The Opposition View: Carlisle United

How disappointed are you with Carlisle's season so far and what are the expectations of your club now?

I think we're over the disappointment now, we're used to scratching around the bottom of whatever division we're in; and even though our promotion chances were talked up a lot over the summer, most Carlisle fans aren't overly surprised that we ended up struggling as usual.

There wasn't much faith in Kavanagh amongst the support and I think we were probably kidding ourselves that we were going to challenge in the top half but after many years in League One it still hurts to remember that we're back in the basement division.

Now, though, we've steadied the ship and I think most fans have strong expectations that come the later stages we won't be concerned by relegation. I would say we expect to finish around 15th.

Did Graham Kavanagh deserve to be sacked and what did fans think of Keith Curle's appointment?

There was really no other option available, I think under him we were heading straight into the Conference. I'll be forgiving on him for last season as he was working with his hands tied behind his back, but he had a chance to rebuild in the summer with almost the whole squad out of contract, and once the season began he showed himself to be totally out of his depth.

He seemed to be frantically trying formation after formation, hoping to stumble on some secret super-formation that would save us, and his man-management was woeful, I think the players despised him. Keith Curle's appointment raised a few eyebrows, we know him mainly for a difficult period he spent in charge of Notts County, and the fans had all expected West Ham assistant and former Carlisle manager, Neil McDonald to be appointed.

Since taking over though, Mr Curle has set about fixing everything that was wrong with the club, getting players to live in the city and building up team morale, getting the coaching department into something more organised and even trying to mold our MD into something more competent and businesslike so he has the fans behind him now. The atmosphere at the ground is a million times better and that's mostly down to fans believing in Curle's project. 

Who have been Carlisle's best performers so far this season?

The best performers have all been the young-uns. We have a set of players who have come through our academy over the last two or three seasons, and they're the ones leading the way for the senior players to follow. Keep an eye out for the midfielders Kyle Dempsey and Brad Potts, who are in their first and second years of professional football respectively. They are currently our joint top scorers and most likely among the squad to do something dangerous.

Striker Mark Beck is in his third year, and after a spell on loan last season has now got into more of a scoring habit and could have his breakout season, while another young(ish) striker, Steven Rigg didn't come through our academy, but was signed from Penrith in the summer after scoring over thirty goals in a season at their level.

Kav didn't seem to rate him, but when Curle started him, he started scoring immediately. We'll do well to keep hold of them all over January though, with rumours of interested clubs from higher divisions circulating. 

What are your team's biggest weaknesses that Pompey could exploit on Saturday?

We have something of a makeshift defence, and currently the leakiest defence in the division. We have two good centre-backs in Courtney Meppen-Walter and Troy Archibald-Henville, but have been unable to field them in the same side, while our more experienced defenders are so far having disappointing seasons. Meppen-Walter should start on Saturday, but Archibald-Henville is injured.

We've gone into the loan market and brought a loanee in from Burnley who will likely make his debut at the weekend, so they may hit it off and perform well; but they'll be playing together for the first time. I'd expect Portsmouth to try and exploit our centre-backs. 

Are there any players in the Portsmouth squad that give you cause for concern?

I don't know much about most of Pompey's squad. It seems that you've changed almost the entire personnel since you were in League One a couple of seasons back. There are some recognisable names in there, but it seems that Jed Wallace has been the one catching people's eyes this season.

Personally I'd be concerned about Westcarr, he's a name I recognise and has been about a lot, and that kind of experienced striker always seems to cause us trouble. I think most strikers in the Football League over the age of 28 have at some point had a field day against us. 

What type of football do Carlisle play?

Since taking over, Curle has got us playing a very straightforward 4-4-2. I don't think we've settled down into a consistent style of play though. We try and play quite fast and frantic football and most of our chances come down the wings. It's a very young team we have, I think the average age of our starting elevens this season is around 22, so we're putting in youthful performances, with energy but also some naivety.

Curle says his philosophy is to stop the opposition playing their game before we start to play ours, so from kick-off we'll usually go straight on the attack, and I think he would like us to get a few big tackles in too. We've been more of a second-half team this season though, and have arguably been the better team in the second half of our last three defeats, as well as all our wins, and we've scored a lot of goals in the last ten minutes. 

Given Pompey's poor recent form how confident are you of getting a result at Fratton Park?

I'm not especially confident of anything. We've not been good away from home and it's a long trip. Also Portsmouth form doesn't look all that bad from where we are. I think we'd be pulling off a shock to get a win. 

Predict the outcome of the game.

3-2 to Portsmouth, with us being the better team in the second half and rallying from 3-0 down.