It's a first for Carlisle United tonight as they head to the University of Bolton Stadium - and the stakes could hardly be higher.

The Blues take on Ian Evatt's third-placed side seeking a win that would keep their play-off hopes well and truly alive.

Defeat to the promotion-chasing Trotters, though, and it could make the Cumbrians' task much harder with games running out.

It's going to be a big night in League Two, with all United's rivals also in action in a full programme of fixtures.

Here's our handy look at the key details of the Blues' clash.


The main question mark regarding 10th-placed United concerns striker Offrande Zanzala.

He limped off in the second half of Saturday's 0-0 draw with Port Vale with a leg injury.

Chris Beech said Zanzala, a key man recently, would be assessed in the build-up to tonight's game.

If the Congolese frontman does not make it, it could open the door to Joshua Kayode to make his first start for more than a month.

The Rotherham loanee came off the bench for Zanzala on Saturday and played most of the second half, having made a brief return as a sub at Newport the previous Tuesday following an ankle injury.

Beech named an unchanged side on Saturday, with Danny Devine getting a second successive outing at right-back.

Those hoping for recalls if the Blues boss alters things tonight include George Tanner, Nick Anderton, Gime Toure, Dean Furman, Ethan Walker, Taylor Charters and Cedwyn Scott.

Rhys Bennett and Morgan Feeney are making good progress in their returns from injury, Beech has said, but neither will be involved tonight. Brennan Dickenson remains sidelined.

Bolton are without long-term absentees Dennis Politic and Liam Edwards, and while Antoni Sarcevic could return from a hamstring injury this weekend, Evatt has suggested tonight's game is likely to be too soon.

A recent departure, meanwhile, has been Charlton loan star Marcus Maddison, who later posted a heartfelt message on Instagram claiming he was considering quitting football because of the "abuse, pressure and monotony" of the modern game.

There is plenty of ex-Carlisle United interest in the home squad, meanwhile.

Defender Gethin Jones, who spent last season with the Blues, is a key man for Evatt's side.

Striker Shaun Miller, who was with United from 2016-18, should also be in tonight's squad, having scored the Trotters' consolation goal after coming off the bench at Grimsby on Saturday.

News and Star: Shaun Miller scores against Grimsby (photo: Richard Parkes)Shaun Miller scores against Grimsby (photo: Richard Parkes)

Arthur Gnahoua - he of the 27-minute Blues career in 2019 - is also in the reckoning, having made 28 appearances this term.

Another former United man, ex-loan midfielder Brandon Comley, is a fourth ex-Blue at Bolton, but he has not made an appearance since December.


In United's case, their challenge is to turn undeniably more solid form into the wins that could yet launch them into the top seven.

Beech's side are unbeaten in six now, their joint best such run of 2020/21, and have kept clean sheets in five of those encounters.

It has been three wins followed by three draws, putting United two points outside the play-off places with five games to go.

They have just completed back-to-back 0-0 draws in the league for the first time since March 2014.

Away from home, their record stands at five wins, six draws and nine defeats.

Bolton, meanwhile, have been resurgent in recent months, storming up the table and firmly into promotion contention.

It has been 13 wins from 18 for the Trotters, though they have lost two of their last four, to Newport and Grimsby.

News and Star: Bolton have not lost at home since early January (photo: PA)Bolton have not lost at home since early January (photo: PA)

On home soil they have been formidable of late, going 10 games unbeaten at the University of Bolton Stadium and winning seven of those. Their last home defeat came on January 2 to Crawley.

Their overall home record is won 10, drawn five, lost six.

Their leading scorer is 17-goal Eoin Doyle.


The bookies favour Bolton to keep up their strong home form tonight.

They are 5/4 with BetFred and Unibet for the win, and 6/5 with Paddy Power and William Hill.

A Carlisle win is 23/10 with Bet365 and Sky Bet, and 21/10 with Betfair.

The draw is 5/2 with MansionBet and 12/5 with BetVictor.

Eoin Doyle is 3/1 favourite to get the game's first goal, Shaun Miller 6/1.

United's Offrande Zanzala, Joshua Kayode and Lewis Alessandra are all 6/1 to score first.

A rare Gethin Jones strike to open the scoring is 28/1, while Callum Guy - yet to break his Blues duck - is at similar odds to get the opener.

(source: Oddschecker)


It's a 7pm start at the University of Bolton Stadium.

iFollow is the only way fans can watch the game, with matches continuing to be played behind closed doors because of Covid-19.

The News & Star will be reporting from Bolton's ground, and BBC Radio Cumbria will provide commentary.


Martin Coy is the man in the middle for this one.

News and Star: Martin Coy (photo: PA)Martin Coy (photo: PA)

He has presided over two Carlisle games so far this term - the home wins over Colchester and Exeter.

Five yellow cards were shown in the first of those encounters, and two in the latter.

Coy has refereed Bolton twice this season: their League Cup loss to Bradford in September, and November's 1-0 win at Scunthorpe.

Not a single card was flourished in the latter contest.


It was a 3-3 draw at Brunton Park when these sides met on Boxing Day, Carlisle opening up a 3-0 lead before Evatt's side fought back.

That was their first league meeting since 1988.

Tonight's match, meanwhile, is United's first away fixture against the Trotters since October 17, 1987, when they lost 5-0 at Bolton's former Burnden Park home.

If you can bear it, here is the footage:

You have to go further back, to March 1977, for Carlisle's last away win against these opponents; a 4-3 victory with goals from George McVitie, Billy Rafferty and Mick Tait.

That is one of four away wins over the years for the Blues in this fixture, Bolton winning eight, with two draws.

The clubs have met occasionally in non-competitive fixtures over the years, meanwhile, with Bolton visiting Brunton Park for a couple of pre-season friendlies.

This was a memorable and historic one: 1996's official opening of Carlisle's recently-built East Stand. The great Nat Lofthouse was there, Stephane Pounewatchy was introduced to the Brunton Park faithful, Bolton's Sasa Curcic suffered a ludicrous loss of temper at Steve Hayward, and Dean Walling headed Carlisle's winner after a free-kick from the precocious Matt Jansen: