Good teams score late goals, said Gareth Southgate, and how the nation agreed. Last-minute winners, such as that pocketed by Harry Kane on Monday, are especially sweet. Not that Carlisle United would know.

Okay - historically they do, Jimmy Glass and all that. But recently? Snatching a victory or a draw in the dying seconds of a game is an art that has been lost to the Blues for the best part of 18 months.

This might seem a minor detail when so many pieces of the picture are still to be put in place, by new manager John Sheridan and those above him. Yet sometimes in the little details, bigger truths can lie.

In other words, the team and squad Sheridan is in the process of assembling needs to have unity and purpose and clear-mindedness that lasts even beyond the 90-minute mark. To succeed, United will require a bit of what England summoned in the fading moments in Volgograd, a bit of what some of their League Two rivals displayed last season for that matter.

A bit of Wycombe Wanderers, to be specific, bearing in mind what the side from Buckinghamshire did twice to Carlisle in 2017/18. At Brunton Park, they trailed as the game entered added time, and came away with a point.

At Adams Park four months later, they were losing 3-2 at minute 90 and winning 4-3 by the final whistle. For United and their fans, that defeat sucked in a big way. For Wycombe? Nothing better illustrated why they were able to win promotion in a tight division.

Much has been rightly made of Accrington's title win against the odds, and Luton's goal glut in their slipstream. Less is said of third-placed Wycombe, but their feats against Carlisle showed qualities to admire and, ideally, copy.

It revealed Gareth Ainsworth's team as a gutsy, play-to-the-end bunch who were also, blatantly, together. A band of brothers. A collective that can win games like that one in February because it believes it can.

In total, the Chairboys earned eight more points than they would have gained had their games stopped when the clock reached 90.00. Considering they finished four points above the play-off places, the value of going to the last is plain.

Now, consider United. How many winning goals did they score in the 90th minute or beyond? None. How many draws did they salvage in that period? None.

The only times they troubled the net at such a stage, it did not affect the outcome. Think Hallam Hope rolling in a fifth at Crewe, or Shaun Miller garnishing a 4-0 home win against Yeovil.

When things were tighter, making the most of those last grains in the egg-timer was often beyond them, and you have to wonder how much better the season could have turned out given that they drew 16 of their 46 matches, including a frustrating 10 at home.

The last time a Carlisle player struck in injury-time to make a positive change to a league result was as long ago as November 16, 2016. You will remember Charlie Wyke making it 3-2 against Exeter in the 97th minute, and those delirious celebrations, the pile-on at the end: that is what you get when you have that x-factor unavailable to less certain groups.

If Sheridan can restore some of this, it would speak positively about the rest of his work.

Putting the Blues back together right now cannot be an easy gig. The long time taken to make the managerial appointment, plus the reduced budget, has put United in a different market, or at least in a different mode of behaviour as far as summer recruitment goes.

Encouragingly, it has not taken Sheridan long, since arriving, to get his first deals over the line, and this week's influx has moved the debate on from the concerns that were growing before Carlisle became the 20th League Two club to sign a new player this summer.

Speed is not always everything - being quick from the blocks did not get Mansfield into the play-offs last year, for instance, while the aisles are as full as ever with available players - but, given the hard work needed to assemble a competitive squad in a shortened timeframe, the logic of appointing an older hand in Sheridan becomes ever clearer.

Though not a greybeard of management exactly, a person who knows the level, can point to obvious successes on his CV and does not need to be walked through the business of sourcing effective League Two players is, on the surface, a wiser bet for what Carlisle are facing than a wildcard.

Even the Carlisle United Official Supporters' Club appear to have accepted this, given they embarked upon the managerial hunt by declaring their preference for a "young coach" yet ended it with fulsome praise for the 53-year-old, better-travelled Sheridan.

The idea is that Sheridan understands more than many about what it takes to get ahead in the fourth tier. In Carlisle's case, right now, that is going to entail putting a side together that can prove greater than the sum of its parts, that can be cohesive and spirited, that can find strength in different places when the odds are against, that can think and operate as positively as the new boss is talking right now.

It is a job for a builder, and it may be unwise to expect an instant bond. But it's where, for all their challenges, the Blues will need to get, if they are indeed to go all the way.


IT does not appear, sadly, that we will be hearing from Carlisle United's latest director any time soon.

The News & Star has been told that an interview with John Jackson, newly-appointed to the Blues' holding company board, is unlikely to be granted in the immediate future.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill, whose loan facility to United has been live since March last year, do not wish to comment beyond last week's statement, the club likewise.

That statement, to recap, said that EWM group financial controller Jackson's appointment was made at the club's request, and did not "change the status or nature" of the firm's support of United.

In certain broad terms that may be the case. In others, clearly less so. After all, before the Companies House filing on June 14, EWM did not have anyone with a seat at United's top table, and hence able to vote on, and formally influence, the Blues' strategic and financial decisions.

Now it does. For a company loaning the club significant sums, that seems a fairly obvious change.

It may, in the long run, prove a positive one, should it be evidence of closer engagement with United's affairs and direction, along with the hard cash already made available.

Until someone is prepared to say more, though, fans will continue to be asked to take all this on trust. That is an expectation that can only last so long.