Gavin Skelton says there is no point pretending Carlisle United’s clash with fellow strugglers Oldham is anything other than a hugely important game.

The visit of Keith Curle’s Latics will see the second-bottom Blues try to escape the relegation zone with victory over a side ahead of them on goal difference.

United are seeking a first win in eight league games against an Oldham side who could include former Carlisle striker Hallam Hope.

It promises to be a key encounter in the Cumbrians’ attempt to ease early-season relegation worries.

Caretaker manager Skelton said the significance of the game (Brunton Park, 3pm) should not be avoided.

“It’s important,” he said. “We are where we are in the league, and you can hide behind it [if you want] – but it’s a really important game.

“We have to stay relaxed, focused, play our best and understand the importance of it.”
United and Oldham occupy 23rd and 22nd positions in League Two respectively after troubled starts to their campaigns.

For Skelton it will be a third game in temporary charge following the sacking of Chris Beech. At Oldham, Curle is continuing in a climate of supporter unrest against Latics owner Abdallah Lemsagam, with a transfer embargo having been tightened on the crisis club this week.

Skelton says United must focus on on-pitch matters and says Oldham have some dangerous players despite their lowly position.

“We’ve had a meeting and spoken about it, and they’ve got some really good and talented players,” the coach said.

“It’s about nullifying their threats, and I think the best way to do that is based on how we play and how we cause them problems.

“We respect their good players. They showed it at times last year, and we got beat 3-1 off them at home; some of those players will be playing again so we know how talented they can be.

“People are talking about their embargo and the fact that they can’t sign players but they’ve already got a strong squad.

“They won last Saturday [against Stevenage] so have had some excellent performances, but also a disappointing result on Tuesday night [defeat to Walsall], so it is a mixed bag.

“They’ve got some good footballers in there but they’re having issues like us in terms of where they are in the league, and there are also areas we think we can exploit with our excellent players as well.”

Hope, who joined Oldham this summer after a spell at Swindon, got his first goal of the season in the Latics’ defeat to Walsall in midweek. Skelton, who coached the forward during his spell at Carlisle, says United are well aware of his qualities.

“You have to be aware but not become obsessed by it,” he said, of the danger posed by a former player.

“Hallam’s a good player and I liked working with him. We’ll be aware of his threats but he’s just one of many in their squad.” Another ex-Blues man, Nicky Adams, has been out with injury recently.

Skelton has right-back Kelvin Mellor back in training after injury but the caretaker could opt to stick with the side that earned a 2-2 draw at Newport.

Injured keeper Magnus Norman has today posted an update on his absence...

Skelton added that United must concentrate on their own qualities ahead of the Oldham game.

“We’re trying to find consistency in how we play with a framework but with some flexibility for the players to express themselves within it,” he added.

“It’s no good concentrating on other teams and what they might do and ending up taking the eye off the ball yourselves. We’ll set up in the shape we want and stay consistent with what we want to do.”