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Coca Cola League Two
By Gerard Butler
The recent history of the Cumbrians has been chequered, but under the guidance of popular manager Paul Simpson, they are finally moving in the right direction after some testing times between 1999 and 2004.
Staying up on the last day of 1998/9 at the expense of Scarborough through Jimmy Glass' famous stoppage time winner scarcely heralded better times, as they struggled in each of the next few seasons.
Undoubtedly helped by the fact that, until 2003, only one side was relegated, Martin Wilkinson, Roddy Collins and Ian Atkins managed to steer the club to safety, often by the narrowest of margins, indeed at Barnet's expense in 2001. An awful start to 2003/4 looked like they would finish a distant last, but championship form in the second half of the season took them off the bottom of the table, but not out of the last pair.
Relegated, but in good form, they were tipped to do well, and began with a record unbeaten start to the season, only ended by Barnet. A mid season slump looked likely to cost them a play-off place, but a good run in saw them edge out Aldershot on penalties in the semi-final before beating Stevenage Borough 1-0 in the final at Stoke.
The Cumbrians' success last year was built on solid defence, and not giving much away, though they were one of the divisions best footballing, if not always most prolific sides. Justifiably, Simpson has kept faith with the side that delivered promotion; and indeed the starting side which drew 1-1 at Wycombe in the season's opener contained just two new close season signings; keeper Anthony Williams from Grimsby and left back Zigor Aranalde from Sheffield Wednesday.
Although the lack of goals scored last season may well cause concern for this year, the side is used to playing as a unit, and mostly has experience at this level. A shrewd capture was of powerful Woking striker Raphael Nade to support Karl Hawley, who scored the only goal in Tuesday's night's win over Peterborough United. Barnet have the advantage of being more familiar with the Cumbrians than anyone else they face this season, but I would expect a tight match.
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