It was a first competitive fixture with an unrestricted attendance for almost 18-months for the Cumbrians at Brunton Park on Saturday afternoon when the U's of Colchester came to town.
The 2021/22 season opener saw Tristan Abrahams and Corey Whelan make their starting debuts, with Lukas Jensen and Manny Mampala on the bench.
Zach Clough was due to start, but he pulled out of the warm-up and Joe Riley stepped up. Sam Fishburn was brought onto the bench.
Prices were slashed as the club said thank you to the fans for their support and patience as the pandemic impacted every walk of life, with the final attendance showing of close to 6,500 clearly happy to be back.
There was an early chance for the hosts when Dickenson broke free on the left wing. Alessandra was in the box, but a clearance was made. Riley took the long throw and George was relieved to see his weak punch helped on its way by an attentive defender.
The Cumbrians stayed forward and a cross from Armer found Abrahams in the area. His header, from 16-yards out, was blocked at source, as was the follow-up volley from Guy.
Another delivery from Armer caused concern for the away team as Alessandra closed the space. It fell to Abrahams but his snapshot on the spin went wide.
More good work from Abrahams earned a corner, and that was fizzed to Dickenson, who was sat deep. A heavy first touch meant that the chance to let one go had gone.
United were a whisker away on 13 minutes when Mellish bundled his way through on the edge of the box. It came to Alessandra, and he dragged it out from under his foot before striking cleanly through it. George was well beaten but it whipped an inch the wrong side of the woodwork.
Colchester fashioned their first chance of the day on 19 minutes when Judge and Sears found a way through on the break. The cut back appeared to be perfect for Nouble but he got his footing wrong and was embarrassed as he succeeded only in completing a clearance.
Chest control from a massive kick from Norman from Alessandra temporarily opened a door as he surged onwards, and a hand on the shirt from defender Ryan Clampin brought a tumble and a loud appeal for a spot kick. The officials showed no interest.
There was a real chance for the Blues to open their account on 28 minutes when Dickenson was released to overlap on the left flank. Abrahams took a touch to slow it down, but Mellish could only guide his 17-yarder straight at George.
A raking pass from Dickenson found Alessandra on the sprint yet again, and he touched it back under his own boot before picking out Riley. Colchester had recovered and his drilled effort took a ricochet and curled behind.
Guy was on corner duties and McDonald met it on the penalty spot on the full, with a strong jump, and George had to dive low to palm it away. The same player met the second delivery but his header was off-target on this occasion.
A quickly taken visiting free kick gave Coxe unexpected space, but he wasted it as a poorly directed shot flew into the Warwick.
Smith then popped a header at Norman when he got on the end of a set piece, swung in by Judge. It was comfortable stuff from the home stopper.
The half closed with a training ground corner routine which saw Clampin roll it short. Judge was interested, but his punt spooned off a block from Whelan and the Blues regrouped to see it clear. Sears had half a sight as it came back his way but Norman watched it all the way as it came through legs and into his hands.
And Magnus Norman was at his best in time added on when a half-cleared free kick came to Judge. His stinger was going in until the keeper leaped to push it away with both hands.
Colchester started the second half with a neat attack with a flick from Judge that found Nouble. His touch came back to Judge, but McDonald did well to close it down.
It became tight for both sides, with no time or space given and with every pass contested and closed down.
But it was the hosts who had a fantastic chance to take the lead on 67 minutes when they broke from a corner. Alessandra waited for Dickenson to pass his shoulder, and the through ball was inch perfect. He bore down on goal, but a stumble as it stuck under his feet allowed George to step forward and eventually gather it in, with Clampin in close attendance.
United broke again moments later, and this time it was Riley who carried it on. Mellish took over, but his clip was straight at George as he angled into the box.
Chances came from both set pieces, with a volley from Alessandra deflected wide and a low cross from Whelan ushered free and clear. The ball was quickly recycled and Abrahams tried his luck as he dragged it back to shoot. He connected firmly but it was high.
Riley and Tanner combined on the right to open things up for a cross but Dickenson was pulled down. And Dickenson thought he'd turned provider when he beat the offside trap. His cross had power, but a volley from Abrahams was parried by George. Mellish had the target at his mercy but he bumped his volley into the ground and George was fortunate that it hit his leg and screwed wide.
A rare away chance came on 80 minutes when Judge found Smith from a corner. He headed it well but it rose into the air.
The home side nearly picked a path thanks to Alessandra at the other end, but his side-footed pass to Mampala was chopped down.
Guy screwed a volley from distance high into the air just as his name was read out as the Vesta Wealth man of the match, but the missed chances left the Blues to ponder what might have been at the end of an opening day performance that had most definitely whetted the appetite.
The home fans showed their appreciation with a loud round of applause as the players left the field of play, with the focus immediately on the Tuesday trip to Bramall Lane.
Match Day Sponsors
Associate Sponsor - Borderbrite
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Match Ball Sponsor - Lion & Lamb, Wigton
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Carlisle United - Mellish (41), Whelan (58)
Carlisle United - Norman, Tanner, McDonald, Whelan, Armer, Dickenson (Toure 85), Guy (c), Mellish (Mampala 78), Alessandra, Riley, Abrahams. Subs - Jensen (gk), Charters, Feeney, Bell, Fishburn.
Colchester United - George, Eastman, Smith (c), Chambers, Judge, Sjuse, Wiredu, Clampin, Coxe, Nouble, Sears (Jasper 81). Subs - Turner (gk), Tovide, Tchamadeu, Chilvers, Kennedy, Welch-Hayes.
Referee - Peter Wright
Assistant Referee 1 - Simon Clayton
Assistant Referee 2 - Ivan Stankovic
Fourth Official - Adam Herczeg
Observer - Mick Brown
Coach - Paul Canadine
Attendance - 6,382 (202 away)