As well as goals and points, there is a shortage of something else at Brunton Park right now: yellow cards.

It is three home games since anyone in a Carlisle United shirt was booked; three defeats in a run of five during which no Blues player was deemed worthy of caution.

Now, normally, we would celebrate the fact they were adhering so well to principles of fair play. According to statistics collated by the Football Association, John Sheridan’s side are the cleanest in League Two: 17 bookings and one red card from 19 games in all competitions, producing 80 disciplinary points.

Other than Jerry Yates’ red card at Bury, there have been no silly suspensions (unless you include the more contentious matter of Anthony Gerrard’s ban for remonstrating with a steward in the same game) and, broadly, it should be a matter for praise that United are not clogging their way around the country.

This, though, would be easier to toast were Carlisle producing results at home. There is a line between being fair and too nice and one wonders if the lack of time spent under a referee’s nose is a symptom of something else.

In a column in 2014 the Guardian writer Daniel Taylor told a story about Brian Clough who, at Nottingham Forest, had signed the QPR defender David Needham to cover an injury to Larry Lloyd. Needham performed very well, but Lloyd was instantly recalled once fit.

“You’re that nice, David, I’d have you as my son-in-law,” Clough said, before pointing at Lloyd. “I hate that ******* ******* over there. And that’s why you’re not in the team. You’re not a ******* like Larry Lloyd. And, son, I want a ******* in my defence.”

Lloyd, one could be sure, went through centre-forwards as Clough did asterisks. “Hard Man, Hard Game” was the title of his autobiography and in their current, struggling state it is tempting to suggest Carlisle also need to go in a little harder on what they are confronting.

Grimsby, Morecambe and Yeovil have all left their stadium recently without anyone raging against the outcome enough to prevent it. That is fact, the results say so, and while the focus is understandably on United’s inability to score, might the search for improvements need to be wider?

Carlisle, like it or not, have been reshaped as underdogs this season and at present their displays are bearing this out. Against the middle or lower dwellers, they are finding it hard to impose themselves, as defeats and performances against Grimsby, Morecambe and Macclesfield suggest.

In the same month, they go to Lincoln with a striker playing at centre-half and some sort of fire is lit inside them. They battle against the odds to a creditable 2-2 draw.

This, surely, is the sign of a team better when up against it than when expected to grab the initiative. In which case, why not play on this altered image? If this is where they have to be, with their slashed spending, hastily-assembled squad and diminished expectations, why not try to be a little more like that team that annoys the hell out of others?

Why not be the irritant, the nightmare? Why not say, ‘We are Carlisle, and we’re going to get right up your nose’?

It may be a more interesting way forward than trying simply to outplay sides, which has been beyond them at Brunton Park since mid-September. Currently they have the budget direction of an underdog but not yet the mindset of one.

For a spell at least, and until a brighter outlook appears, they may have to lie more comfortably in the bed that has been made for them by executive decisions.

This should not get those executives off the hook – attention, rightly, is on the club’s top decision-makers when the effects of hardship are this apparent – but it is not a manager’s or a team’s job to operate in imagined circumstances. They have to deal with what’s on the table.

So that could require a bit of gristle when things are not going well. Some anger. There was not much subtlety about the way, say, Liam Noble would unsettle a game with a certain kind of tackle or a prolonged argument, and while this memory might not be top of an obvious list of ways to get better - and one would certainly not want to build a campaign around out-and-out indiscipline - it has a certain place when too much dust has settled and another flat game is going nowhere.

The way Greg Abbott told it, too, he used to play on this himself, protesting to officials to such a degree that being sent to the stands was inevitable. Afterwards, the manager would tell the media that he had done so deliberately, to fire up the crowd, to give an occasion the friction it had previously lacked.

Abbott being Abbott, these activities would divide opinion, yet there are other ways to be a nuisance, as observers of the guilty-pleasure centre-forward play of Joe Garner would recall. Whatever your take on his shadier antics, nobody would ever accuse a Carlisle side containing Garner of being too angelic for its own good.

There are, for sure, instances when overdoing the “passion” can be cheap. Laying it on too thick can be a bad disguise for lack of control. The game generally is also to be admired for moving away from a time when machismo could flatten skill without enough deterrent.

That does not, though, mean that a good side, especially one at Carlisle’s level, cannot take things to the edge. Seeing so little yellow may not be a marker on its own but it does, in this barren spell, hold hands with the sense United lack enforcers - or, in the nicest possible way, the odd *******.