United travel to face north-east giants Sunderland on Tuesday night having already picked up three points from their first Checkatrade Trophy group fixture against Morecambe last time out.
The Black Cats have had to readjust quickly to life outside the top two divisions with the league, and a return to the Championship, rightly their top priority.
Just one defeat so far in league action - a 2-1 away reverse at the hands of Burton Albion - has seen them maintain a steady push in the upper reaches of the division, but some frustrating draws [four in total] have taken the gloss ever so slightly off an otherwise strong and encouraging start to the season.
Saturday saw them quite literally battle out a 2-1 away victory at struggling Bradford, taking them to third spot in the table, with Josh Maja and Jack Baldwin scoring the goals, but Max Power was handed a straight red card when he appeared to kick out in retaliation to a hefty challenge from Bantams midfielder Jack Payne.
Impressive going forward, the leading goalscorer is Josh Maja with a total of nine goals so far ... and an assist thrown in along the way just to add to his good early return. He was also voted as the EFL's young player of the month for August for his consistent performances.
Lyndon Gooch has a very solid five assists, with three goals into the bargain, and the ever reliable Lee Cattermole is up and running with three goals and two assists to his name.
Sunderland have two points from their opening group game against Stoke City under-21s as the teams played out a 0-0 draw, with the home side eventually going on to pick up the bonus point on offer as they won the resulting penalty shoot-out by 4-2.
Manager’s thoughts ...
Speaking ahead of the game, United boss John Sheridan said: “The Stadium of Light is a great stadium to go and play football at and it will be a good experience for some of the younger players.
"It's a game where there might be an opportunity for lads who haven't been getting game time to stake a claim, but it's another one we want to win.
"We want to progress in the competition, and we got off to a good start against Morecambe. Whoever Sunderland put out, they'll want to win the game as well, and they have some very good players in their squad.
"I have no doubt it will be another tough one for us."
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Did You Know?
+ Blue House Field was the club’s first home before the Black Cats enjoyed brief spells at other locations, with the club eventually settling at Newcastle Road in 1886.
+ The club moved to Roker Park in 1898. It became their home for the next 99 years.
+ In 1985 Sunderland went from 17 August to 7 September - a total of 494 minutes - without scoring a goal. It remains their longest ever spell without scoring at the start of a season.
Head to Head
These two sides have met on a total of 20 occasions over the years - the first fixtures were in the 1970/71 season, where Sunderland earned an away point at Brunton Park before beating the Blues 2-0 at home in the old second division.
Sunderland hold the bragging rights by some considerable margin, with 10 victories compared to United's four.
|Carlisle wins||Draws||Sunderland wins|
The latest meeting between the two sides was in last season's Carabao Cup, with Sunderland progressing after a 2-1 victory. Donald Love and Lyndon Gooch scored for the Black Cats, with Danny Grainger getting what turned out to be a consolation goal on the hour mark.
Watch the highlights from that game here:
Matt Robson scored the consolation goal as Sunderland beat United 3-1 in the Emirates FA Cup third round in 2014.
Watch the highlights from that game here:
Man in the middle
Our referee for this game is Mr Ben Toner. He has been in charge of eight games so far this season and has shown a total of 13 yellow cards.
We last saw him just two months ago for our 2-1 home victory over Port Vale. Danny Grainger (penalty) and Tom Parkes gave us a two-goal cushion but things were made interesting through the closing stages when Luke Hannant netted with just two minutes left to play. United settled things down to take the points, and there were no Blues booked on the day.
Prior to that, he was with us at Vale Park in March last season when second half goals from Ashley Nadesan and Hallam Hope handed the Blues a hard fought victory. Dior Angus had given the home side a first half lead, but Antony Kay was sent off for the hosts as tempers flared late in the game.
We saw him again at Brunton Park in November last season when we beat Yeovil Town by 4-0, with Danny Grainger (2), Hallam Hope and Shaun Miller getting the goals. Bevis Mugabi was sent off with 15 minutes left to play for the Glovers.
The Checkatrade Trophy had brought him north two months earlier when Layton Ndukwu scored for Leicester City’s under-21 side to register a shock defeat for the Blues. No names were taken on the night.
Referee - Ben Toner
Assistant Referee 1 - Paul Newhouse
Assistant Referee 2 - Richard Wigglesworth
Fourth Official - Adam Herczeg
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