When Carlisle United were relegated from the football league in 2004 their fans must have feared the worst. Their club had avoided relegation on numerous occasions from Division 3 and when they were finally relegated they must have feared that they could be down in the realms of Non-league for years to come.
On the contrary, they were promoted straight back up the following season, and used the relegation as the catalyst for where they are today, playing League 1 football. However it looks as though the club, who missed out on promotion to the Championship last season might need another relegation to kick-start their fortunes.
The club lie 14th in the table three points off the relegation places and searching for a win that doesn’t look like coming.
Recent defeats to struggling Hereford United and now Colchester United, who recorded their first win at their new stadium on Saturday with a thumping 5-0 win. Things haven’t looked this bleak for the club since the non-league days four years ago.
With the squad at John Ward’s disposal its hard to see why they are struggling. They lost very little of the squad which finished fourth in the league last season. Keiron Westwood has gone to Coventry City in the Championship but this move is hardly a worthy excuse for the disappointing start.
The events of the final day of last season could have diminished the sides confidence somewhat. They were second going into the final day needing a draw at home to Bournemouth who themselves needed a win to stand any chance of staying in the league. The game ended in a draw, a result which helped neither side as Nottingham Forest were promoted ahead of Carlisle and Cheltenham Town stayed up at the expense of Bournemouth. This left Carlisle in the lottery of the play-offs where they faced Leeds and lost 3-2 after leading the tie 2-0 at one point.
After coming so close to promotion some of this disappointment they experienced may have filtered over into this current season. In truth the team would have struggled in the Championship so not being promoted so soon could have helped them, but in the manner they missed out it would have hurt.
The team aren’t looking as strong a unit as they did last season and don’t ever look likely to hold onto leads like they showed at MK Dons when after taking the lead ended up on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline.
The man mountain upfront Danny Graham has weighed in with his share of goals as always, scoring ten in total this season but he is short of support on the goal front. Graham has the hopes of the team on his shoulders and its obvious someone needs to step up to help the talented forward.
The introduction of Graham Kavanagh will hopefully sure up the midfield and give some creativity up front, but as his career comes to a close its unclear how many of Carlisle’s games he will play.
At the back the side has struggled hugely and with the fire-power up top the side knows that if it defends well it has a chance. It must be hugely frustrating for John Ward that his side can’t get it together at both ends.
The team have already conceded 26 goals in the league, the worst defense outside the bottom four. The loss of Peter Murphy is a big one sure, but no-one has stepped up to the plate defensively and taken charge, because no offense to Colchester United if they are scoring five past you then you have serious problems.
Ward has done an admirable job since taking over 2 years ago and getting the club to this stage is very admiral, but he is in danger of losing all he has created if his side don’t sort out their defensive frailties.
With Graham in the side they always have a chance but until problems are sorted out elsewhere his goals, and there will be plenty of them, will be going to waste.