It was never going to be easy for Carlisle United when they played at Harrogate on Tuesday night. It’s been a real stop-start season for Carlisle.

They had four weeks without a game, then two games in four days, then another two weeks without a game.

Maybe there was rustiness in the 1-0 defeat on Tuesday. The players will have lost match fitness: that 10 per cent that you can only get by playing games. It’s like starting the season again, having that long off. But it’s not a level playing field because the other clubs have been playing.

You have to make allowances for that. But opposing teams won’t make allowances.

Harrogate seemed like one of those games that was going to need a penalty to avoid being a 0-0. For the penalty, the Harrogate lad was going nowhere. He was only going to get a cross in at best. I’m not saying it wasn’t a penalty. But I’ve seen a lot of soft ones given in the lower leagues this season. The authorities want more goals. It seems like in the lower leagues, with no VAR, that defenders are being punished more. The slightest touch and it’s a penalty.

It’s something new for Carlisle to be losing two games on the trot, even though those games were a fortnight apart. But Chris Beech will have their heads up again at Salford tomorrow. That won’t be an easy game. Salford are up to fourth. A draw would be a good result.

You never really get an easy game, even against teams at the bottom. And it will be another tough test, at home to sixth-placed Tranmere, next Tuesday night. They’ll be on a high after getting to Wembley in the EFL Trophy during the week, but I don’t see that having much of an impact when we play them. I think Beech will be looking for four points from those two games.

A lot of fans take it game by game rather than looking at the bigger picture. They’ll look at the Harrogate performance, and the table, and think “That’s it, we’ve blown it.” I can understand them being worried. I’m disappointed, but not despondent. Carlisle have got enough to bounce back over the next few weeks and get back to the form that took them to the top of the league before their enforced shutdown. I’ve still got confidence in the players and the coaching staff to finish in the top three.

It’s still tight. And Carlisle have got at least three games in hand on all the teams above them. But they’ve got to make those games count. The last week of the season is the only one that Carlisle aren’t playing two games in.

You’d hope the worst of the weather is behind us now, and the Covid situation seems to be improving so hopefully there’ll be no more postponements.

Beech is in a good position in having a big squad and being able to use five substitutes. I think he’ll keep training light, just to keep the players ticking over. And he needs to keep them fresh mentally. They’ve got a lot of games coming up, but it’s not as if they’re playing them all at once.

It’s the old cliché: take each game as it comes.