It was a little over a
year ago since I made my last visit to an English
ground, so it was with excitement that I boarded the 9:32am train from
Dundee bound for Carlisle. Brunton Park was always a stadium which, for
some reason, I have a strange affection - and it would be the next English
league ground ticked off my list.
The journey was fine, if not spectacular. Due to yet another "technical
problem" (the 4th time I've heard that excuse) with Virgin's reservation
downloading system, I had to stand in a packed carriage for the first half
of my journey. I eventually managed to grab a seat when 75% of the train
emptied at Edinburgh Waverley, and at 12:20 (10 minutes later than
scheduled) the train duly pulled into Carlisle station.
When I stepped off the train, I had a rough idea of where I was going. I
knew the directions to the ground, but I didn't know that it would be so
easy to find - as soon as I found myself on Warwick Road I knew I couldn't
go wrong, and 20 minutes later I got my first look at Brunton Park.
After which, I had a walk around the very nice club shop right next to the
ground, picked myself up a Carlisle United replica shirt (at a cost of £35),
then went back to the ground and collected my match ticket from the ticket
office before heading back out onto Warwick Road for a quick jar in
the John Barras (also known as The Beehive) on the opposite of Warwick Road
from the ground.
Anyone looking for a pre-match drink at Carlisle this season should head for
The Beehive - there is the most wonderful, relaxed atmosphere with both sets
of fans mixing well with each other and more importantly, a decent selection
of beers and also Theakston's Ale readily available on tap.
And after a couple of quick pints it was back over the road, but only
this time I was heading inside the ground. After
a quick check of my backpack by the stewards (and no, I didn't have anything
illegal in my bag!!) I handed over my ticket at the CBS Stand turnstiles and
eventually found myself on the spacious concourse.
Most people would think that a
club like Carlisle would have fairly tight
concourses, but in my view, the CBS Stand concourse is reminiscent of any
Premiership stand - it is very spacious, has betting facilities, a wonderful
smell of hot dogs and sausage rolls - and even bar stools and tables for
fans to enjoy a seat before the game and at half time.
And so to the ground itself... my first impression upon seeing the other 3
ends of the stadium was, "wow, it's a bit old-fashioned", now call me
boring, but I quite like the old-fashioned style of football stadium. In my
view, it creates more atmosphere.
The Warwick Road Terrace -
well, it is just unique. Complete with a crazy
looking roof and complimentary drummer, there's no denying that it's
definitely the place to go for the best atmosphere at Carlisle.
The Ivor Broadis Stand - again, a very strange affair - and when I first
looked at it, it reminded me of the Main Stand (or stands!) at Watford, one
big section in the middle flanked by two smaller sections. A nice mix of
seating and terracing helps create a good atmosphere from this area of the
ground. The Petterill End - The usual away fans
area, but for this game (as seems to happen a lot at Carlisle) the away fans
were given Sections 1&2 of the CBS Stand, therefore, The Petteril End was
completely empty. This is a fairly small terrace,
but the one thing that really stands out about it is the imposing scoreboard
which when it's not advertising is showing goal replays.
The CBS Stand - The only all-seated stand at Brunton Park, and by far
the most modern area of the stadium. It can also
generate an awesome atmosphere when Carlisle are playing well.
To the game then... Carlisle went into the match sitting 8th in League One
with Vale down in 14th, however, both sides were within touching distance of
the playoff positions, and on a freezing cold day, you just knew that it
would be an entertaining game - and the 7543 punters who turned up,
the majority of them in blue and white (myself included), were not
disappointed. Port Vale chose to play with the
vicious wind behind them in the first half, and it was a decision which
would soon reward them in a big way. Even before
Vale hit the front, Carlisle had a number of chances to score, and had it
not been for a few unbelievable saves from the aptly named Mark Goodlad,
Carlisle would have scored.
So inevitably, it was wildly against the run of play when Port Vale hit the
front with their first serious shot on Kieron Westwood's goal. A simple
Jeff Smith throw in on 26 minutes led to Paul Harsley curling a magnificent
20-yard effort beyond the outstretched Westwood. The small band of Vale
fans who had made the long journey north were delirious.
The goal seemed to knock Carlisle flat, because it was Vale who had the
better of the chances before scoring a freakish second goal five minutes
before the break. Jeff Smith, who of course had a hand in the first goal,
fired in an innocuous looking 40-yard curling free kick which, with a little
bit of help from the strong wind, beat everyone, including Westwood (who
admittedly, could have done a little better to keep it out) and Vale went in
at the break leading 2-0.
On the balance of play, Martin Foyle's men probably deserved their lead, but
it was looking like being one of those days where Carlisle fans were asking
themselves, "What do we have to do to score?" The answer was to bring on
I grabbed a nice enough pint of Fosters at half-time, and although I missed
the first 8 minutes of the second half due to being stuck in the concourse
finishing my pint, I don't think I missed much action.
The whole point of my trip to Carlisle was to see how the two ex-Raith
Rovers players now playing for Carlisle, Derek Holmes and Karl Hawley
progressed since their spells at Stark's Park, so it was with obvious
personal delight that I was able to celebrate a goal from Holmes, who came
off the bench. On 66 minutes, a beautiful pass from Peter Murphy left the
finish on a plate for Holmes, and he duly slotted the ball past
Goodlad to bring the score to 2-1. Carlisle were back in the game.
As with Vale's first goal, when Carlisle scored their first goal you could
just sense that the game was turning. It was even colder and windier, and
now Vale were playing against the wind.
At 2-1, Leon Constantine had a guilt-edged chance to finish the game off
when he was through on goal with only Westwood to beat, but he tried to lift
the ball over the 'keeper, succeeding only in putting the ball straight into
the arms of the Blues goalkeeper. It was at that point that the Carlisle
fans sensed an amazing comeback. With 13
minutes left, Carlisle struck the equaliser - and almost inevitably,
it was the other ex-Raith player, Karl Hawley, who scored. Brunton
Park erupted, whatever Neil McDonald had
said to his players at the break had worked,
but that was only the beginning of the drama.
Peter Murphy, who set up Carlisle's first goal became the hero again - this
time by scoring the winner to complete a sensational second half
turnaround. On 81 minutes, Murphy netted a
thunderous header via the crossbar to send the
Blues fans into total chaos. One of this season's most incredible
comebacks was complete. Carlisle United had come back from the dead
and the final whistle saw the loudest cheer of the day from the Blues fans.
I was privileged to be part of such an amazing game, and having paid £17 for
my ticket, I certainly wasn't complaining having just watched a five-goal
After the match, I had a little time to spare, so I headed back to The
Beehive for a pint and then on to Bar Suede (at the top of Warwick Road,
just after crossing Botchergate) for another quick pint then back to the
train station to start the long journey home.
Relentless delays, and a change over at Edinburgh (followed by a further 10
minute delay) all meant that I didn't get back to Dundee station until
12:20am Sunday morning, and shattered as I was, I had a million and one
memories to take with me from an unforgettable day at Brunton Park.