Carlisle United v York City: Brunton Park homecoming will put end to Minstermen’s sympathy

York City manager Jackie McNamara takes his side to Carlisle United with the Minstermen at the foot of the League Two table (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
York City manager Jackie McNamara takes his side to Carlisle United with the Minstermen at the foot of the League Two table (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
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When York City step out at Brunton Park today, they will be confronted by both a football team and the hopes of an entire city.

Carlisle United have come to symbolise the positives that can come from disaster.

Forget the all too common narrative of footballers being overpaid and detached from the real world – Keith Curle’s squad were straight on the scene to help when their community suffered the devastation of flooding.

Brunton Park itself was submerged and Carlisle had to travel to find clubs willing to host their home games,

Carlisle return to their home for the first time in eight weeks today and expect a bumper attendance.

York, at a low ebb and right at the bottom of League Two, could have done without it all.

Manager Jackie McNamara is well-aware of what today’s game will mean to Carlisle, but is ultimately focused on the result.

It is no surprise. After all, this is a manager who has struggled to turn around results and whose side faces dropping out of the Football League entirely.

“I think they will be excited to get back into their stadium,” McNamara said.

“A lot happened in their community. It’s dreadful what happened.

“We have tasted a little bit here in York, so we can sympathise a little bit, although our pitch and our stadium have been fine.

“Again it doesn’t matter; we have to go there and win. We have to start getting three points and taking our chances.”

The Minstermen have one of the youngest squads in the Football League, packed with loan players from the Premier League.

McNamara has no fear that his inexperienced team will be overwhelmed by the occasion.

“They have come from big clubs. A large crowd should inspire them,” McNamara said about his squad.

“They should enjoy the occasion, and want to show off their skills and show how good they are. They have played at big clubs.

“They came here as unknowns, but they want to be a part of the big clubs, and not just play but make an impression and hopefully go back to the first-team squads.

“We have had to take a few loans in to improve us and see us through to the end of the season, which we will do.

“Moving on beyond this season, we would like to have our own players throughout the squad.”

York could have been boosted by the length of Carlisle’s game against Yeovil on Tuesday – today’s hosts played 120 minutes before a long journey home.

However, McNamara does not believe it will make a difference: “No, not at all. I think maybe if it had been Wednesday getting into Thursday it gets closer.”

Small plusses like that tend to be held onto by managers in McNamara’s position, with his team 24th in the league table.

It is the big positives that he is more interested in, not least the fact that there is simply so much more football to be played this season.

It is an added convenience that the bottom of the table is so tight, with York only three points away from the safety of 22nd place and seven points from 20th.

When asked about escaping relegation, McNamara said: “There are 63 points to play for. I’m confident of (staying up), but confidence obviously has to spill onto the park at the start of the game.

“We have to start the game in the right manner, and we didn’t on Saturday obviously (against Newport County) and it cost us the game.

“We have shown that we can play. New players have been coming in, obviously it’s been new to them.

“Now we’re a little bit stronger, they have got to know each other better; we have a lot of good players here.”

Part of the problem against Newport was York’s inability to turn opportunities into goals.

McNamara has understandably called upon his side to be more clinical in the final third.

He said: “Defensively we have looked a lot better, and after (Newport) the game we looked and they had only three chances in the match.

“It’s a game we should have won. We didn’t take our chances.

“At the same time I still felt we could have done more in the last third.

“Towards the end of the game we had them camped in and we didn’t get the right pass or do things quickly enough.”