Carlisle United are as “confident as can be” that the return of 2,000 fans to Brunton Park will go successfully.

The Salford game tomorrow night will see the Blues welcome some of their supporters back to the ground under new Tier 2 Covid-19 rules.

Season ticket holders, plus another 300 fans who bought general sale tickets today, are looking forward to the long-awaited chance to cheer on Chris Beech’s team in person.

The Blues are now finalising their plans for the evening, with September’s test game – when 1,000 fans watched United against Southend – proving useful preparation.

Chief executive Nigel Clibbens said today: “We’re as confident as we can be – based on the experience last time.

“Going from zero to 2,000, with all the requirements, would be difficult and isn’t a position I’d like us to be in.

“But having been through it [in September], it’s different.

“There are things we thought would be issues last time that didn’t turn out to be. Other things emerged, and we’re able to learn from that.

“This time, for instance, we’re taking steps to help with things like toilet areas, whereas before, one issue we expected was exit and entry into the stadium, but that passed a lot better than we thought.

“You only find things like that out by actually experiencing it. Hopefully it will be another game that goes smoothly.”

Carlisle will be the first EFL club to play in front of fans this month, as their game kicks off at 7pm, with tomorrow's other five games in the Championship and Leagues One and Two starting at 7.45pm.

The Cumbrians had also been the first to host a league game in front of supporters in September because of the early 1pm kick-off against Southend.

Clibbens said United’s final preparations for tomorrow will include checking the necessary signage and taping is in place in the relevant seating and terracing areas, to ensure social distancing.

Fans are being asked to abide by a code of conduct, with supporters asked to wear face coverings when entering the ground and moving around the stadium, but not when they are in their terrace or seating positions.

Clibbens said of such protocols: “Because we’ve had the benefit of the Southend game, there was a lot of debate about certain things, so we’ve been ahead of the game with our fans.

“All the things like face coverings – we’ve had all those debates already and been through it, and fans are more familiar with the situation as a result.

“The two key issues remain – spread your arrival times, and keep socially distanced as you get into the ground, to minimise risk when you’re out and about.

“And, whenever you’re moving and in close contact with anyone, wear a face covering.

“As a club we’d recommend fans wear face coverings all the time but it’s not mandatory – the key times are moving around the ground, going to the toilet, getting to your space, and queueing.

“The rest of the time, we benefit from having a sizeable site that’s got lots of room for people to get about the place without being really close to each other.

“We’ve been to lots of stadiums where there isn’t a lot of room and that will be difficult for them, but fortunately not for us.”

Clibbens has already suggested that staging a game with 2,000 will not in itself make the club much money, but said it is an important step.

“I’ve consistently said, as I did with the Southend game, that it’s not about individual games but making steps to get back up to near normality, whatever that looks like – closer to the capacity we would normally have. This is another step in that.

“The costs compared to income – we’re looking at it with a wide view. We will gain ticket income, but lose iFollow income, for instance.

“We will gain ticket income, but will have to have a full-cost stadium incurred. As soon as you open three sides of our ground, we’re up to 70 stewards. Whether you’ve got 5,000 fans in or 2,000, it’s the same fixed cost. Those things are all issues we have to balance out.

“Everybody’s hoping these things for us and the wider community will be a success. Coupled with the run-off from the lockdown, some sensible behaviour in the five days before Christmas, that momentum can keep going forward, fingers crossed, and then you’re into vaccine time and hopefully the start of the end.”

Clibbens has also praised the staff who have helped the club sell tickets at short notice in preparation for tomorrow’s game.

He said: “One challenge on the ticketing side has been dealing with all the fans who’d previously purchased a season-ticket and asked for a refund, and been paid a refund, and who now want their same seat back.

“I would like to thank those fans and everyone else for their patience.

“Staff who’d previously been furloughed, the week before, we’ve had to ask to come in and work overtime. One minute they’re thinking there isn’t enough work to keep them busy, the next Suzanne [Kidd, finance director] and myself are then asking them if they come in and work the weekend.

“It shows the spirit and quality of the people that we’ve got here, and how lucky we are to have them, that no-one batted an eyelid. Everyone was here, put a full day in on Saturday, and another full day on Sunday.

“When the flexi-furlough was changed and rolled forward to March, we had to take advantage of that to secure employment. Especially in places like the ticket office and commercial office, we’ve been flexi-furloughing people – asking them to reduce their number of days but if things change, we need the capability to ask them to come back.

“It’s not ideal. It’s the worst of all worlds in that there’s no certainty but there’s still an expectation that if called upon people will step in. We’re grateful that they have.”

Carlisle have added that any season-ticket holder who has not received their season card by the normal post delivery time on Wednesday should contact the club.