It’s time to talk turkey. Twelve points are up for grabs between now and the end of New Year’s Day – either a chance for Carlisle United to vault up the table, or a risk of remaining in the mire as more fixtures go by.

Here’s an at-a-glance guide to the Blues’ commitments around Christmas and how their opponents are shaping up.

DECEMBER 18 – BRADFORD CITY (H)

The final game before Christmas is one which may have looked formidable before the start of the season. Now?

The Bantams, at this moment, are in a more sterile run than the Cumbrians.

While United are, by 2021/22’s standards, in some sort of form with two wins from three, Derek Adams’ fancied visitors haven’t won in 10 in all competitions.

They’ve become draw specialists in that time, drawing eight of those most recent games.

That leaves them 14th in League Two, seven points above the Cumbrians and with work to do if Adams is to get another promotion under his belt after leading Morecambe into the third tier last season.

News and Star: Elliot Watt (photo: PA)Elliot Watt (photo: PA)

On the road Bradford have won two, drawn four and lost four – Carlisle’s home record is fractionally better with one more draw and one fewer defeat.

Andy Cook is the most familiar face in the Bantams’ ranks; the former United man has seven goals this season, but has been sidelined recently with a hamstring injury and hasn’t figured since late October.

Alex Gilliead and Elliot Watt are other ex-Blues, while on the United side the likes of Kelvin Mellor, Danny Devine, Callum Guy and Jordan Gibson will face their former club, with Joe Riley another ex-Bantam who is sidelined.

DECEMBER 26 – ROCHDALE (H)

When the fixtures came out this was shaping up to be a festive reunion for Chris Beech with his former club.

United’s miserable start to the season saw to that, and instead it will be Keith Millen taking the helm on Boxing Day against a Dale side managed by former Middlesbrough and Sunderland man Robbie Stockdale.

They are currently 18th, five points above United and, should results go for the Blues this weekend, could be in reach come December 26.

News and Star: Rochdale's Jake Beesley, centre (photo: PA)Rochdale's Jake Beesley, centre (photo: PA)

They’ve won three on their travels, drawn four and lost four – and, like Bradford, are not currently in the winning habit.

They haven’t won in six in all competitions and have one victory in 10.

Jake Beesley, with 10 goals, is their leading scorer, while United’s Magnus Norman and the injured pair of Zach Clough and Lewis Alessandra are former Dale players.

DECEMBER 29 – SALFORD CITY (A)

The pre-season title favourites are United’s last opponents of 2021, having struggled to make their way up the table since the start of the campaign.

The club owned by the Class of 92 have enjoyed a better run recently, but remain 17th and another of those clubs Carlisle will be hoping to drag closer to them.

They’re five points above United just now, though their home record is solid and they have one of the division’s better defensive records on home soil.

Carlisle fans, though, will travel in good numbers to the fixture and a good away atmosphere seems likely, after last season’s trip was played behind closed doors because of Covid-19.

News and Star: Salford's Billy Barr, left, pictured with United No2 Gavin Skelton in September (photo: Barbara Abbott)Salford's Billy Barr, left, pictured with United No2 Gavin Skelton in September (photo: Barbara Abbott)

United are unbeaten against the Ammies in league football so far – two wins, two draws – and completing a double over Gary Bowyer’s side this season would be particularly welcome.

A familiar face will be by Bowyer’s side in the shape of ex-United player and coach Billy Barr, who has been the Salford manager’s assistant since early August.

Other ex-Blues in their squad include Ashley Eastham and Josh Morris, a scorer at Brunton Park in September.

JANUARY 1 – SCUNTHORPE UNITED (A)

As at Stevenage, Keith Millen might not call this one a six-pointer either. Good luck in stopping everyone else putting it in those terms, though.

This is shaping up to be a crunch game for both, given Scunthorpe are currently propping up League Two and United are trying to keep decent distance between themselves and the Iron, who are currently three points behind them.

The Sands Venue Stadium is likely, then, to host a particularly tense affair as 2022 unfolds.

Scunthorpe are managed by Keith Hill, who took the Iron job not long after failing to land the United gig.

News and Star: Ryan Loft (photo: PA)Ryan Loft (photo: PA)

So far they have two wins from their 21 games, both coming at home, while their last nine games have brought no victories, four draws and five defeats in all competitions.

The draw habit has kept them in touch but Hill will be relying on players such as ex-United striker Ryan Loft to land a blow on a close rival on New Year’s Day.

For Carlisle, meanwhile, it should be a reunion for goalkeeper Mark Howard, who was with Scunny last season.

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