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Opposition Lowdown: Paul Simpson’s Carlisle United

Reading return to the SCL to take on Carlisle United this Tuesday evening, fresh off the back of their first away win in over the year. Join us as we take a closer look at the opposition.

Carlisle United v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Form

Carlisle United won promotion back to League One last season via the League Two playoffs. They finished the season in fifth place in the league but beat Stockport on penalties in the playoff final, following a 1-1 draw at Wembley.

Promotion ended a nine-year stay in the fourth tier where they had sat since relegation from League One in the 2013/14 season. Last season marked their highest league finish in those nine years in League Two.

They have found life in League One tough so far this season, currently sitting in 22nd place, two places and five points ahead of the Royals. Their recent form has been poor, seeing one win in their last six league games. They have picked up five of their 15 points so far this season away from home.

The two sides last faced each other over 40 years ago, when Carlisle beat Reading 2-1 at Brunton Park in the 1981/82 Division 3 season, before playing out a 2-2 draw at Elm Park.

The boss

Paul Simpson: Simpson started his second spell as Carlisle manager in February last year, taking over from Keith Millen, who was sacked with the club sitting 23rd in League Two. Simpson had a 24-year playing career as a winger, representing the likes of Manchester City, Oxford United, Derby County and Blackpool.

He got his first taste of management in 2002 when he became player/manager of Rochdale. Simpson then went on to have his first spell at Carlisle, taking over as player/manager there in 2003. He was a big success in his first stint at the club, guiding them to promotion back to League Two and then up to League One in 2006.

Simpson went on to manage Preston North End, Shrewsbury Town, Stockport County and Northwich Victoria before becoming Steve McLaren’s assistant at Derby. He also had assistant coach roles at Newcastle United and Bristol City before returning to management with Carlisle in 2022.

He originally signed a deal until the end of that season but went on to sign a longer-term contract after guiding the club to safety from relegation, before guiding the club to promotion in his first full season of his second spell at the club.

Squad

A total of 13 players joined Carlisle this summer as they prepared for life back in League One. They completed the free-transfer signings of left-back Jack Robinson, centre-back Ben Barclay, midfielder Dylan McGeouch and forwards Daniel Butterworth and Sean McGuire.

They also signed midfielder Alfie McCalmont (Leeds United) and defender Sam Lavelle (Charlton Athletic) for undisclosed fees, while defender Josh Emmanuel has just joined on a free.

Five players have joined on loan, with goalkeeper Jokull Andresson arriving from Reading, right-back Fin Back signing from Nottingham Forest and forwards Luke Plange, Terry Ablade and Joshua Kayode joining from Crystal Palace, Fulham and Rotherham United respectively.

A total of 12 players left on free transfers, including centre-back Morgan Feeney, midfielder Jamie Devitt and forward Kristian Dennis.

Midfielder Callum Guy will play no part in Tuesday’s game after being ruled out for the season with an ACL injury. Goalkeeper Andresson will also play no part against his parent club.

Expected lineup

Holy, Emmanuel, Lavelle, Whelan, Barclay, Armer, Moxon, McGeouch, Mellish, Plange, Gibson

Key player

Jordan Gibson: Winger Gibson joined Carlisle in August 2021, signing from Irish side Sligo Rovers for an undisclosed fee. He started his youth career at Rangers but signed his first professional contract with Bradford City.

He spent almost three years at the Bantams, making 29 appearances, but went on to join Irish side St Patrick’s Athletic in 2020. Six months later he moved to Sligo Rovers, where he played 25 times, scoring seven goals.

Since his return to English football he has gone on to make 121 appearances for Carlisle, scoring 18 goals. He is United’s top scorer this season with seven goals to his name. Gibson predominantly plays as a winger but he can also play as a centre forward or centre midfielder. He is a strong dribbler who likes to cut inside.

One to watch

Owen Moxon: Midfielder Moxon joined Carlisle in 2022 from Scottish side Annan Athletic. He started his career up in Scotland with Queen of the South but only made 11 appearances for the club. He joined Annan Athletic in 2017 and spent five years with the club making 128 appearances and scoring 14 goals.

Born in Carlisle, Moxon signed for his hometown club in 2022 and had a strong first season with the Cumbrians, playing 54 times and picking up the club’s player of the season award, whilst also being named in the League Two Team of the Season.

A centre midfielder by trade, Moxon is a strong passer of the ball who likes a tackle. He is also a strong creative outlet and set piece taker who has already wracked up 20 assists in Carlisle colours.