2021. What was all that about, then? As another year in the life of Carlisle United edges to an end, let’s take a look back at a few memorable, strange and compelling happenings.

WEATHER OF THE YEAR

Hands down, this was the ridiculous fog at Colchester which descended before kick-off and stayed there for most of the first half.

News and Star: Shrouded: United at Colchester (photo: Richard Parkes)Shrouded: United at Colchester (photo: Richard Parkes)

When United took the lead, the stadium announcer hadn’t the foggiest who had scored and read out the wrong name. “IT WAS JON MELLISH,” bellowed Blues head coach Chris Beech by way of correction.

The view from the press box to the opposite corner of the JobServe Community Stadium was like something from a horror film. Appropriately, Colchester came back to win their first game in 15.

BOGEY GROUND OF THE YEAR

Goodbye, 2021 and the year of the EnviroVent Stadium. Carlisle had already made one aborted trip to Harrogate’s ground late in 2020 when they had to do it again – twice – in the new year.

News and Star: Harrogate: United's second home last winter (photo: Richard Parkes)Harrogate: United's second home last winter (photo: Richard Parkes)

The first of the latter trips left us shuffling around outside in the dark as a power failure put paid to any prospect of the game taking place.

Finally, it was played at the third attempt in mid-February (only after a severe downpour had put it in peril again), and Carlisle lost. We’re back there on January 4 in the Pizza Trophy. Great.

WORST GOAL OF THE YEAR

Keep your tiki-taka, pass-and-move and all the other mumbo-jumbo pertaining to actual football. Give us dreadful, chaotic, sodden League Two farce instead.

News and Star: Scramble: United celebrate their gargoyle goal against Bradford (photo: Barbara Abbott)Scramble: United celebrate their gargoyle goal against Bradford (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Give us Rhys Bennett’s second goal against Bradford City in March: a corner kick, a jumble of bodies and limbs, the ball persuaded over the line and Offrande Zanzala running off to claim it.

It was a truly abysmal spectacle. They should play footage of it in the Turner Gallery.

WORST GOAL CONCEDED OF THE YEAR

This one could be shown on TV at home to frighten the kids: Northampton’s second goal against the Blues on Keith Millen’s first game in charge.

It had absolutely everything you would not wish to see: a badly-shanked pass, someone falling over the ball, the opposition sweeping through, and United players slowing down and stopping as the final pass and finish are applied.

Any Blues fan who walked out of Sixfields in the 57th minute and headed straight to the off licence would have been entirely forgiven.

GAME OF THE YEAR

Not a great many classics to pick from. Randomly, the most entertaining 90 minutes came in a dead rubber at Leyton Orient on the season’s penultimate weekend.

News and Star: Thriller (sort of): Lewis Alessandra scores at Orient (photo: Richard Parkes)Thriller (sort of): Lewis Alessandra scores at Orient (photo: Richard Parkes)

Two penalties saved, one penalty scored, five goals, a Carlisle comeback, and an attractive skimming winner from George Tanner in the last minute as people watched the “behind closed doors" 3-2 victory from the apartments in the corner of the Matchroom Stadium.

Shame it counted for the square root of nothing. Great fun, though.

NON-EVENT OF THE YEAR

The record says that the 2020/21 season concluded with a goalless draw between Carlisle United and Walsall on Saturday, May 8.

News and Star: Walsall: Even some of the cut-out fans look bored (photo: Barbara Abbott)Walsall: Even some of the cut-out fans look bored (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Honestly, it does. It’s there in black and white.

Beats me if I can remember the first thing about it, though. Are you really sure it actually happened?

BEST OPPOSITION PLAYER OF THE YEAR

A handful of candidates for this. Tranmere showed strength at both ends in their meetings with United: James Vaughan in February, Peter Clarke in October. Northampton’s Paul Lewis rammed a hat-trick past United in the autumn.

News and Star: Telford: The classy Exile scored two against United (photo: Richard Parkes)Telford: The classy Exile scored two against United (photo: Richard Parkes)

Then there were those who returned to haunt the Blues: Cole Stockton, Ryan Bowman, Patrick Brough.

A customer United found particularly troublesome, though, was Newport frontman Dom Telford in October’s 2-2 draw. He’s scored 15 in 17 games this season, including two that night: the sort of player you’d like to bundle onto the team coach and take back to Cumbria while no-one’s looking.

HELPING HAND OF THE YEAR

The culprit wasn’t publicly identified by Lincoln City boss Michael Appleton. But the circumstances very much were.

News and Star: Lincoln: Drinks break helped Armer equalise for United, according to Michael Appleton (photo: Barbara Abbott)Lincoln: Drinks break helped Armer equalise for United, according to Michael Appleton (photo: Barbara Abbott)

As Carlisle went through to level the scores in their Papa John’s Trophy game on November 30, Appleton alleged that an Imps player was off the pitch having a drink instead of tracking his man.

Was said player also momentarily boycotting the Pizza Cup? Were the twinkling lights of the Beehive too much to resist? Either way, it helped United to 20 grand.

BEST GOAL OF THE YEAR

For a few fleeting seconds at Southend, Offrande Zanzala became a dipping, darting, swaggering one-man team.

Chest control on halfway, a silky run, a step-over and a sideways shift before topping it off with a merciless drilled finish.

Okay, it was Southend. We’re not talking Baresi and Maldini here. Still: lovely to watch.

AWAY FANS OF THE YEAR

Okay, this category only applies from August onwards. But a salute all the same to the doughty travellers from Horsham, who brought some colour from Sussex to Cumbria for November’s FA Cup tie.

News and Star: Trip: Horsham's hornet and 'Lardy Army' made the most of their FA Cup experience (photo: Barbara Abbott)Trip: Horsham's hornet and 'Lardy Army' made the most of their FA Cup experience (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Some 280 people made the long trip to watch the Isthmian League battlers lose 2-0 on a bleak autumn afternoon.

They did so with decent thirst, good heart, fine voice and, for reasons too complex to sum up here, also sent a block of lard to United.

BEST GOAL CONCEDED OF THE YEAR

A couple of lovely strikes nestled into United’s net from the boots of Hartlepool players in the space of four August days.

News and Star: Fizz: Nicky Cadden, far right, is congratulated after his goal at Brunton Park (photo: Barbara Abbott)Fizz: Nicky Cadden, far right, is congratulated after his goal at Brunton Park (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Gavan Holohan’s matchwinning volley in the league was outstanding – as was the vicious hit from Luke Molyneux in the stuffed-crust cup the following midweek.

Crawley’s Nick Tsaroulla crushed the Blues with a long-distance winner, and Chris Hussey’s promotion-clinching free-kick for Cheltenham in April deserved acclaim.

So, above all, did the fierce rasper from Forest Green’s Nicky Cadden in early October. Foot like a traction engine, it is the law to say in such moments.

MOST INEVITABLE HAPPENING OF THE YEAR

From his professional debut on December 1 2012 until November 20, 2021, Exeter City’s Jake Caprice had not scored a single first-team goal.

News and Star: Typical: Jake Caprice celebrates his drought-ending goal against the Blues (photo: Barbara Abbott)Typical: Jake Caprice celebrates his drought-ending goal against the Blues (photo: Barbara Abbott)

320 career appearances, and not so much as a tap-in, lucky deflection, goal off the backside, penalty…nothing.

Then Carlisle rocked up, and you know the rest. Has he scored since? Well, what do you think?

UNITED PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Not, let’s be honest, a vintage year of individual quality. Carlisle’s best work of 2020/21 came in 2020. Their best work of the current season so far came in splodges right at the end of the year.

News and Star: Bright: Jordan Gibson has provided much-needed improvement to United's attack (photo: Barbara Abbott)Bright: Jordan Gibson has provided much-needed improvement to United's attack (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Jon Mellish scored more goals than any United player in 2021, and Callum Guy played more games. Mark Howard, in goal, has proved a timely addition this season.

Even more so, given attack is where Carlisle have been shortest, has Jordan Gibson. For lifting the tone of the Blues’ bereft forward play, the former Sligo man can leave 2021 with his head highest.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR

To say the least, there haven’t been too many moments of visceral celebration this year.

News and Star: Stress-relief: Abrahams, left, against Walsall (photo: Barbara Abbott)Stress-relief: Abrahams, left, against Walsall (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Other than the table-topping, false-dawn afternoon at Walsall in early January, and bright moments for young players such as Sam Fishburn and Taylor Charters, the good times, when they’ve come, have needed to be taken in the context of the surrounding struggle.

There was still something poetic, though, that day in November when Tristan Abrahams, booed from the bench by some, arrived in space to score a late Blues winner against Walsall. For a short, deceptive while, all their troubles seemed so far away.

OVERDUE MOMENT OF THE YEAR

Abrahams' goal can sit here too, given the Brunton Park drought it ended. But the best moments in this category were off the field in 2021.

News and Star: Gesture: A specially-commissioned medal by the FAI, sent to the family of Tony Hopper 20 years after he helped Bohemians win the title (photo: Stuart Walker Photography)Gesture: A specially-commissioned medal by the FAI, sent to the family of Tony Hopper 20 years after he helped Bohemians win the title (photo: Stuart Walker Photography)

In the stands, for one: fans returning, after the long Covid lockout, made football feel like it should again.

At Harraby Catholic Club, a twice-delayed reunion of United's 1994/5 heroes took place and raised a five-figure sum for Eden Valley Hospice.

That was done in the memory of Tony Hopper, the much-missed Blues player whose title-winning efforts for Bohemians 20 seasons ago were also recognised with a belated medal in 2021: something for his family to treasure.

THREAT OF THE YEAR

Life, death, taxes, and Dale Vince making a point about the formal boardroom dress code at Brunton Park.

News and Star: Tieless: Dale Vince, leftTieless: Dale Vince, left

It is one of the great certainties of our time, and Forest Green's open-collared owner Vince didn't disappoint with his comments on the eve of October's trip north.

He also said United's owners would have to observe his no-tie rules at January 22's rematch. The image of messrs Jenkins, Nixon and Pattison rocking up to the innocent New Lawn in Hawaiian shirts, string vests or Lady Gaga's meat dress is extremely fetching.