes you can read between the lines of what a manager says in his interviews in the build-up to a game.

Last week, for instance, Steven Pressley talked about the work he had been doing with Connor Simpson on the training ground.

That was a hint to me that Simpson was going to be involved in some way against Bury.

We have also heard Pressley talking about his defence recently, saying their concentration levels have needed to be better in key moments.

I wasn’t surprised, then, that he made a change to his back four on Saturday, and in the event it was Anthony Gerrard who was dropped.

There are certain things you can get away with when, as a team, you are playing well. In the 2005/6 season Michael Bridges wouldn’t train on a couple of days in a week – but it was never a problem because he was scoring and assisting regularly on Saturdays.

When, three years later, he was back at Carlisle and things weren’t going so well, some of the lads out of the side felt they had grounds to use that training issue when asking the manager for a chance.

With Gerrard, it is known that he carries more weight than some of the other players at Brunton Park and, in a spell when results have been harder to come by, those players might feel entitled to go to Pressley and point out that they are measuring up right, in terms of body fat and similar, and that they deserve an opportunity as a result.

There is no doubt that Gerrard, in terms of ability, is a class above, and the way his time at Oldham ended will have done him no favours in terms of staying as fit and sharp as he could possibly be.

It may have caught up with him to some extent at this stage of the season and, with only a handful of games left, a manager is unlikely to flog him to get him to those desired levels over a very short space of time.

A good pre-season will surely have him in better shape for the longer term but right now his challenge is to force his way back in, and the way Saturday panned out will have given Pressley plenty to think about in that respect.