Carlisle United claimed an impressive 3-1 win at Peterborough United on Good Friday – but what did we learn from the game?

Let’s take a look…


Everything is of course relative in the context of a season which remains a bad one for United.

The wake of a victory, though, does allow us to highlight incremental improvements which appear more clearly when not swamped by yet another defeat.

One area where Carlisle have certainly got better, even if victories haven’t tended to follow (until Friday) is in scoring goals.

News and Star: Jon Mellish volleys his second goalJon Mellish volleys his second goal (Image: Richard Parkes)

In their last five games, the Cumbrians have scored at least twice on four occasions, totting up nine goals in that time.

That’s a much healthier ratio than their season’s overall return so far of 38 from 40 games. It does point to a certain uplifting in their goal threat, even if, more often than not, they’ve not been able to keep the back door locked for long enough.

While the Cumbrians have been putting the wrong sort of records at risk this campaign, at least one should now be put to bed. One more goal in their last six games will rule out the risk of a club record low total, and two more will prevent them from emulating the sides of 1986/87 and 2021/22 in that respect.

Another mini-plus is that United are unbeaten in two games and, if that sounds paltry (it is), it is at least the first time since October they’ve put a pair of league games together without losing.

Small steps, maybe – in fact definitely. But it sure beats losing every week.


What a day it was for Jon Mellish, who claimed his first career hat-trick in memorable style.

Many a time this season the defender’s deployment in midfield has not had the same disrupting and dynamic effect it often did in League Two last term.

This time, though, the effect was profound and Mellish displayed some of the finishing qualities he first showcased in that purple patch in 2020/21 when Chris Beech drew a remarkable goals tally from the Wearsider.

News and Star: Mellish with the match ball...Mellish with the match ball... (Image: Richard Parkes)

Friday saw Mellish score more than one in a game for the first time since last January’s 5-1 win over Barrow. In total United’s longest-serving player now has 30 goals from 213 appearances in league and cup: more than creditable numbers for someone who’s spent the bulk of that time in defence.

At Posh, it was a classic case of efficiency over waste both individually and collectively, given that Peterborough had nearly twice as many attempts as Carlisle (23 to 12), yet the Blues got five of theirs on target as opposed to the hosts’ measly two.

Possession was two-thirds in favour of Darren Ferguson’s side, too, yet they did not do enough with it and it proved a highly frustrating day for the fourth-placed promotion hopefuls.

Not Carlisle’s problem, needless to say. As for Mellish’s treble, it means United’s last three hat-tricks in league football have been treats for their travelling fans, following Jordan Gibson’s feat at Bolton Wanderers last October, and Nathan Thomas’s three at Forest Green Rovers in January 2020.

The last one on home soil in the league was scored by Charlie Wyke against Mansfield Town, back in November 2016.


Friday’s win was a rare occasion when things clicked at both ends of the pitch in the same game for the Cumbrians this campaign.

And it is right and fair, firstly, to acknowledge how much more obstinate United were defensively, in the face of (statistically) League One’s most dangerous side.

Praising their efforts does not mean whitewashing what’s gone before. But there were good displays throughout Paul Simpson’s defence, firstly as a back four and later when Mellish returned to make it a five.


News and Star: Sam Lavelle and Jon Mellish keep Jonson Clarke-Harris at baySam Lavelle and Jon Mellish keep Jonson Clarke-Harris at bay (Image: Richard Parkes)

Jack Ellis deserves particular praise for how he negotiated the challenge despite a booking in the sixth minute. Against Ephron Mason-Clark, probably a third-tier team of the season candidate, the young right-back stuck admirably to the task and that Mason-Clark managed just the one shot on target, which Harry Lewis saved, is tribute to his efforts.

A word, too, for United’s central defenders, for whom this was a much better day than many they’ve endured this campaign.

Sam Lavelle, the captain, was impressive in his early work as he made interceptions and blocks with crucial timing.

Ben Barclay, alongside him, was diligent and produced one spectacular piece of defending when hooking the ball to safety just as Posh were preparing to attack it near the goalline.

Jack Armer, on the left, gave the lively Kwame Poku very little joy and the fact Lewis had just the one notable stop to make reflects well on how Carlisle faced up to such a strong home side.

The victory, too, benefited from a good and effective substitute’s performance from Jordan Gibson higher up the pitch. He nutmegged Harrison Burrows with almost his first touch upon replacing the injured Taylor Charters, and immediately added a sense of invention to a side that, until then, had seen little of the ball and given Posh little cause to be on the back foot.

When Gibson is on his game he can affect games considerably and this was one such afternoon. His cross for Mellish’s opener was excellent, he might easily have scored himself late on, and his introduction vindicated Simpson’s instinct to try and attack Peterborough, rather than contain.

A more defensive substitution would have been the easier card to play, but the manager looked to be as bold as possible and, this time, it paid off.


At long, long last, we had the sight of Georgie Kelly in a United shirt and, just now, the striker is in the unusual position of possessing a 100 per cent win record with the Blues.

It is likely to be a long game in terms of getting the striker up to full speed but his debut, after nearly two months out with a calf injury, was a good if belated start.

It was not difficult to witness what Kelly is likely to bring to Carlisle’s team provided he can remain fit for the foreseeable.

News and Star: Georgie Kelly looked a handful when he came on for his debutGeorgie Kelly looked a handful when he came on for his debut (Image: Richard Parkes)

The 27-year-old appears a target man in different respects: someone who draws defenders, and also draws himself towards them.

He played his part in trying to frustrate Peterborough in the closing stages, when United were trying to keep the ball high up the pitch.

After coming on in the 77th minute, he won three aerial challenges, and also showed a little invention with a chip from distance which wasn’t a million miles away from succeeding.

It was not a great deal of initial material - never could be in such a short space of time - but Kelly in the fruit salad shirt made it a little easier to imagine how Luke Armstrong might enjoy having someone alongside him to share the physical burden, and maybe appreciate someone who can scatter a few bodies in the name of creating space and establishing United around enemy lines.

Making a fruitful pairing out of these two is clearly going to be fundamental to how Carlisle try to improve over the longer run.