Danny Grainger’s first team squad will be without a league match for back-to-back Saturdays but there will be no let-up in the training schedule. Indeed, the group can expect some tough sessions over the next fortnight as they attempt to regain their focus on a season that has offered a bit of everything including, most worryingly, a dip in form.
From that opening day 5-0 triumph over Ashton United to last Tuesday’s disappointing defeat at Marske, Reds have played fourteen league matches and have amassed 19 points. Not a bad return, overall, but one which we all feel could have been slightly better.
That’s a third of our league programme completed with the team occupying a mid-table berth. If we can replicate a similar-points return over the middle and final thirds of the campaign, I’m sure we will be well satisfied with our return to Step 3 football.
The manager’s view on the season so far, just like the rest of us, has been tinged with disappointment but he always delivers an honest assessment of the situation. He is happy to take criticism if it is justified or constructive but has no time for those ill-advised comments directed towards the players or his staff.
“No doubting we have had an inconsistent start to the season but matters haven’t been helped by the injuries we have had to deal with,” he said.
“We have to take the positives from the opening months, and there have been plenty of those, but we also have to learn from the mistakes we have made too.
“I think we have overcome the various obstacles in our way since August and, generally, are in a positive place and need to look forward to every challenge ahead,” he concluded.
Grainger went on record earlier in the season saying that his three senior players – Conor Tinnion, Scott Allison and Dan Wordsworth – would have to ‘nursed’ through a demanding campaign but, sadly, that experienced trio has now become a duo following Dan’s surprise retirement announcement recently.
In fact, the three seniors had made more appearances in the league than the other two seasoned campaigners, Dav Symington and Sam Smith as well as some of the talented newcomers in the squad. Probably not the situation the manager wanted but, once again, it underlines their value to the team.
The injuries have been well documented and the majority of the squad have suffered from minor knocks and bruises. However, it is the long-term setbacks that have kept Aidy Roxburgh, Bobby Carroll, Lewis Reilly and Sam Smith sidelined and all four are key to how the manager intends to reshape the side.
We all accept that injuries are part and parcel of football but some clubs can cope better than others when key players are absent over a lengthy period.
The manager has tapped into the loan market to boost numbers and Kofi Moore and Kitt Nelson have certainly impressed as they get to grips with senior football. Luck wasn’t with Taylor Bowen, though, when he became another injury victim in only his third outing.
Others have been reliable throughout with Jim Atkinson yet to miss a league game (touch wood), and the likes of Greg McCaragher, Kofi Moore and Brad Hubbold named on the team sheet for every match, albeit several times as a substitute.
Overall, twenty-eight players have been involved in our fourteen matches to date.
The number of goals we have conceded is one problem that needs eradicated, especially when compared to recent seasons: 19-20 (25 goals in 31 matches), 21-22 (27 goals in 38 matches), 22-23 (39 goals in 38 matches) and, this term, (32 goals in 14 matches).
Ten players have contributed to the 24 goals we have scored with Dav Symington (6), Scott Allison (4), Kofi Moore (3) and Steven Rigg (3) our leading scorers so far.
It is interesting to compare our goal ratio now to this time last year and, whilst we have scored four more this season, we have conceded 17 more than twelve months ago!
In our first seven home games, the supporters have certainly got their money’s worth with 32 (19 for, 13 against) goals netted at Borough Park. Over the same period last year, a total of 13 (7 for, 6 against) were scored.
Cup football ended early but we did experience an enjoyable trip to Darlington before making our exit from the competition.
The Trophy campaign was over before it got started and the Cumberland Cup has paired us with County League opposition in the opening two rounds which has provided an opportunity for a number of our Development Squad players.
The latter also had two games in this season’s FA Youth Cup with two away matches at Morpeth and York City adding to their football education.
- Sad news reached us this week following the passing of Pat Hopper (Tony Hopper’s mum). We send our condolences to husband John and the rest of the Hopper family in Carlisle and beyond.