Town’s longest, most fruitless trips – Carl Marston’s Travels with Town
PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 April 2020
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Football writer Carl Marston has visited 122 Football League grounds, many of them reporting on Ipswich Town. Here he recalls long trips to Carlisle’s Brunton Park
If ever there was the potential for a long, fruitless journey, then Carlisle United would win hands down, every time.
I have had my fair share of pointless trips into Cumbria, to visit Brunton Park, even more than Ipswich Town, who unfortunately are lumbered with a 100% record in terms of failure rate.
There is no longer journey for Town (at least in mileage), in the Football League, than an excursion north-westwards to Carlisle
It is precisely 310 miles from Portman Road to Brunton Park, and so a round trip of 620 miles.
That makes this the No. 1 longest journey, behind Plymouth Argyle (304 miles), Newcastle United (284), Swansea City (278) and Sunderland (277).
But that wouldn’t matter, if Town used to have some joy out of these very occasional sorties into Cumbria.
Alas, though, their record is a dismal one, with five defeats from five visits.
And that’s against a club who have spent most of their years in the bottom two tiers of the Football League, since their election in 1928, with a rogue one season back in non-league circles in the Conference (2004-05).
Town’s last visit, for a Capital One Cup second round tie in August of 2012, promised a great chance to end the hoodoo, especially when Massimo Luongo, on loan from Tottenham, fired Paul Jewell’s men into a 1-0 lead with his first professional goal.
They held that lead until the 90th minute, when the promise of a happy journey back down the M6 and A1 were dashed by late, late goals from Mark Beck and David Symington in a 2-1 defeat.
On a personal note, I have had the odd success story on a trek up to Carlisle, although sadly not with Town.
The nearest I got was when watching from the tiny Brunton Park press box as former Ipswich defender, Tom Eastman, scored a precious goal for Colchester United on the final day of the 2012-13 season.
Eastman’s goal, which wrapped up a 2-0 win for the U’s, ensured that the Essex club would not be relegated from League One, in the end finishing one place outside the bottom four.
Eastman never really got a chance to shine at Ipswich. He made 10 appearances under Roy Keane, most of them as a right-back rather than his more favoured centre-half position, before his move to Colchester in the summer of 2011. He has not really looked back since.
As an aside, I saw all of Eastman’s games at Town, including his debut when the 18-year-old Academy product had the misfortune to be sent off for two bookable offences during a 3-0 home defeat to Sheffield United at the end of the 2009-10 campaign.
As another aside, with regards that visit to Brunton Park with the U’s in 2013, current Ipswich Town front-runner Freddie Sears was unleashed as a substitute that day, while David Wright (128 games for Town between 2007 and ‘10) operated as a right-back just a few days before his 33rd birthday.
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Looking further back, Carlisle did enjoy one season in the top flight, in 1974-75, an achievement which legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankley went on to describe as “the greatest feat in the history of the game.”
The Cumbrians finished rock bottom in their one and only season in the top division, but they had some fun along the way. They doubled Everton, recorded home wins over the north London duo of Arsenal and Tottenham, and naturally beat Sir Bobby Robson’s Ipswich (2-1).
In conclusion, it’s best to avoid visiting Brunton Park, if you can.
- Club: Carlisle United
- Founded: 1904 (116 years ago)
- Ground: Brunton Park (since 1904), previously at Milholme Bank and Devonshire Park
- Town’s first visit: 3-1 away defeat on April 2, 1966
- Town’s last visit: 2-1 away defeat on August 28, 2012
- Town’s overall record at Brunton Park: P5 W0 D0 L5
Carlisle actually topped the whole of the Football League for a brief spell, after winning their first three games of their only season in the First Division, in 1974, after beating Chelsea, Middlesbrough (both away) and Tottenham.
Town’s last visit – August, 2012
Then-Town boss, Paul Jewell, was understandably unhappy with the manner of his side’s 2-1 defeat in the Capital One Cup.
“We didn’t pass the ball well enough, and this result shows our frailties. We need more power and bite in the team,” rued Jewell.