United put on a barnstorming second half display at Brunton Park on Monday afternoon with a display full of grit, determination and flair that ultimately secured League Two safety on their own terms in front of a delighted crowd.
“I thought it was a hell of a game to watch, and a great advert for League Two,” manager Paul Simpson said. “I don’t know what it was like for the players, and I don’t know what it was like for the supporters, but I’m absolutely drained, I’m shattered.
“I’m just delighted we’ve got over the line and that we got the victory. I just said to the players that they started back in June, and this may only seem like a small reward, but we’ve made sure that we stay in the football league, and that’s actually massive.
“It’s a huge thing, and they’ve got to make sure they realise that. I know everybody will say that we’d have been up anyway even if we’d lost, because Oldham lost, but I don’t care about that.
“This was about making sure we did this right today against a really good Mansfield side. I really like the way they play, I like how Nigel Clough and Andy Garner do things, and I really hope they can go and get themselves back in the play-offs and have a right good go at getting up.
“But it’s just about us getting our three points and I’m so pleased with the way we went about it in the second half. It was so much closer to what we ask them to do, and they got their win from that.”
And with us not having had to rely on results from elsewhere to secure the status, he added: “That does matter. Everybody was saying that we’d be ok because Forest Green would beat Oldham, but it’s not always that straightforward.
“I really wanted us to do it ourselves because it’s been a frustrating and disappointing last four games, but I thought they went about it all really well.
“We got away with one in the first half because that was over the line, I’ve seen the still of it. At the time I didn’t know, but we have got away with one, no doubt about that.
“We have to be thankful for that, and I always say that you can talk about tactics and work ethic, and things like that, but you sometimes also need a little bit of luck.
“I’ve had luck along the way, I know I have. In the things I’ve achieved so far in my football career, as a player and as a coach, I know I’ve been lucky.
“I’ll go back to when I was 17 and I had an absolute nightmare in the first half of a game for Man City reserves. Bob Stokoe was manager of Carlisle at the time, and he was going to take me on a free, but he left, I was that bad.
“Then the next weekend I was in Man City’s first team and who knows what would have happened if I’d played well. You have to have luck along the way, I’ve always known that, and today we rode it.
“Having said that, there was no luck involved in that second half, it was down to unbelievable spirit and determination.
“We had a group of players with a desire to go and get forward and really, with a bit more of a clinical streak, we could have been home and hosed with two or three on the scoreboard. I’ll take one, but there are things we still need to be better at.”
The Carlisle boss had called for a response following the indifferent away day at Walsall, and off the back of a four-game run that had seen results dip, and that’s certainly what happened as he rung the changes in a bid to freshen things up with his starting eleven.
“I don’t really know what brought the response, to be honest with you,” he told us. “It’s personnel. We played with a back three, and we’ve wanted our wing backs to be getting further forward.
“When there’s a team up against us playing with only one striker, we want our inside centre backs to join in. We want midfielders to want to be positive, and then obviously we want the strikers to od that as well.
“I thought we got it second half, but we didn’t get it so much in the first half, for whatever reason. I don’t think there was a lack of desire to work hard, because what I said to them at half time was that I couldn’t fault their work rate, because they were working back in and that left us sitting there with a back eight.
“What that meant was that we then had to work again to get 30-yards up to start to close their possession down. So, instead of recovering all the way back in, get into a better position and then you only have a 10-yard press to make.
“We got that and we were able to then nick it more. Dicko was nicking things, Gibbo was nicking things, and we were able to then transition into really positive areas.
“We were suddenly at them instead of transitioning in our own half with much more to do. It was a much more front-foot mentality and that’s what got us the result in the end.”
And, as we all know, the points mean that safety has been achieved with still three games left to go.
“I’m absolutely delighted, and I’m relieved as well,” he commented. “I didn’t want to come here and fail in what I was asked to do, so to do it now and to be able to - I suppose relax is the wrong word, but it will certainly be a lot easier.
“My week will be a lot easier, that’s for certain. I’ve got a really tough week, with two funerals to go to, which is really sad.
“But it’ll certainly be a much better week now that we’ve got that victory. We can move on and get on with the next one with a clear conscience that, now, finishing the season is about pride and finishing with as many points as we can get.
“Look, it’s been a really big challenge, but a really good one as well. I’ve said before, I didn’t really know what I was coming in to, I knew bits about the group, but I definitely didn’t think it was a foregone conclusion that we were going down.
“I felt we had a fighting chance because when there’s 15 games to go you’re still in it. The players have been magnificent for us.
“We’ve had a little tricky patch for four games, but before that I thought they were absolutely outstanding. They’ve put a right good shift in again and given the fans something to shout about, and it’s been a brilliant 10 weeks.
“It’s been a really good adventure for me and I’ve loved every minute. I’ve loved being involved again and let’s see if we can finish these last three off properly.”
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