Chris Beech said it was “superb” to have fans back at Carlisle United – and hopes it was a small step forward for the game.

Some 1,000 season-ticket holders watched the Cumbrians beat Southend 2-0 in the first of seven EFL test events for supporters yesterday.

It saw fans back in Brunton Park for the first time since March with the club hoping for a successful day that could encourage the authorities to allow more people back into grounds despite the Covid-19 climate.

Because of Saturday’s early kick-off, Carlisle became the first EFL club to play a league game in front of fans this season.

Beech was delighted to have some of United’s faithful back as they spurred Carlisle on to a welcome victory.

He also praised the club for the way they prepared for and staged the game.

He said: “As a football club, it’s from start to finish been an absolutely unbelievable, superb exercise, both on and off the pitch.

“You can’t argue with that.

“In terms of moving forwards from it, we’ve got to take small steps, but we’re very fortunate at Carlisle to have an 18,000 [capacity] stadium and the home crowds don’t normally meet that.

“It would be much more difficult for smaller clubs who can’t possibly do this.”

Fans were required to remain at a social distance from one another, with United providing a series of messages over the public address system about various safety aspects of the day.

There were one-way systems in the stands and certain sections taped off in order to maintain social distancing.

Supporters wore masks but were not required to keep them on once they were in their seats or terracing positions.

Beech said he was delighted with the atmosphere the 1,000 generated as Omari Patrick and Joshua Kayode shot Carlisle to their first win of the season.

The head coach said after the game: “When they all come back we maybe should keep them in their bubbles and pods and they might make more noise!

“It was like a normal matchday with how they were, and that’s just fantastic. It’s just so nice to hear the chants again.

“I’m so pleased for them, it’s early, it’s sunny, and off they can go now and have a beer and really enjoy their Saturday.”

He also said the support helped his team raise their game against Southend.

“It’s brilliant, isn’t it – it spurs us on,” he said. “It enables faster play and interplay, adds more of a sense of responsibility towards giving the ball away, or trying to benefit from a set play.

“I think it just adds atmosphere, and any party, needs a decent atmosphere.”

It is not yet clear how football will attempt to make further progress with fans in stadiums, given the tightening of coronavirus restrictions in various parts of the country and suggestions that more national measures could be introduced amid talk of a “second wave” of the virus.

Beech said: “I’m really happy for the club and the supporters because they’ve waited a long time to come back, and we don’t know if we can still go ahead with games like this because of what’s happening around the country.

“Tomorrow [Sunday] is the last chance I get to go and see my mum and dad before more restrictions come in.

“It just seems all a little bit strange, but at least we shared it with people here. It helped us and our supporters were fantastic, they really were.”