Carlisle United 1 Bradford City 0: If Carlisle United could count on repeating the final moments of this game when the serious stuff starts, they may have a chance of easing some of the concern supporters are feeling even after a pre-season win against opponents from a level up.

The good news is that this at times uninspiring match saw John Sheridan’s team get the better of Bradford City. The worry is that only 1,190 home supporters turned up to watch Richie Bennett score his late winner at the start of a supposed new era.

There are many who feel that results in friendlies count for less than the square root of nothing. Nobody, for sure, will be harking back to Bennett’s last-second header when United are in the thick of it at Exeter in five days’ time.

At the same time, any success against League One opponents is not to be sniffed at considering the challenges Sheridan has accepted this summer. There were a few genuine bright spots on this windy afternoon; Jerry Yates, for one.

The broader campaign, though, is a task for many people, not just the boss, and it boils down to that attendance figure.

One thousand, three hundred and eighty-four, in total, 194 of whom were from Bradford. That was how many people felt Brunton Park was worth a look on the last Saturday in July (that was revised up from an even more alarming 792, United saying pre-sales had not been included in that initial figure).

Again – friendlies, and all that. The ground is seldom straining at the seams at this time of year. But those numbers still ought to give a few of the club’s decision-makers a little anxiety.

Either United start 2018/19 well, it seems, or a trend of low gates is a clear risk. Sheridan, rightly, said it was up to him, and his team, to generate enough reasons for more to attend, yet it is also fair to ask about the other reasons folk may not be flocking back: the off-field issues and mysteries, and the general feel of the place.

In this supposed time of transition, when United are aiming to become a more sustainable club, they are clearly selling their wares to a sceptical public, who see cut-backs but not, yet, a bright new vision.

What gives you hope, in this difficult climate, is Sheridan: his experience, his ability to make the most of a limited hand. After this 1-0 win the manager was as pleased as anything with his team’s shape and its discipline.

Such traits are going to be needed against the freer spenders of the fourth tier. If Sheridan cannot recruit as heavily as he would wish, at least he can instil teamwork, tactical stability, fight.

So the theory goes, anyway. On Saturday there was enough of the above even when quality was fluctuating. Some phases of the game were lacking in entertainment but United, creditably, limited a League One side to scraps, and then Bennett poached the only goal after peeling onto a deflected Hallam Hope shot.

Before then, Yates had been the individual eye-catcher. Starting alongside Bennett, but more often driving down the right, the Rotherham forward showed as much energy and pace as anyone in a blue shirt. Loan gambles like this must pay off for United to do well this campaign and Yates, who hit the post in the second half, is off to a promising start.

In terms of the XI overall, it is hard to imagine Sheridan will deviate too much from those selected here, with perhaps a new centre-half coming late into the mix. Here, his choices included a preference for Joe Fryer over Adam Collin in goal, a centre-back pairing of Gary Liddle and Tom Parkes, and George Glendon on ball-playing duties from deep midfield.

Without Yates, though, Carlisle would have lacked something essential, so it is a good thing someone of his speed has also been signed up. In the fourth minute he stole the ball from Adam Chicksen before crossing beyond Hope. At other times, the 21-year-old displayed appetite and strength to hold off opponents and get Carlisle moving, showing defensive graft as well as attacking gusto.

These cameos came in an opening spell which saw a misdirected Gary Miller backpass test Fryer’s alertness, before a couple of painful tumbles saw Jamie Devitt and Bennett briefly hurt. Carlisle do not have the senior bodies to absorb injuries at this stage, so it was a relief both got to their feet. At the back, Liddle was sharp with interceptions against his old club and, from midfield, Mike Jones did well to send Yates sprinting down the right before the jinking loanee was tackled by left-back Chicksen.

On the touchline, Sheridan was usually active with his instructions, at other times standing with arms folded as he watched his side try to figure their League One guests out. Bradford’s better players, Jack Payne and Sean Scannell, were kept just about at bay despite the former almost sneaking through from advanced midfield. Liddle made a good block from Payne while another route, Tyrell Robinson’s pass to George Miller down the middle, saw the striker shoot wide when perfectly placed to score.

Carlisle found an improved range from here, Devitt almost opening up through midfield then Bennett heading a Glendon cross down keeper Richard O’Donnell’s throat. Glendon, positionally disciplined, was at last getting on the ball more as United shifted shape, Hope and Yates pushing up down left and right, either side of Bennett.

Neither keeper, though, was getting much mud on his gloves. Sheridan made three changes at the break, while Bradford aimed to inflict the pace of Sherwin Seedorf, nephew of Clarence, on right-back Miller’s side.

Seedorf’s touch, though, was erratic, while some of the Bantams’ other work in the final third was desperate. Two shots cleared the back of the Waterworks End terrace, including a woeful Payne free-kick, while Carlisle, if not greatly dynamic, at least built some better periods. Hope hit the side-netting, and then Yates cut in sharply from the right, beating defenders before sending a clean shot against the outside of the post.

That was practically his last involvement, subbed as a precaution after hurting his foot in a tackle. More changes followed as United, with Kelvin Etuhu bolstering midfield, had greater presence. Regan Slater, another loanee, led another counter-attack that ended with Glendon shooting far too high, while Hope, who also did his defensive bit, was at full-stretch to cut out a dangerous diagonal ball, aimed for Joe Riley.

With Bradford’s Aaron O’Connor slotting the ball through the six-yard box late on, it seemed things were going to end level, but there is no such thing as a bad goalscoring habit, so credit Carlisle for going to the end – and credit Bennett, too, for rounding off a performance of heavy touches and limited threat with a convincing header, as he met Hope’s spinning shot.

It was, perhaps, a case of making one’s own luck – something else Carlisle will need in spades. For the best outcome, meanwhile, the eye did not need to look beyond Greg Abbott, the former Blues boss in the Bradford coaching ranks, boots back on after a fight with prostate cancer; a victory to cheer without any conditions.

United: Fryer (Collin 73), Gary Miller, Grainger (Gillesphey 46), Liddle, Parkes, Jones (Slater 46), Glendon, Devitt (Etuhu 46), Hope, Bennett, Yates (Egan 70). Not used: Olsen, Brown, Stockton, Adewusi, Holt.

Goal: Bennett 90

Bradford: O'Donnell, Riley, O'Connor, Knight-Percival, Chicksen, Wright, Colville (McGowan 79), Scannell, Payne, Robinson (Seedorf 46), George Miller. Not used: Wilson, Staunton, Hudson, Gibson, Kilgallon, Isherwood, Wood, Goldthorp, Bruenter.

Ref: Anthony Backhouse

Crowd: 1,384 (194 Bradford fans)