Match Preview: Carlisle United

Notts County boss Gudjon Thordarson will prepare his team for the visit of Carlisle Utd on the back of another bad week.

As BBC Radio Nottingham correspondant Colin Slater correctly observed after Notts' 3-0 drubbing at Rochdale last weekend, if Thordarson has already called players in on their day off to run laps around the pitch (75 was the rumoured amount), then where do we go from here?

The Notts manager dealt the above punishment after the Magpies' last home game - a 2-1 loss at the hands of Boston United. Since then, they have crumbled at Spotland last Saturday and showed signs of improvement, before eventually losing 5-2 at Northampton in the LDV Vans Trophy in the week.

C'mon Thor!
It's those signs of improvement on Tuesday night that may provide a shred of hope to long-suffering County supporters, who have not seen their team win since the end of August. However, a delve into the reasoning behind that improvement could leave even the most devout Magpie feeling a little disappointed.

In the last home defeat at home to Boston, Thordarson started with two defenders - Mike Edwards and Brian O'Callaghan - at the heart of his midfield. It was a strange selection and one which drew criticism from supporters desperate for a more positive approach - particularly at home.

On Tuesday night, Edwards (below right) remained in the heart of the midfield, but at the base of a diamond, with forward-thinking trio Stacy Long, Lewis McMahon and Matty Williams providing the other elements of the diamond to compliment Edwards' defensive resolve.

Put simply, this quartet will not be persevered with tomorrow.

Williams has again found himself left-out of the 18-man squad named for the match against Carlisle, despite a promising showing in mid-week.

His place may go to another holding midfield player, Matthew Gill, or could be handed to winger Jake Sheriden or Tyrone Berry, who started up-front on Tuesday.

Either way, it could well signal a switch back to a flat midfield for the visit of the Cumbrians.

Tomorrow's opponents are not exactly the type of team Notts would have wanted to have faced in their current form, either.

Paul Simpson's Carlisle side currently stand 9th in the League Two table, after adapting to life quickly following promotion from the Conference at the first attempt.

The Cumbrians weren't tipped by many for success this year, but their fans - one of the best sets in this League - believe that their side can acheive successive promotions.

Backed by the youthful Simpson, they have hit the ground running and ended their worst run of the season - four successive league defeats - last Saturday with a 1-0 win over Mansfield Town.

That win has seen Simpson and his men regain a lot of the confidence and belief they had gained by an outstanding start to League Two life that saw them sit alongside Notts as early pace-setters.

The days of perennial struggle appear to be coming to an end for the team from the North Easy.

The Cumbrians also have a couple of ex Magpies in their ranks as they make the trip to the 'Lane tomorrow. Centre back Danny Livesey spent four months on-loan with the Magpies' back in the latter days of Billy Dearden's reign, whilst another short-term Dearden buy, Adam Murray, is also now with United.

Remember him?
Murray (left) only featured in three games for Notts, but left a lasting impression on the Meadow Lane faithful, who were livid that their club didn't make more of an attempt to keep the talented midfielder. He signed for Carlisle in a cut-price deal from local rivals Mansfield Town late last season.

Danger-men to watch out for are midfield duo Chris Lumsden and Alan O'Brien. O'Brien is on-loan from Newcastle Utd and has already impressed Carlisle supporters with his trickery and lighting pace.

The man who's almost certain to be marking O'Brien is the afore-mentioned O'Callaghan. Despite an excellent mid-week display in the position from Chibuzor Chilaka, the youngster has not made the 18-man squad and, with David Pipe missing with a groin problem, it will be O'Callaghan's job to stop a winger who, on paper, sounds like his worst nightmate.

It could be brutal.

As well as Williams and Chilaka, Gavin Gordon has also missed out on the squad for tomorrow's game, whilst loanees David McGoldrick and Tyrone Berry will play the last game of their respective deals.

The pair will compete with Glynn Hurst, Andy White and Steve Scoffham for places in the Notts attack. Dan Martin (rib) is an enforced absentee.

Notts (possible): Pilkington; O'Callaghan, Baudet, Wilson, Ullathorne; Long, McMahon, Edwards, Berry; Hurst, McGoldrick.

Subs (from): Marshall, Friars, Gill, Sheriden, Palmer, Scoffham, White.

For Match Report and reaction on the game, check back to NCM straight after the final whistle.