Carlisle United 0 Morecambe 2: The temptation, as Brunton Park came to an emotional peak moments before kick-off, was to consider that the result would not matter; that, for once, everything that happened in the following 90 minutes would lack a certain significance.

Not true. It mattered every time Tony Hopper put his boots onto Brunton Park’s wet turf and so, as the old place rose to salute him in the week of his death, of course the football mattered here too.

Of course we were entitled to feel all the usual emotions accompanying a Carlisle home defeat. Of course, at full-time, it felt rotten that the Blues had not scored here for a fourth successive game, that the concerns about their ability and their nerve on Cumbrian soil came back into play.

It would hardly be fitting to think otherwise, considering the man being mourned: Tony Hopper, a hundred percenter, Carlisle to his bones, the most committed of souls.

“This wonderful man,” as Colin Carter, his friend, also described him, speaking over the Tannoy when the ground fell quiet. A minute’s applause, to celebrate Hopper’s life, was so anticipated that some fans started putting their hands together before referee Sebastian Stockbridge had blown his whistle.

The moment he did, the ovation quickly burst around the stadium – as it did towards the end of the first half. Then, a cluster of supporters at the back of the Pioneer Foods Stand had begun clapping, minute 42 signifying Tony’s age. Steadily, the rest of Brunton Park responded in kind. “There’s only one Tony Hopper,” some sang.

Somewhere in the stadium, several members of Tony’s family sat. This was his old club, his old fans, assembled to demonstrate their affection. The match programme also featured Tony; much of the talk heading into the ground occupied one subject. The meaning of these tributes is wholly untainted by a disappointing result.

That is not, though, to trivialise that result. The entirely separate business of what Carlisle did on their pitch was enough to keep frowns on foreheads, and it is getting harder to make a case for United being successful this season the longer this Brunton Park issue goes on.

It is now a club record-equalling run without a home goal in the league: four consecutive games. Another blank against Yeovil in two weeks’ time would establish a new low. The good news, in theory, is that they have two trips before then, though it is very risky to assume they can keep relying on their away form to bail out these woes.

Tranmere, Stevenage, Grimsby and Morecambe have all now hit the M6 at Junction 43 with three points and a clean sheet. As in the first three of those encounters, United should have scored in Saturday’s first half, then faltered badly in the second when it came to creating.

They also conceded, poorly, again. John Sheridan, who did not pretend the performance was near the mark, felt his team lacked the “vocal” presence of Anthony Gerrard, who may, one hopes, have intercepted one or two of the times Jim Bentley’s team snaked through the home defence.

He could not, though, have done much about matters upfield. Not until Liam McCarron came off the bench did supporters accept there was at least someone in a blue shirt capable of decisive pace and skill that might, with a little more time, have dragged something out of this game.

To say this of a 17-year-old with one senior start is hardly a positive reflection on the rest. Yet this is how it was: Morecambe, in fact, offering the better invention and movement when the tone was set in the first 25 minutes.

They scored twice in this spell, after a couple of early Carlisle attacks had blown out, Ashley Nadesan’s shot saved by Barry Roche the best of them. Bentley’s team came forward with a sense of planning, exposing space around United's defence and midfield that should not have been there. Vadaine Oliver led the line well and this allowed Ajay Leitch-Smith and others to flit dangerously around him.

Their first goal arrived in minute 13, Leitch-Smith evading Gary Liddle easily then arriving onto Aaron Wildig’s cross. Adam Collin’s save rebounded into the net off the striker (or possibly Mike Jones, who was in the vicinity) and this was a messy goal, one that had not met with enough aggression or protest from those required to prevent it.

Carlisle came close to a reply, but not close enough. Richie Bennett failed to put away a great chance on the ground (Sam Lavelle made the block) and Nadesan found space to head Jerry Yates’ cross against the post.

Morecambe, though, had also built promisingly in between these forays and United’s lack of defensive clout applied again when Oliver was allowed to win a right-sided corner and head past Collin.

This was, it must be said, fairly miserable fayre on such a rainswept day. Liam Mandeville, Rhys Oates and Wildig threatened to open up United again while Jack Sowerby and Nadesan were off-target at the Waterworks End. Other crosses were not precise and then a brief second-half flurry did not last long enough, Roche parrying a Sowerby shot and Bennett sending the rebound into orbit.

A gritty Nadesan run, forcing another save from the Morecambe keeper, followed but United could not develop this into a convincing pattern as Bentley’s side contained them well. There was a distinct lack of quality anywhere near the 18-yard box and this was placed into context when McCarron, part of a triple substitution in the 68th minute, opened up down the right.

It was comfortably the highlight of Carlisle’s game when he took on Morecambe’s left-sided players, going past them towards the byline before crossing. The visiting team were on the back foot as the young man from Appleby repeatedly received the ball and ran with it.

From one such dash, Nadesan’s receiving touch was poor. A few more ventures ended with McCarron applauded back into position by the Paddock, and if there is an appropriate way at all of connecting Carlisle’s game with the man they saluted on Saturday it is this - a home-grown teenager showing others the way, as those boys did in the 1990s, when able footballers seemed to be emerging from every last corner of Cumbria.

There’s only one Tony Hopper, as the people sang. But United will always be better for carrying a little of what he was, and what he stood for, however good or difficult their times.

United: Collin, Miller, Gillesphey (Glendon 68), Liddle, Parkes, Jones (Slater 68), Etuhu, Sowerby, Yates, Nadesan, Bennett (McCarron 68). Not used: Gray, Brown, Adewusi, Egan.

Morecambe: Roche, Mills, Conlan, Lavelle, Yarney, Tutte (Cranston 57), Wildig, Oates (Mendes-Gomes 74), Mandeville, Leitch-Smith (Oswell 81), Oliver. Not used: Halstead, Hedley, Jagne, Piggott.

Goals: Leitch-Smith 13, Oliver 25

Ref: Sebastian Stockbridge

Crowd: 4,569 (347 Morecambe fans)