@barryshoz82 and @jkeybrfc preview Rovers' final pre-season game against the Cumbrian outfit.
Rovers head to Brunton Park on Friday for what should be their toughest outing of pre-season as they take on Carlisle United in their final warm-up game before the season begins for real next Saturday on the Essex coast.
Keith Curle's Carlisle started last season like a stream train, losing only once in the opening 23 games, including a 15 game unbeaten run from the first game of the season. However only 4 points from a possible 27 during a torrid run from February to April meant they fell out the automatic promotion places and could only finish 6th. They eventually lost 6-5 on aggregate in dramatic fashion, conceding in the last minute against Exeter in the play-off semi finals. All this, despite goals from former Rover John O'Sullivan in both legs.
Rovers' last competitive game against the Blues came back in 2013 in the League cup. This was an entertaining 3-3 draw in which Carlisle took the spoils 4-3 on penalties.
Players to Watch
Charlie Wyke top scored for the Cumbrians last term with 14 league goals but left in January to Bradford. The Cumbrian outfit will be hoping to add that with Hallam Hope this time round as they bid to get to the third tier automatically. New signing, striker Hope, will need to hit the ground running if they want to mount a serious promotion challenge, considering Jabo Ibehre's move to Cambridge means only two players remain from last season with over 5 league goals.
As for the Rovers, the usual suspects should be the ones worth keeping an eye on. Peter Whittingham looks composed on the ball in his deeper lying role, dictating the tempo from the middle. And another of the new boys Bradley Dack really seems to have hit the ground running, causing problems whenever he's on the pitch. Dominic Samuel could be given a chance from the start to show what he can do.
Carlisle are yet to concede a goal in their 5 pre-season games yet, although they haven't yet faced a football league team. A 0-0 draw with Halifax at the Shay the only time they've failed to win. Rovers should look to build on the 1 0 victory at Grimsby on Tuesday with their only defeat coming against Sparta Prague in Austria.
Both teams should be giving their strongest starting XI's for the majority of the game as both managers look to turn up the heat and play as close to a fully competitive tempo as they can in their final pre-season game. Expect strong teams and a fast-paced attacking game.
Mowbray will look to field the closest team that will start against Southend a week on Saturday. Predominantly, 9 or 10 of what he thinks is his best XI should start against Southend. Whether he starts with a 3-5-2 like the end of last season, or a 4-4-1-1 using Dack in the number 10 role, is still to be seen.
1-2 Rovers: A strong team at near to full fitness should be able to record a fairly comfortable victory against a strong League 2 team.
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