Carlisle United got their League One season under way with a 1-1 draw against Fleetwood Town – but what did we learn from the game?

Let’s take a closer look.


Jordan Gibson came out with plenty of credit from this opening game of the season.

The midfielder, deployed in a central attacking position, performed intelligently in the role he earned amid a bright pre-season.

Gibson proved adept in his movement and was often the Carlisle player with the ability to find useful spaces in the Fleetwood danger zone.

This set Scott Brown’s side arguably their toughest defensive challenge, given that Gibson was, on average, Carlisle’s most advanced player on the pitch (see below), yet also frequently dropped off to get on the ball.

News and Star: A map of Carlisle United's average player positions against Fleetwood Town, with Jordan Gibson (No7) the furthest forwardA map of Carlisle United's average player positions against Fleetwood Town, with Jordan Gibson (No7) the furthest forward (Image:

He had more shots than anyone in the United side – six, including four outside the box – and was a good tactical foil for the frontrunning debutant Luke Plange.

The only frustration was that Gibson was unable to take the one serious chance that came his way, when Fin Back picked him out in front of goal.

Carlisle will need cast-iron opportunities like that to go in if they are to make the best fist of life in League One.

Simpson must, then, balance that aspect with the many other good, creative things Gibson brought to the party as he continues to work out Carlisle’s best attacking shape.


If anyone was wondering whether a couple of weeks of transfer/contract speculation would distract Owen Moxon from the task in hand, Saturday offered a pretty emphatic answer.

His opening strike from a 30-yard free-kick was a brilliant way to start Carlisle’s goalscoring season in the third tier.

Much of Moxon’s performance also bore the hallmark of his best work last term, when he was often a cut above anyone else on the pitch.

News and Star: Owen Moxon's class was on show once moreOwen Moxon's class was on show once more (Image: Barbara Abbott)

That applied both to his ball play and his tenacity, given that Moxon – again, a familiar stat this – topped Carlisle’s tackle count in Saturday’s game.

His passing accuracy was a good 78.4 per cent, he won his aerial share and the only shame was that a dead leg meant he was withdrawn before things were over.

Moxon’s future at Carlisle remains a matter of conjecture given recent events and the fact a new deal tabled by the club remains unsigned.

That saga, the way things look, may run for a fair while yet.

At least, while he’s in a blue shirt, there appears little cause to question his commitment to the United cause – and just as much reason, still, to celebrate his class.


Glory be. Carlisle United have scored from a direct free-kick!

Moxon’s pearler ended a very long wait for such a goal in a league game.

Not since Jamie Devitt against Exeter City in February 2019 had a Blues player addressed a dead ball and sent it directly into the opposition net.

(They’ve had other free-kick goals in the meantime, such as Nick Anderton against Stevenage in 2020, but the ball was touched to him before he let fly. And Jordan Gibson's free-kick against Morecambe in 2021 was in the Pizza Trophy).

News and Star: Owen Moxon celebrates his free-kick goalOwen Moxon celebrates his free-kick goal (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Carlisle are going to need all the weapons they can get in 2023/24 so it was pleasing to see that one chalked off on day one.

Moxon, remember, had a sighter against Dundee United from similar range in the previous weekend’s friendly, and Paul Simpson says the midfielder has been taking more “care” and showing more consistency in his practice of them.

The days of Ian Harte, when a free-kick was practically a penalty, are unlikely to come back any time soon but Carlisle always carried a very useful set-piece goal threat in the days when Devitt and Danny Grainger were standing over them.

A bit more of that in League One will certainly help. From set-pieces generally, meanwhile, Carlisle applied plenty of focus, five of their 15 attempts on goal coming down that route, compared to Fleetwood’s none from 13.

Better finishing from a few of them and United might easily have downed Scott Brown’s men.


Carlisle’s attacking remains weighted to the left judging by the statistics produced by

The Blues launched nearly twice as many forays down that side than they did the right against Fleetwood (48 per cent versus 25 per cent).

This follows a pattern generally seen last season, and there seems little sign of Carlisle deviating from what Simpson clearly regards as a key trait.

News and Star: The sight of Jack Armer, pictured, and Jon Mellish raiding down the left was a familiar oneThe sight of Jack Armer, pictured, and Jon Mellish raiding down the left was a familiar one (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Jon Mellish and Jack Armer are by now closely accustomed to one another’s games and both played a strong hand in some of United’s most persistent attacking work.

Gibson, when roaming for the ball, often peeled to that side too as Carlisle looked for holes in Brown’s back line.

On the other flank, Fin Back tended to be an out-ball in the first half, the loanee arriving into a couple of very useful positions when Carlisle switched play.

He also showed some of his positivity on the ball when running at opponents after the break, fashioning the chance Gibson should have taken.

Fleetwood had a little more balance to their own attacking in terms of angles, breaking through Carlisle a couple of times down the middle, Danny Mayor drifting in from the left and Brendan Wiredu and Carl Johnston troublesome when raiding down the right.

In the second half, they looked particularly threatening on the latter side when Shaun Rooney and Josh Vela were combining to find spaces behind United’s defence.

For United, as they progress, it will be a juggling act between continuing to know and use their apparent strengths, and pushing teams in as many ways as possible.


Paul Simpson was sincere and passionate in his post-match comments about the amount of added-on time it looks like will become the norm this season.

Carlisle’s manager feels that making double-figure extra minutes routine will put players’ welfare at risk.

He surely has a point here, given the increase in the percentage time in a game that a player now needs to be going full tilt.

Teams and manager will have to prepare accordingly and the risk, in an era of strains and pulls, is plain.

News and Star: Paul Simpson talks to referee Peter Wright and his assistantsPaul Simpson talks to referee Peter Wright and his assistants (Image: Ben Holmes)

This, then, is the flipside to a general welcoming of the stated intention, by the EFL and refereeing authorities, to clamp down on certain things in the game.

Nobody who witnessed United’s 0-0 draw with Stevenage last season could possibly argue with the principle of trying to increase ball-in-play time.

Teams have been killing time too craftily for too long without consequence, and accurately measuring stoppages, rather than making a general reading of it, would seem an obvious way to take that on.

There should be sympathy with that, then. But the late slog Saturday’s game became also felt untenable and Simpson, who has a sports science degree, must be heard and respected in the worries he expressed.

A balance here may not be obviously found, but some middle ground must surely be sought.