Morecambe 1 Carlisle United 1: The second half here summed up how this season will now likely end, and how things have been for too much of it, frankly: the balance between effort and outcome not properly struck.

In the fading sun, Carlisle tried and tried to force a second goal past Morecambe's cut-price team. It would not come, and the number of people still involving the play-offs in a conversation about the Blues must be dwindling close to zero.

The chance has been fading for some time, in truth, and while it is still not mathematically dead, this was the afternoon it was all but finished. The real issue, now, is how long the major decisions at Brunton Park can continue to be deferred.

Before and after this exasperating 1-1 draw, Keith Curle claimed that "distractions" inside the club had finally "filtered into the dressing room", leading to a meeting with his players where "concerns and anxieties" were aired.

This - which one can assume was a reference to certain things said at a directors' fans' forum two days earlier - is the unsettling backdrop to these dying days of 2017/18. To the Curle era, too, it appears increasingly likely.

Luton, Port Vale and Newport, over the next three weekends, stand between United and a critical summer. The eternal optimists will still think of where nine points could take the Blues. The majority, though, will want to know where the club goes next, specifically in terms of manager and players, and also in general direction.

The end of term could do with being hurried forward so all this can be sorted. Until then, these last Saturdays will feel a little phony, no matter how hard Carlisle tried (and failed) at the Globe Arena, no matter how magnificent their latest following was to this relatively nearby ground.

The Cumbrian invasion of 1,851 accounted for 56 per cent of the entire crowd two days ago. That shows the passion still at the heart of Carlisle's general support. What they are getting right now is not good enough, it has to be said.

Off the pitch, many of their complaints were voiced at the forum. On the pitch, their latest return was a bright start, a slump before half-time, and a second 45 minutes Carlisle largely dominated without ever displaying the finesse to beat Jim Bentley's tightly-knit, 20th-placed side.

United's strengths and limitations were on open show. Devitt is in the former camp. He began the game superbly, nimbly evading players from his former club and scoring a peach of a free-kick. Morecambe, though, found too much room between midfield and attack as they countered, Callum Lang's equaliser the result, and the rest of the game was all effort and persistence, minus quality and poise.

Carlisle's daunting mission was made harder by Mansfield's win at Chesterfield, which widened the play-off gap to six points a minute before kick-off. The Blues initially set about closing it again with positive intent. With Gary Liddle sitting in front of the defence, Danny Grainger on the left of midfield and Devitt tucked in from the right where full-back James Brown had licence to bomb, Curle's team built enough early attacking to unsettle Morecambe, and when the opener came, it was a joy to watch.

Devitt was involved initially, accepting Grainger's pass and having his shot blocked by Sam Lavelle. Luke Conlan then upended Brown with a poor challenge, and Devitt, from the right, curled the free-kick in off the crossbar, keeper Barry Roche watching it on its way.

Four minutes later, he nearly did the same, this time from the left, but Roche was equal to it. Richie Bennett was next to be denied by the keeper, and even more impressively so with another chance a little while on.

United were on top, yet never completely secure at the core of the pitch. Morecambe showed positive movement between the lines, and a little more mobility than Carlisle found comfortable.

In Lang, the 19-year-old Wigan loanee, they also had a player. On 25 minutes, he jinked into the United box, denied at the last by Mark Ellis. Four minutes later, he located space in front of goal to head Adam McGurk's cross past Jack Bonham.

Morecambe's equaliser was a clear defensive failure, but also, it must be said, a case of the home side earning their way back. Lang showed further quality in tight spaces, in an unlikely move that ended with Michael Rose dipping a shot just over, and by this stage United's frontmen, Bennett and Cole Stockton, had lost any previous sense of line-leading control. When half-time came, it was not a moment too soon.

Curle sent on Luke Joyce for Tom Parkes, and rejigged tactically in an attempt to close off midfield space. While this indeed saw more of the ball at United toes, they did not do enough with it. A more observant referee than John Brooks might have provided a different outcome but nor was the official to blame for the aimlessness of some of Carlisle's play, the high balls forward which got the modest treatment they deserved.

Stockton, again struggling to impress, drilled a low shot from the right which Roche saved comfortably. Later, a home defender had a fistful of the striker's shirt as he attacked a corner, but Brooks saw no foul. Morecambe's McGurk engineered a one-man break which almost saw him dribble clean through from the right, but in the main things were heading the other way.

The next changes, involving Ashley Nadesan and Jamal Campbell-Ryce, were intended to make United more cutting, while Bentley sent on Aaron Wildig for the more fleeting McGurk. Carlisle forced free-kicks and other crossing opportunities down both flanks, but little arose from their work.

Devitt was a little more attended by Morecambe players in this half and, from his remaining glimpses, frustration grew. One poor shot was easily blocked while a yellow card for diving was not the midfielder's finest hour. The same can be said for Brooks when he somehow deemed Roche's pulling of Nadesan to the floor on 73 minutes, just inside the box, as a fair challenge.

That was a mystery, but United's toils were apparent. While Lang almost set up Garry Thompson, it was Mike Jones who had the best sight of things from here. The midfielder, though, has not built his Blues career on goals, and in the closing 20 minutes he shot over, had another effort blocked, sent a further attempt against a Carlisle boot, and then, most agonisingly, trickled one a fraction wide after eating up space down the middle.

The outcome felt inevitable as this went on, and at least Bonham's save at Lang's feet in the 90th minute prevented a worse one. After the final flurry - Bennett, Grainger and Campbell-Ryce unable to find the master key - a number of United players fell to the floor, or dropped to their haunches.

They were spent of effort and, although they will deny it until the numbers are conclusive, perhaps of hope that this campaign can end with any sort of glory. The time for pretending is just about up for all of us, and those in charge will finally have to restore the Blues' drifting direction.

Morecambe: Roche, Old, Lavelle, Winnard, McGowan, Conlan, Rose, Fleming, Lang (Ellison 90), McGurk (Wildig 62), Thompson (Oliver 75). Not used: Nizic, Kenyon, Campbell, Wylde.

Goal: Lang 29

Booked: Conlan

Carlisle: Bonham, Brown (Campbell-Ryce 70), Parkes (Joyce 46), Hill, Ellis, Liddle, Grainger, Jones, Devitt, Stockton (Nadesan 58), Bennett. Not used: Gray, O'Sullivan, Lambe, Twardek.

Goal: Devitt 14

Booked: Devitt

Ref: John Brooks

Crowd: 3,319 (1,851 Carlisle fans)