GREG Abbott has warned his Carlisle United side will have to hit the ground running as they prepare to get their League One campaign under way at Stevenage this afternoon.
Stevenage earned a play-off place last season, pipping a clutch of clubs – including Carlisle – to finish sixth before losing out to Sheffield United in the semi-finals.
Carlisle manager Abbott says Stevenage’s exploits will lead to Gary Smith’s team being shown greater respect by all their League One rivals this term.
“They’re a club who people will respect more this season,” said Abbott, whose Carlisle side finished four points and two places below Boro. “They finished in the play-offs on merit and they’re coming off the back of the disappointment they had in not getting through.
“It was a fantastic achievement for them to get there in the first place and they’ll want to go one better.
“It couldn’t be a more difficult start to the season for us but we go there to hopefully give a good account of ourselves.
“It’d be great to get the season off to a good start because it lifts everybody.
“We’d like to see Brunton Park filled with six and seven thousand people every week and the way we can help to achieve that is by picking up results consistently, home and away.”
Carlisle beat Accrington Stanley 1-0 at Brunton Park in the Capital One Cup first round last weekend, but Abbott is considering tinkering with his side’s pattern of play to deal with the threat posed by Stevenage at Broadhall Way.
He added: “We’ve had them watched three times already in pre-season and we think we know how they’ll line up.
“You don’t show all your cards in these games but I think we’re ready for what they will do.
“We might play in a slightly different way within our formation to combat that and we think we’ll be a match for them.”
Abbott will have Liam Noble available, despite the ex-Sunderland midfielder suffering facial injuries after falling off a BMX bike.
Abbott said: “Liam looks like he’s been in a fight with Frank Bruno. He assures me he went over the handlebars of his BMX trying to replicate the Olympic winner. He didn’t do it with a helmet on, so he’s got a nasty bump on his head, a black eye and a cut face, but he’s fit.”
New signings Danny Cadamarteri, Mike Edwards and Alessio Bugno are in contention for debuts, but Carlisle will also have several players missing through injury.
Strikers Paddy Madden (ankle) and Rory Loy (broken leg) are out, as are midfielders Jon-Paul McGovern (hernia) and Jack Lynch (foot).
Stevenage are likely to name the same side that beat AFC Wimbledon 3-1 in the Capital One Cup last Saturday, with new signing Lee Hills and fellow defender Jon Ashton not expected to be fit.