Carlisle United’s latest pre-season game saw an encouraging 3-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers at Brunton Park.

But what did we learn from the game? Let’s take a look.


Fin Back has a good name for a headline – and a good head for United’s right wing-back role, on this opening evidence.

News and Star: Fin BackFin Back

The young loanee from Nottingham Forest settled into things with a pleasingly combative performance.

Back’s defensive anticipation was sound and, maybe most encouragingly for the fourth-tier season ahead, showed a definite appetite for the challenge.

One tackle was late on Declan John in the first half, and might have brought a yellow card in a competitive game, but Back remained keen to get stuck in as well as work the right flank.

He should have left with an assist, too, had Dennis converted a fine cross. As debuts go, it was a first step forward for Back.


An injury to United’s centre-half kingpin in the second minute isn’t how anyone will have wished things to begin here.

News and Star: Morgan Feeney goes off in the early stagesMorgan Feeney goes off in the early stages

Morgan Feeney couldn’t continue after an early challenge he made to try and prevent Jon Dadi Bodvarsson scoring for Bolton.

He was withdrawn as a precaution – and credit to Corey Whelan for the way he set about almost an entire game as a deputy from the bench.

A straight swap in the middle of the back three, the former Liverpool and Wigan man needed to be switched on from the off – and his reading of danger and timing was very good.

Whelan, then, did himself no harm in the battle for defensive positions, and also gave Paul Simpson further reassurance if or when United opt to use him as back-up.


The benefits of a consistent shape and system were evident as Carlisle got the better of their higher-tier opponents.

News and Star: United clear their linesUnited clear their lines

There may still be some tinkering in the attacking areas, but Simpson has otherwise stuck with the same structure to his starting XI throughout pre-season.

United were rarely pulled out of position, seldom made to chase shadows even by a quality Bolton side.

The visitors may not have been at full tilt, but Carlisle can still take credit for the way they handled them, both individually and more importantly as a team.

Players appear to be comfortable in their shape and, by and large, certain of their requirements, which hasn't always been the case in some past summers.

It bodes well in the aim to hit the ground running in 2022/23.


Ryan Edmondson’s goals catch the eye when you look at United’s pre-season work so far. But so, against Bolton, did his physicality.

News and Star: Ryan EdmondsonRyan Edmondson

Bolton’s defenders, including big Ricardo Santos, are no shrinking violets. Edmondson, though, did not give them a moment’s peace.

A vital platform was duly offered by the summer signing, and this enabled Kristian Dennis to offer a different threat alongside, and allow creators like Owen Moxon to find useful pockets in behind.

Simpson made it clear at the end of last season that he wanted a few more old-fashioned qualities in the No9 position.

Edmondson is still a young striker, still learning his craft, but appears to have the edge needed to lead the line in League Two.

If this makes United sharper-elbowed and more muscular, they can only benefit.


This was the first proper examination of Owen Moxon’s readiness for a higher stage. After mostly non-league opposition to far, League One visitors represented a major step up.

News and Star: Owen MoxonOwen Moxon

It’s fair to say the former Annan Athletic man rose to the challenge.

Moxon’s ball-playing is known to anyone who followed his progress at Galabank, and he was alert to the chance to play Edmondson in for United’s opener here.

He also had a hand in the second and third goals; firstly from a searching corner delivery, and latterly from an alert pass which, via Jordan Gibson, saw Dennis poach.

Moxon’s range of passing, and his stature, make him a highly intriguing addition to Carlisle’s midfield.

United, at stages, will need to be patient given the Cumbrian is only just out of part-time football. But the man from Denton Holme looks to be stepping brightly across the bridge.


Carlisle’s players are consistently talking about the gruelling nature of their pre-season work under Paul Simpson, and perhaps it showed more clearly against Bolton.

News and Star: Callum GuyCallum Guy

There was nothing wrong, certainly, with the engine of players such as Callum Guy, for example, as he continued eating up ground to the very end to try and snuff out Bolton attacks.

Other players ran hard, chased relentlessly. One imagines little gets past Simpson in terms of general effort and, as well as the workload undertaken, the knowledge that the man in the dugout is very hot on physical standards surely drives things.

On Saturday there was no sign of slackness, little evidence of anyone dipping into the margins.

Yes, wins in friendlies count for very little in the big picture. But Carlisle’s general readiness for the slog ahead at this stage looks good.