Carlisle United vs. Tranmere Rovers match preview

This Saturday sees Tranmere involved in yet another tough away game, as they travel to Carlisle for the first time in the league since the 1988/89 season, although the two teams have met a total of five times in the cup since.

The game will be hotly contested, as both teams have made good starts to the 2006/07 season and will continue to be in and around the promotion places for the rest of the season.

Tranmere are expecting a big away following with two coaches already booked up and the possibility of a third travelling up to
Brunton Park, which would be a first for this season. It is expected that around 800 fans will travel up north from Merseyside for the game.

Carlisle United team profile:

Formed: 1904

Ground: Brunton Park

Manager: Neil McDonald

Nickname: The Blues

Season Finish 2005/06: 1st (Coca-Cola League Two)

Previous Meetings:

The last time Tranmere and
Carlisle met was in the LDV Vans Trophy 3rd round last season, when both sides were managed by different managers to the current backroom staff. Paul Simpson, now of Preston North End, was in charge at Carlisle and Brian Little was in charge of Tranmere.

The two sides played out a dull 0-0 draw after firstly 90 minutes, and then 120 minutes (just how Brian Little likes it), as the two sides went to a penalty shoot-out, which was anything but dull.

Carlisle eventually won a shoot out, in which all 22 players took a penalty. 20 spot-kick's were scored in a row before goalkeeper Steve Wilson missed his kick for Rovers, and the Carlisle keeper netted the winner. Carlisle eventually went on to lose in the final to Swansea City at the Millennium Stadium.

Vital Stats:

Tranmere have only won seven of their 31 trips to Carlisle

In 31 out of 66 meetings, at least one of the two sides has scored three goals

Tranmere haven't won at Carlisle in the league since October 10th 1961

Tranmere are unbeaten in four on October 21st

In four out of six meetings in October, the winning side has kept a clean sheet

The Form Book:

Carlisle Last 6 Home Games (including cup): LWWDWW
Tranmere Last 6 Away Games (including cup): WDLWLW

Despite having not won an away game since promotion to League One, Carlisle have made a fine start this season, thanks to some very strong home form.

So far, from seven home league games, The Blues have picked up 16 points at home (21 available), with just one defeat at the hands of Millwall (2-1) in their most recent home fixture.

Prior to that, Neil McDonald's side were unbeaten at home after their return to League One.
Blackpool (2-0) and Brighton (3-1) had recently been dispatched after a credible 1-1 with Northampton who are yet to lose away from Sixfields this season.

At the start of the season, before the Northampton match, Carlisle won three straight home games, as firstly Doncaster Rovers were beaten 1-0 on the opening day before Leyton Orient made the long trip from London and lost 3-1 then Cheltenham Town were defeated 2-0 thanks to strikes from Gall and the now injured Hawley.

Bradford City were also defeated at Brunton Park, this in the Carling Cup. The game finished 1-1 after 90 minutes and extra-time, but Carlisle went on to win the game 4-3 on Penalties.

Away from home, Carlisle are yet to get going, picking up just four points from an available 21, with four draws and three defeats, plus two defeats on the road in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and the Carling Cup.

Most recently on the road,
Huddersfield have beaten Carlisle 2-1 and at Gresty Road on September 30th, Carlisle were hammered 5-1 by Crewe Alexandra.

However, prior to that,
Carlisle's away form appeared to be kick starting, with three very credible consecutive draws. The Blues drew 0-0 with Oldham, 1-1 with Bradford and 0-0 again with Nottingham Forest, three places were few teams will pick up points this season.

However, from their opening two away games,
Carlisle picked up just one point, drawing with Chesterfield (0-0) and losing at Huish Park against Yeovil Town (2-1).

Both of
Carlisle's cup defeats this season have come on the road, as they lost 1-0 at The Valley against Charlton in the Second Round of the Carling Cup, whilst Accrington Stanley came from behind to beat The Blue's 3-1 on penalties after the game had finished 1-1 in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

This season, Tranmere's away form has been very topsy turvy. They are yet to win two consecutive away games, yet at the same time, they are yet to lose two consecutive away games.

So far, all of Tranmere's away games have come in set's of two, and Tranmere interestingly enough, up until their win over Bury in midweek, were yet to win the first of the two games, but still haven't lost the second of the two games - a record which they will be looking to keep up this weekend in the North West against Carlisle.

In their opening away game, Rovers lost 1-0 to
Cheltenham Town, but then drew 0-0 with Doncaster Rovers in their final visit to Belle Vue.

Their next away game was in the Carling Cup, a game which they lost, 2-1 after extra time at the KC Stadium against
Hull City, despite leading the game 1-0 at half-time. However, four days later, Rovers defeated Chesterfield 2-0 in the league, thanks to an own goal and Gareth Taylor's first for the club.

Rovers then lost 2-1 on a cold Tuesday night in
Rotherham, before defeating Northampton 3-1, with goals for Calvin Zola, Gareth Taylor and a John Mullin penalty.

Rovers then lost 2-0 at
Bradford in their next away game, a defeat which Ronnie Moore described as "unacceptable", before Rovers drew 0-0 at The Liberty Stadium with Swansea and then this Tuesday, beat Bury 2-0 at Gigg Lane in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, with goals for Chris Shuker and Steve Jennings.

At home, Tranmere have been largely good, until their last three home games, in which they have picked up one point.

Oldham were defeated 1-0 on the opening day, before Yeovil Town (2-1), Leyton Orient (3-0) and Bristol City (1-0) were all sent packing.

However, since then, Rovers are without a home win, after draws with
Nottm Forest (0-0) and Huddersfield (2-2), a game which Ronnie Moore's side lead 2-0, then a 2-1 defeat against Port Vale on Friday.

Rovers are five league games without a win, thanks to a combination of defeats and draws against
Nottingham Forest, Huddersfield, Bradford, Swansea and Port Vale.

Double Hit:

Carlisle currently have two players on their books who have both played for Tranmere Rovers as well, in captain Kevin Gray and David Raven.

Tranmere Rovers fan David Raven was at Rovers last season, on-loan from
Liverpool, before moving on to Carlisle after being released by the F.A. Cup holders.

He made 11 appearances for Tranmere last season under Brian Little, but after being left out of the first 11 against Doncaster Rovers on the last day of the season by Jason McAteer, it was clear to all that the boy who had made his dream by playing for Rovers wasn't going to stay at the club.

Since being released by
Liverpool, Raven signed straight up for Carlisle and has made a solid start to his career up north, making 10 starts, picking up three yellow cards on the way from his right-back position.

Kevin Gray had a less than successful time at
Prenton Park under Dave Watson, but since moving up to Carlisle, the central-defender has become somewhat of a Cult Hero.

After signing for Tranmere from
Huddersfield Town, Gray managed just 18 appearances for The Super White Army (of which three were substitute appearances), scoring two goals.

However, the defenders time at
Prenton Park was hampered by injury, and after 15 months, he was transferred to Carlisle, where he has remained for nearly three years.

Since joining
Carlisle, Gray has probably enjoyed the best form of his career. Gray has made 124 starts, missing only a very small amount of games, and has scored 10 goals for The Blues, as well as earning himself the Captains Armband.

This season, Gray has played 12 times, scoring once already from centre-back, something Tranmere's defenders have yet to do this season.

Team News:

For Rovers, it is likely that Calvin Zola will once again miss out with a foot injury, but other than that, Ronnie Moore's side could be back to full fitness, with rumours circulating that striker Gareth Taylor will once again be fit after a jaw injury.

Carlisle, the influential Karl Hawley is injured, which is a big blow, as the striker ended up as the leading scorer in League Two last season for The Blues. However Carlisle should once again call upon on-loan striker Jermaine Beckford from Leeds, who Tranmere were also after.

Jones' Prediction: Carlisle 1-1 Tranmere Rovers