United kick off their Carabao Cup campaign at Fleetwood Town tomorrow evening, looking to emulate some of the success seen in the last two seasons.
The Blues have enjoyed trips to Derby, QPR and Liverpool in this competition in recent years and will be hoping for a similarly enjoyable cup run this time around.
But standing in their way will be Uwe Rosler’s Fleetwood. Something of a surprise package in League One last term, the Cod Army are well fancied and will prove a stern test for Keith Curle’s side.
Promotion challengers to become cup contenders?
Impressive in League One last season, Fleetwood were in contention for automatic promotion until the final weeks of the season having flourished under Rosler. A narrow play-off semi-final defeat to Bradford City denied them a final shot at promotion to the second tier, but they’ll be keen to mount a serious push for the summit this year.
And they’ve started brightly, with a 2-0 win over recently relegated Rotherham United on the opening day sending the Cod Army top of the third tier. They’ll be hoping to carry that fine start into the Carabao Cup.
There’s one extremely familiar face likely to be lining up against the Blues at Highbury with former United man and local lad Kyle Dempsey having completed a permanent move to the north-west over the summer.
Having left United for Huddersfield in 2015, the attacking midfielder made a loan switch to Fleetwood last season and, after a string of impressive performances, was snapped up by Rosler on a permanent basis. The midfielder made 47 appearances for the Cumbrians, netting 11 times.
Dempsey has said he’s relishing the chance to face the Blues, but he won’t be the only ex-Carlisle player in with a chance of lining up on Tuesday night.
Defender Ashley Eastham moved to Highbury last season having previously represented the Blues during the 2010/11 season. The defender made a solitary appearance in the FA Cup for United after joining on loan from Blackpool.
We do enjoy a cup meeting ...
The two sides have only met twice in competitive football - both in cup competitions.
Our first ever meeting came in a televised Football League Trophy clash in 2013/14 as the Reds ran out winners at Highbury. An early strike from David Ball was added to after the break by Antoni Sarcevic to wrap up a 2-0 win.
We then met again in the same competition last season with the Blues this time triumphant at Brunton Park. In an entertaining encounter, goals from Joe McKee, Charlie Wyke, Danny Grainger and Cameron Salkeld ensured a home victory, with Jack Sowerby and Alex Jakubiak’s goals for the visitors merely consolation in a 4-2 defeat.
Below are the highlights from that game:
Winless so far - but will that change?
Rosler is looking for his side to create history against United, with the Cod Army having never won in this competition.
In their five seasons since promotion to the Football League, Fleetwood have yet to win a tie in the League Cup and as a result have never reached any further than the first round.
Nottingham Forest, Notts County, Rotherham, Hartlepool and Leeds have all beaten the Reds, and they’ll be keen to ensure Carlisle aren’t added to that list.
Ones to Watch
+ Conor McAleny - Fresh off a brace against Rotherham at the weekend, the lively striker will be looking to continue his fine personal form against the Blues. A product of the Everton youth academy, McAleny enjoyed no fewer than six loan spells away from Goodison Park. His most recent was the most fruitful as he netted 10 times in 18 appearances at Oxford United earlier this year. Fleetwood beat a host of other clubs to his signature this summer and they now have a real attacking threat among their ranks.
+ Nathan Pond - Club captain, record appearance holder and a world record breaker, Pond is a true Fleetwood veteran and continues to serve them with distinction in his twelfth season at the club. A passionate centre back, Pond has played in more divisions for a single club than any other footballer and has made well over 400 appearances at Highbury. He’s sure to prove a tricky customer for United’s forwards to navigate.
+ Wes Burns - Another fairly recent arrival, the former Bristol City wide man joined the Cod Army on a permanent basis in January of this year after impressing during a prior loan spell. Burns made 14 appearances and scored five during a temporary spell at Highbury in 2016 and penned a three-and-a-half year deal upon his return. Quick, direct and with an excellent final product, Burns has the potential to pull the strings.