WITH his club's biggest game of the season hours away, Greg Abbott will make a late decision today on the make-up of his Carlisle United side – but the Cumbrians' manager is in no doubt about the tactics they will need.
Carlisle entertain Leeds United this evening defending a 2-1 first-leg lead with a place at Wembley at stake.
If that sounds familiar, it is because they were in the same position for the second leg of the 2008 League One play-off semi-finals.
Two Jonny Howson goals – one early, one very late – cost Carlisle a fifth Wembley appearance in 13 years.
Abbott has not felt the need to dish out any history lessons this week, but can not see his players falling into the “do we, don’t we” trap some felt cost them last time around.
He said: “It is a 0-0 game, we just have to win the game. We have to forget about the one-goal lead. We can not just sit back and defend.
“We know Leeds are a very good team and we are under no illusions. They will be trying like mad to claw back the lead and we will be trying to keep our noses in front.”
As for the 2008 meeting, Abbott dismissed its relevance to tonight’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern Area final.
He added: “It is a while ago. It is two different managers and two different teams.” Skipper Danny Livesey, Peter Murphy, Evan Horwood, Scott Dobie and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson all played two years ago, with Paul Thirlwell and Gary Madine unused substitutes.
Not all will start tonight, but how many do remains to be seen with doubts over top-scorer Ian Harte and centre-forward Joe Anyinsah, both of whom trained yesterday.
Abbott added: “We are not sure if Joe is going to be available.
“He had an injection in his groin so he could train and we will only know when we see how he reacts.”
They are more hopeful on former Leeds defender Harte, who came off at half-time on Saturday after a twinge in his groin. Carlisle have historically fared well in the competition, winning it in 1997 and 2006 after being runners-up in 1995 and 2003. Another final would lift a city which has suffered badly from flooding in recent years.
“On a personal level it’s good for me,” admitted Abbott, whose success at Carlisle is bound to see him linked with the vacant manager’s job at former club Bradford City.
“However, it is more about the whole city and the whole club.
“It will be nice for the club to have a day out at Wembley.
“This club has treated this competition with respect in the past and we have had our rewards.”
Abbott may choose to recall first-choice goalkeeper Adam Collin, having used Lenny Pidgeley at Elland Road. Recent signings Daryl Duffy and Ben Marshall are ineligible, as are Leeds’ additions Max Gradel, Gary McSheffrey and Shane Lowry.
Jermaine Beckford is a Leeds doubt after coming off at half-time in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Hartlepool complaining of a tight hamstring, while Patrick Kisnorbo and Neil Kilkenny face fitness tests.
Carlisle could use veteran Graham Kavanagh in midfield, attack or in between but wherever he plays, he will have an impact.
Away goals do not count double tonight. If Leeds are a goal up after 90 minutes, the tie will go straight to a penalty shoot-out to decide who plays Southampton or Milton Keynes Dons in the March 28 final.