The foundations for Carlisle United's League Two title campaign of 2005/6 were laid by Karl Hawley's magnificent goalscoring. When it came to getting the Blues over the line, though, it tended to fall to his more experienced partner.

Carlisle's last truly glorious season ended with the recurring sight of Michael Bridges finding the net in tight games. In his last 10 appearances, he got seven goals, some of them particularly significant.

Against Lincoln, on March 28, for instance - the only strike in a close, physical battle. Against promotion rivals Grimsby, 11 days later, exactly the same. Then there was Notts County on April 17, and a 2-1 United comeback that could be placed at Bridges' feet.

There were many other heroes that year, but there could be no ignoring Bridges' qualities when things were at their most tense. United, as champions, finished eight points clear of the play-offs; those three narrow wins at crunch time were key.

It should not have been too surprising that the former Premier League striker was the man to deliver. Having done it at the very top level, Bridges was probably the very last person whose head was at risk of being scrambled by the sight of the finish line.

And this is what it is about now - the home straight, the back nine, the final furlong, the stage when knowing the course ought to count. Experience may not be everything but, at a time when the value of holding one's nerve comes most obviously into play, it ought to help to have some in reserve.

With 11 games to go, United are still chasing a host of teams above them. Their task, as well as maintaining their own mini-run of form, is to unsettle those who have been closer to the top positions all season, yet may now be feeling a little heat on their collars.

A number of edgy afternoons lie ahead and in this respect Carlisle need to make the most of what know-how they have. Last Saturday Keith Curle named the fourth most experienced team out of 24 in League Two and the fact they edged a 1-0 win against the greenest - Yeovil - may have been telling.

This has not been a consistent campaign by any means, and in terms of setting a reliable tone throughout 2017/18, United have struggled. At the same time, one would expect their older heads now to be able to negotiate some of the anxieties that can grip the more naive.

In total, at Huish Park, Curle sent out a team with 2,532 league games under respective belts, a total exceeded only by Morecambe, Notts County and Wycombe seven days ago. Other than the relative inexperience of Jack Bonham, Kris Twardek and Richie Bennett at this level, every other Blues player was in three figures. Had Curle included Mike Jones, Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Danny Grainger from the start instead of the bench, United would have been more seasoned still.

In defence, where they have conceded once in three games, things are particularly striking, bearing in mind the combined league appearances of Gary Liddle, Tom Parkes, Mark Ellis and Clint Hill - 1,593 - outnumbered the entire tallies of six League Two teams playing on the same day.

As an XI, Yeovil's total league appearances came to just 686. Hill plus almost any other United team-mate would pass that figure alone.

Recently the club has rolled out a series of statistics celebrating the longevity of some of their stalwarts: Hill, Liddle, Jones and Luke Joyce. Why sign men of this standing if not for the time when the season tends to be decisively shaped?

This thinking was surely at the heart of Curle's recruitment in the summer of 2016, when he seemed able to trade with the most freedom of his Brunton Park reign.

In Jones, Nicky Adams, Jamie Devitt, Shaun Miller and Shaun Brisley, the manager was not taking punts on potential. He was investing in perceived reliability, even more so than the previous summer, when a couple of mature hands - Jabo Ibehre, Michael Raynes, Joyce - again bolstered the odd riskier addition (Bastien Hery, Angelo Balanta, Alex McQueen).

And who, last spring, when the wheels were coming off Carlisle's promotion push, managed to get them back on? The well-travelled Ibehre, with five goals in five games, and the promotion specialist Adams, who scored a stunning winner against Newport when the top seven places were at risk of slipping away, and then directly set up three of United's five goals against Exeter in the play-offs, prolonging the Blues' chances in a contest where the other team's superiority had become fairly plain.

A campaign must always be a thing of many parts, a blend of different experiences and good characters, while a sound tactical hand cannot be absent. There is also no doubt that, for a lot of this season, Carlisle lacked some of the youth and vigour that Twardek and Ashley Nadesan have belatedly provided.

Good players are good players whatever their age and background. When the stakes are up, though, it surely pays to have those in your side who can cut through some of the stress, as Graham Kavanagh and Paul Thirlwell did when blasting Carlisle to safety against Millwall in 2009, as Peter Murphy did to win a cup at Wembley two years later, as Bridges did on the days when, after months of good work, a couple of false moves could have made things much less guaranteed.

There has been debate about how Curle has assembled this current squad, just as there seems one coming about how Carlisle should function in the future. If there is to be a subtle shift in favour of United better producing its own, younger, more sellable talent - a possible conclusion reading between the lines of some of chief executive Nigel Clibbens' recent comments - that may go to the core of the long-term managerial decision the club are continuing to defer.

In the short-term, though, there is a job to be done, a season to prolong and, in Curle's case, a signing policy to vindicate. "It's not how you start, it's how you finish," United's boss has often said, and we are now at the exact point when we will discover exactly how wise his old heads really are.