Carlisle United v Saints preview
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Thursday, 26th July 2012
Saints head into foreign territory tomorrow night when they travel south to face Carlisle United in their penultimate pre-season friendly.
It's a few years since we have ventured into England in the summer. The start of Gus MacPherson's final season saw us play at Wigan, while I also remember a few games at Darlington and Blackpool the year before. However, it's our first trip "abroad" since we went to Ireland before Danny Lennon's first season in charge back in 2010 and there looks like being a fair number of Buddies heading down for this game and Sunday's match with Accrington Stanley. As I live in Dumfries I'll be joining those going to Brunton Park tomorrow night.
It should be a decent test for both sides and is our hardest proper pre-season friendly (I'm not counting the bounce game with Barnsley in Spain). League One is a pretty good standard and a number of Carlisle's players could probably do a decent job in the SPL. One already has, although I'll come onto him later. Likewise we will be stern opposition for Carlisle as they get ready for their own big kick-off so we should be set for a decent game.
For one Saints player this is as close to a home game as he's going to get. Summer signing Lewis Guy was born in Penrith, which is just down the road, so perhaps he'll be showing his new team-mates the sights of Carlisle after the game. Tommy Craig will also be in familiar surroundings as he played for Carlisle 30 years ago, although there's a fair chance a few things will have changed since then. As for the match you can expect a strong Saints side with only one more friendly to come before the season gets under way next week. It's unlikely that tomorrow's team will be the one that starts against Inverness Caley Thistle as a number of key players - including Steven Thompson and Jim Goodwin - are suspended. There's also still a few injury problems, not least with Kenny McLean.
When I was growing up I was impressed as the season drew to a close and Carlisle found weirder and wackier ways to avoid relegation from the Football League. I even took charge of them in Championship Manager (as it was then called) in a bid to bring about a change in fortunes, although at no point did my keeper score a crucial last minute winner so I have serious doubts over its realism. Fortunately for Carlisle fans those days are now long gone - their eventual relegation in 2004 seeming to spark the club onto bigger and better things. They're now an established League One side and came close to making the play-offs last season
One of the reasons for that was the man I talked about earlier - former Aberdeen, Dundee United and Hearts striker Lee Miller. He was in fantastic form last season and after undergoing surgery over the summer is now ready for another prolific campaign. He has scored goals for most of his former clubs (aside from Middlesbrough) and managed it against Saints years ago when he was just starting out with Falkirk. Another player with SPL experience - just - is Rory Loy. If the name rings a bell but you can't quite place it that's because he “played” for Saints a couple of years ago during a loan spell from Rangers. However, he didn't start a single game and if he starts tomorrow chances are it'll be the longest Saints fans have seen him in action.
Carlisle have a whole host of trialists at the moment and one in particular will be familiar. Mark Kerr is trying to win a contract, although it's debatable whether Miller's former team-mate is good enough for the Championship, while one time Saints signing target Ryan Donaldson is also on trial after leaving Newcastle.
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