By Tony Leighton
Twelve months after losing to Southampton in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final, Carlisle United will on Sunday be aiming to erase 14 years of hurt as they face Brentford in what will be their fourth Final since lifting the Trophy in 1997.
Two years before that 1997 triumph against Colchester United the Cumbrians had lost in the Final to Birmingham City - so when they step out against the Bees at Wembley on Sunday it will in fact be the Brunton Park club's sixth final in 17 seasons.
Those statistics are not lost on the players, says captain Paul Thirlwell, as they look to raise the ratio of victories-to-defeats in yet another date at Wembley. "We want to win it for the supporters as much as anything," Thirlwell told football-league.co.uk.
"It's a long trip from Carlisle to Wembley," the midfielder added, "and we want to give the fans a winning day to remember - especially from my point of view after last year, which was very disappointing after we'd done so well to reach the final.
"We went down there believing we could beat Southampton, but that's not the way it worked out and we've learned a few lessons from that day - lessons that will hopefully stand us in good stead against Brentford."
Last year's final was Thirlwell's first for Carlisle, the now 32-year-old midfield man having arrived at Brunton Park from Derby County (initially on loan) in September 2006, five months after the Cumbrians' Trophy Final defeat to Swansea City.
The former Sunderland and Sheffield United player has over 300 League and Cup games under his belt but to date has no silverware to his name. As he approaches the end of the 14th season of his career, however, he is determined to put that right.
Thirlwell will lead his team out to face the Bees nine days after having lost 2-1 to their Wembley foes in an npower League 1 match at Griffin Park - but that result will mean nothing on Sunday, insists the Cumbrians' captain.
"Whatever the result had been at Brentford," said Thirlwell, "it would have no bearing on Sunday's game. We actually played pretty well down there and had most of the play, but they hit us with two quick goals late on in the game.
"That showed the quality they've got up front and we'll obviously have to be on our guard on Sunday, but the game situation will be totally different at Wembley and it will probably come down to which team handles the occasion best.
"We'll know more than them about the occasion after being in the Final last year, so we'll aim to make that count. And for players like myself, it's a great chance to pick up a Cup winner's medal for the first time - and that would be a fantastic feeling."
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