Carlisle United's pre-season campaign is well and truly under way.

After last Tuesday's 8-0 win at Penrith, the Blues chalked up a 3-0 win at Workington and 2-0 win at Hebburn on the same day.

The News & Star was at Borough Park for the all-Cumbrian encounter. So what did we learn from it?

News and Star: Chris Beech at full-time at Workington (photos: Barbara Abbott)Chris Beech at full-time at Workington (photos: Barbara Abbott)

1. United are in good nick

We don’t know how good they are or can be yet. But it’s been pleasing to see Carlisle attack their first friendlies with maximum seriousness and intent.

There has been no sense of slow-burn about the Blues against their earliest non-league opponents.

This, you can be sure, comes from the top. After giving players 45 minutes each against Penrith, Chris Beech was straight onto 90-minute demands next.

Saturday’s game at Workington was not a casual pre-season knockabout in the sun. Carlisle might, as you’d expect at this point in July, still have rust in certain areas but you can’t dispute their sharpness, fitness and appetite.

They imposed their quality on Reds rather than get pulled into an awkward contest, various players looked keen to make their mark, and they scored some ruthlessly-taken goals. As it should be.

News and Star: Zach Clough makes a break for United at WorkingtonZach Clough makes a break for United at Workington

2. Clough looks a cut above

A cut above Penrith and Workington, certainly, which you would hope to be the case. And yes – there are bigger, harder and more awkward challenges ahead for United and their star signing.

But don’t doubt that he is that: their star signing.

Clough, when joining the Blues, said he is a player that likes to “feel the love”.

Those feelings will surge towards him if he can play as he has so far on an admittedly much higher stage.

But first impressions have been, well...pretty good indeed. The former Bolton man has four goals and four assists from less than 90 minutes of football, and has shown superior control, movement, creativity and finishing.

Is it too early to talk of cotton wool with August 7 in mind?

3. Project Charters

News and Star: Taylor Charters scores United's third at WorkingtonTaylor Charters scores United's third at Workington

Beech is a naturally vocal head coach and few players are spared his touchline exhortations during a game.

There was a sense on Saturday, though, that west Cumbrian Taylor Charters is someone Beech in particular wants to shape into a certain kind of player.

One, namely, who can marry all the hard, gritty and responsible aspects of midfield play with his natural running and shooting ability.

“Taylor!”, accompanied by a particular message or signal, was a common sound from the United boss - a former goalscoring midfielder himself - at Borough Park.

Charters kept working, kept going, and showed exactly why United have backed his potential with a smart run and excellent finish for their third goal.

Carlisle’s midfield men are all different, and Charters, still 19, has an athleticism and left foot that clearly deserves to be nurtured.

4. No wiser in goal

News and Star: Trialist keeper George Sykes-KenworthyTrialist keeper George Sykes-Kenworthy

It is not ideal that Magnus Norman, currently the only signed senior keeper at United, has yet to get his gloves on in pre-season.

He should be back soon, though, and the Blues do still have plenty of games before August 7 for the former Fulham man to get into the groove.

The one area, though, where Carlisle will feel they learned little on Saturday was between the posts.

George Sykes-Kenworthy, the trialist who played the full game, didn’t have a save of note to make.

Other than one first-half moment, when he came for a cross and missed his punch, the former Derby man got through his other limited duties well enough.

But in terms of fine-tuning any sort of decision…there wasn’t much to go on, and hopefully better examinations await.

5. Defensive options emergeNews and Star: Rod McDonald shares a joke with referee Anthony BackhouseRod McDonald shares a joke with referee Anthony Backhouse

It was good to see Rod McDonald back in action after missing the Penrith game with a “niggle”.

The centre-half is the most senior figure in United’s defensive ranks and his experience is going to need to come forward in 2021/22.

McDonald professes to be fitter and fresher than at this stage last year, having had a mixed first campaign in Cumbria, and there were no issues with his first, tidy performance of this pre-season.

Alongside him, Morgan Feeney was given a couple of early shakes by Reds’ ex-United man Steven Rigg before United settled into their game.

With George Tanner not involved, Corey Whelan was a noticeably attack-minded right-back option, while the excellent Jack Armer on the other side seems the least of Carlisle’s worries.

United’s 4-3-3 system was slightly unpicked in wide areas in the first half by Reds, and a better side might have made them pay. But at least, at this early point, Beech has a range of options to consider at the back.