Carlisle United got back to winning ways with a hard-earned 1-0 victory over Colchester United – but what did we learn from the game? Let’s take a closer look.


Sport does not build character – it reveals it, the old saying goes. In this respect, Carlisle revealed plenty about themselves in Saturday’s victory.

Yes, an early goal was helpful in not allowing nerves to build following their three-game scoreless run and last Tuesday’s hammering by Mansfield.

News and Star: Jon Mellish missed a great chance to make it 2-0 - but went on to make a committed contribution to United's winJon Mellish missed a great chance to make it 2-0 - but went on to make a committed contribution to United's win (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Still – as Paul Simpson acknowledged, this was far from an easy or comfortable game and it needed United to dig deep, with the consistent help of their supporters, throughout.

It spoke well of the team’s strength of mind that they put that Mansfield game firmly to bed, and did not let any of Saturday’s more challenging or unfortunate moments sabotage them at a time of potential fragility.

Jon Mellish, for instance, should have put Carlisle 2-0 up with the second best chance of the game.

His miss kept Colchester interested, but Mellish remained at the forefront of United’s play with his usual determined running, and committed defending.

He did not hide, nor did others. Certain United teams of earlier vintage might have felt down on their luck and gone under when things got testing on Saturday.

This lot appear to be made of stronger material.


Well, obviously it still is. Going 1-0 up after less than four minutes is the perfect way to try and build your way back to better things.

Yet this was also a game of several parts, many stages, and each had to be managed correctly by the Blues.

News and Star: Sub Jordan Gibson helped push Colchester back in the closing stagesSub Jordan Gibson helped push Colchester back in the closing stages (Image: Barbara Abbott)

In this respect it was a vindication of everything Simpson says about the notion of “starters and finishers”, rather than an XI plus substitutes.

The closing 20 minutes, with a narrow 1-0 lead to protect, was always going to be clutch time for United.

They went about most of that spell with four subs on the pitch, and each did their bit to get the result over the line.

Simpson hinted after the game that there had been some disgruntlement among some of those left out, but it didn’t show when Jordan Gibson, Corey Whelan, Kristian Dennis and JK Gordon were helping Carlisle get the result in the can.

Gibson in particular did crucial work in keeping the ball high up the pitch, making a nuisance of himself down the right to a Colchester side for whom that was the last thing they needed when trying to chase the game.

The replacements - sorry, finishers - carried out Simpson’s tactical wishes very well and were key to an important win.


Although Saturday was only a first win in four, this has still been a strong spell of form for Morgan Feeney in United’s defence.

The captain was justifiably named man of the match for his obdurate showing against an in-form Colchester attack.

News and Star: Morgan Feeney put in a man-of-the-match showing in defenceMorgan Feeney put in a man-of-the-match showing in defence (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Feeney did not give Kwesi Appiah, the U’s number nine, much of a sniff, and when a better examination duly came through the visiting substitutes – notably the floating Matt Jay – he remained to the fore.

It is easy to see why Feeney would be a fan favourite. The word ‘commitment’ leaps at you when he is launching himself into blocks, muscling attackers away from danger zones and defending on the front foot at all times.

Alongside him, Paul Huntington also showed his typical leadership, underlining his value in making ten clearances during the game – seven more than the next highest tally, according to

With goalkeeper Tomas Holy also proving a commanding last line of defence – he was a big, reassuring presence at crosses – and Jack Ellis deserving of praise for the way he slotted back in on the right after nearly two months out, it was a 13th clean sheet of the season powerfully earned. United’s skipper is somewhere approaching peak form.


Alfie McCalmont could not have made a better start to life in the United XI. His fourth-minute goal, on his first start, showed the Leeds loanee to be alert in the scenting of a chance, and cool in its finishing.

McCalmont came into the side in Gibson’s position in advanced midfield, and he made the most of that opportunity against Colchester.

News and Star: Alfie McCalmont made an instant impact and was efficient in his other workAlfie McCalmont made an instant impact and was efficient in his other work (Image: Barbara Abbott)

The 22-year-old always seemed to take up intelligent positions during the game, even if United were unable to pull completely clear of their opponents.

His statistics are interesting, in that he touched the ball less than anyone else in the starting line-up (24 touches, compared with Jack Armer’s 61, for instance) yet his output when involved was good.

His passing accuracy of 80 per cent was second only to that of Omari Patrick (88 per cent), and McCalmont was also ready to do his bit on the defensive side.

A couple of moments in either half might easily have seen him open something else up, and at the very least Simpson now knows he has a bright new option in those key midfield areas.


It plainly isn’t just the folk on the terraces and seats who yearn for this season to deliver something memorable.

Those in the dark blue shirts are committed to the idea as well.

News and Star: The commitment of experienced heads like Joe Garner was clear on SaturdayThe commitment of experienced heads like Joe Garner was clear on Saturday (Image: Barbara Abbott)

This isn’t about facts and figures, but body language – and actions speaking louder than words.

On Saturday, there was Joe Garner once again leaving his attacking station, sprinting back with the gusto of a teenager and terminating a Colchester attack with a clean, crowd-pleasing thump of a tackle.

That was one of the afternoon’s best-received moments, and the frontman seems to do something like this at least once a game. It will do Garner’s already high popularity little harm.

It highlighted that the striker isn’t simply here to pick up a wage and see out his career’s autumn years. Garner had a big smile on his face as he faced the Pioneer Stand at full-time – and so did another old head in Huntington, who wore the hard-worn, happy expression of a winner at full-time as he made his fistpumps and gestures to supporters.

You can see how much it means in these little moments. The passion shown by the older guard must surely rub off.