Former Carlisle United skipper Paul Thirlwell believes his old club will be “tough” opposition tonight despite their recent woes.

Thirlwell, assistant manager of Harrogate Town, returns to Brunton Park for the Bristol Street Motors Trophy clash.

The ex-Blues captain said that, United’s recent difficulties aside, Paul Simpson’s team will still be tough obstacles in the group game.

“We’re going there against a tough team – I know they’ve got their injuries and setbacks at the minute, but he’ll still put out a strong team, Paul Simpson,” said Thirlwell.

“It’s one we’ll have to work really hard and play well in to get a result.”

Carlisle have a dismal record against Harrogate having failed to win any of their eight previous meetings.

The League Two side, meanwhile, are in good away form having won their last five games on the road in all competitions.

Thirlwell wants that to continue tonight as the Sulphurites – whose squad includes former Blues defender Rod McDonald – seek a win that can keep their group-stage qualification hopes alive.

News and Star: Rod McDonald, the ex-United player, is now on Harrogate's booksRod McDonald, the ex-United player, is now on Harrogate's books (Image: PA)

“The lads are in really good form away from home and it’s another trip in a competition we want to do well in,” said Thirlwell, speaking in a club interview.

United have already faced Simon Weaver’s side this season, losing 1-0 in the Carabao Cup first round at the EnviroVent Stadium.

But Thirlwell played down the significance of that game ahead of tonight’s encounter in Cumbria.

“It was a good night for us, and a game we played particularly well in but a lot’s changed in terms of bodies, injuries and suspensions,” said Thirlwell.

“We will treat this game in isolation. We want to go there and continue good the away form run we’re on, but first and foremost it’s about a result that helps get us to the next stage.”