Through The Turnstiles #2

I remember my birthday coming around and I got a really nice hoodie. It was big and warm and was gonna be perfect for the match my dad was taking me to that day.

Peterborough had a good side. I remember thinking we should be fearful of their attack force that included Craig Mackail-Smith, Aaron McLean, and George Boyd. But hopes were high at Carlisle, and from what I could tell, it’s because we’d signed a new goalie on loan, from Tottenham Hotspur.
This gave me so much hope. I just thought that if a Spurs goalkeeper was coming to Carlisle, we must be doing something right. Plus, Graham Kavanagh had also joined us on loan from Sunderland, the team I’d seen him playing against in my first-ever live match.

Well, we stormed ahead. Alnwick looked eager, Kavanagh scored, and Graham had bagged a brace, with only Charlie Lee striking back in response. For a team on a losing streak, we were gonna take it.
But a put-away Peterborough penalty on the hour mark made the last half-hour tense, and we couldna handle it. To go with his penalty, Mackail-Smith struck home an equaliser in added time, and even though we’d played well against a good side, the draw felt like a defeat.
Still a good birthday prezzie though. It might have been a bad feeling, but it’s a great memory. The hoodie made me feel older, more mature somehow. I felt like I was more appreciative…

That point against Posh would be the only point we’d pick up in the ten-game winless run that led to Ward’s departure.

Enter Greg Abbott.

Things seemed to change under his leadership. Not immediately, but at a time when little me was probably expecting some big, flash managerial appointment to walk through the door, Greg Abbott made me realise that you don’t have to go far to find quality.

His first game (in caretaker charge) was an F.A. Cup tie against Grays Athletic. I thought it would be an easy first game and a bit of a fun battering, so I went by. We played well, but it didn’t stop us going 0–1 down. I remember they had Fabian Wilnis playing well, and a young David Button (on loan from Spurs) sparkling between the sticks — I knew then he was gonna be good.
We nabbed a late equaliser, but the problems were prevalent, and my faith was being tested.

A week later, we played Brighton.

The draw with Grays had probably dampened the mood a bit, but the lads got the party started all over again. A brace from Marc Bridge-Wilkinson sandwiching a Cleveland Taylor goal gave us a 3–1 win and everything felt right again.
I’ll never forget the smile on Cleveland Taylor’s face when he ran up to the corner flag to celebrate. I was stood in line with him and I can see it very clearly now. The atmosphere was still bouncing from when we took the lead on the half hour, and on the stroke of half-time, when Taylor bagged, the place went off — feckin’ ecstasy.

I’d go see Brighton a few more times.

The next week (that’s right, three home games in three weekends) was Cheltenham Town. There were nerves around this one because Ben Alnwick had been recalled by Spurs and we’d had to get a gangly lad in from Newcastle to cover. His name was Tim Krul. And he was good.

If the game against Brighton was a rip-roaring celebration, this was a professional securing and seeing-out. We never looked in danger, and with Graham Kavanagh using all his experience to run the game and then nudge us ahead around the hour mark, it seemed like the plan had come together.
We stayed calm right into injury time, and new ‘keeper Krul immediately endeared himself to Brunton Park with his minor time-wasting antics as it ended 1–0 and it seemed there were only sunny skies ahead.

But there was a Fox* in the hen house…

That’s right, another giant had found their way down to League One, and with some newfound inspiration, I was confident we could humble them as they looked for an immediate return.

Early signs were good. A Danny Graham goal put us ahead going into the break and we looked in control — but we were often better when against the ropes. Perhaps we relaxed too much and played right into Leicester’s hands as Andy King would equalise on the hour mark, and then loanee Mark Davies would strike his only goal for the club to win it ten minutes later.
There were some late shenanigans with their ‘keeper David Martin that got us all riled at him, and when we got a late free kick, I was screaming at Tim Krul to get forward for it as he looked over to Abbott for permission.
It wasn’t forthcoming and I was convinced that was what lost us the game. Such were the depths of my tactics at the age of fourteen.

*Carlisle’s mascot is also a fox. It’s name is Olga.

To be continued.

C.L.R.

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