Carlisle United fell to a 3-1 defeat against Lincoln City on Easter Monday…but what did we learn from the game? Let’s take a look…


And how. Carlisle’s goals-against numbers have totted up considerably since late autumn and the flow has still not been stemmed.

Monday saw the Blues concede at least three in a game for the tenth time this season.

That statistic is all the more alarming when you consider that, for the first 18 league games, they hadn’t done it once.

News and Star: Ben House scores Lincoln's first goalBen House scores Lincoln's first goal (Image: Barbara Abbott)

As such, in the 23 matches from the 5-1 defeat at Reading on November 28 onwards, they’ve had their net rustled at least three times in nearly half of them.

That is an indictment, certainly, of efforts to improve from an already struggling mid-season point.

In terms of that particular stat, ten is the worst tally for nearly a decade. The side of 2014/15 under Graham Kavanagh and then Keith Curle shipped at least three in a game on 14 occasions.

This, though, is still only the fourth time United have hit double figures in this respect in the last 34 years.

It’s not going to put the record at risk, thankfully. That is held by the 1934/35 side, who let in three or more in 20 of their 42 games en route to the bottom of Division Three North.

Still, Carlisle’s current figures are miserable, and in terms of overall defensive record, they’ve now shipped 73 from 41 games.

This is already the worst total in a season since 2014/15 (74). Should Carlisle concede another six over their remaining five games – distinctly possible, given their record – they’ll end 2023/24 with the club’s bleakest defensive record since 1990/91.

Tiny mercies again – they won’t put the all-time record at risk, which is a hefty 111 conceded in 1938/39.

Cheery, eh?


Monday was just another of those games that made you envy what the other team had, and lament the fact Carlisle, for too long, simply haven’t had it.

Lincoln were better individually and collectively and in Teddy Bishop had the game’s most effective player.

Bishop’s statistics this season, in terms of goal involvement, don’t put him at the top of League One’s tree.

News and Star: Celebrations from Lincoln after Ted Bishop's free-kickCelebrations from Lincoln after Ted Bishop's free-kick (Image: Barbara Abbott)

He has just four goals to his name, and four assists, in the division this season.

Yet United could not contain him, could not put limits on his dangerous running and ball play which was often at the heart of the Imps’ best periods.

When was the last time Carlisle had someone in that attacking midfield position who looked so assured, so inventive on a consistent basis, rather than one who might flit in and out of such creative spells?

Jordan Gibson, earlier in the season, certainly had his moments but they’ve been much more sparing lately, as have his starting opportunities. He made little attacking imprint on Monday, as for too long did many of his colleagues.

United have wide attackers, roaming operators like Dan Butterworth who started more centrally on Monday, but not someone who looks as homely in that No10 position as Bishop did.

As well as curling home their clinching late free-kick, Bishop was a shooting threat at other stages, tackled back well, had more touches of the ball than anyone in a white and green kit and, all in all, demonstrated many of the traits United simply must add to their squad if they are to become a more reliably creative force again.

Much has been said about the need for pace and athleticism. But don’t leave out-and-out craft off the list either.


This has been, let’s be frank, a terrible season in terms of United’s use of the loan market. That reality was rubbed in when Lincoln’s line was being led so decisively by Joe Taylor, who scored one and made one on Monday.

Borrowed from Luton Town, he has scored 21 this season, and his tally of seven in his last five alone is more than anyone at United has managed all campaign in the league except Gibson.

Carlisle’s shortcomings, misfortunes and missteps in this particular market have been a real hindrance and one just needs to go through all the names to realise it’s been a story of very few hits, and many misses.

News and Star: Jack Diamond made little impact against LincolnJack Diamond made little impact against Lincoln (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Jokull Andresson: too error prone in his short spell in goal, before injury finished his season.

Terry Ablade: a few cameos, no goals, also now injured.

Fin Back: ending the season out of favour, having not hit the heights of last season’s best form.

Jack Diamond: has the mitigation of a long period without football, but United are still waiting for their first goal or assist from him, and Monday’s cameo was poor.

Seán Grehan: three sub appearances, no starts, a back-up signing, clearly, and little more.

Joshua Kayode: sabotaged by injury to the extent United have had the grand total of two games out of him.

Luke Plange: two goals in half a season, allowed back to his parent club, now in Finland.

Seven signings, then, and none that have upskilled United for League One. A recruitment area where they must be far, far better in 2024/25.


One of the few grains of hope for fans in Monday’s defeat was in the performance of Georgie Kelly.

The substitute is certainly not a striker who looks happy to operate in the margins, on the evidence of this game and also his cameo at Peterborough.

In his half-hour cameo Kelly offered that elusive thing – some aerial presence in the box. He was willing and able to attack crosses and one almost brought a goal.

News and Star: Georgie Kelly attacks a crossGeorgie Kelly attacks a cross (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Kelly won a good share of his aerial contests in his time on the pitch and, in his eagerness to receive the ball, and go up against defenders, Carlisle’s physical aptitude certainly seemed to improve in those departments.

The forming of a partnership with Luke Armstrong is clearly something that will need time, and some detailed work over pre-season as well as the fading embers of this one.

In other respects, meanwhile, Carlisle’s substitutions brought little benefit, and there was certainly not much else that vindicated the decision to replace Dan Butterworth: a decision by Simpson that disgruntled many.

United’s boss clearly wanted another orthodox centre-forward on the pitch, hence Kelly’s arrival. On the surface of it Butterworth’s name as the first man hooked was curious given, in recent minutes, he’d hit the post then almost scored with a thumping volley.

Simpson’s leaning towards different lines of attack, ie crosses from wider positions for Kelly to attack, presumably explained the change.

In fairness to Sean Maguire, another replacement, he did well to set up Sam Lavelle’s goal, but that was an isolated moment as he, Jack Diamond and Josh Emmanuel brought little more in terms of game-improving quality.

This has not been a vintage season for substitutes revamping United’s game in general, and Monday was little different.