Carlisle United 1 Notts County 3: Awful night, grim display, bleak result. Some of the worst weather conditions seen at Brunton Park for a while were matched by a display of disturbingly poor control and quality, and one thing for certain is that Carlisle United will want to put the whole experience behind them very quickly indeed.

The weakest team in the land had more joy than any visiting side should be allowed, even accounting for the chaotic effect of Storm Gareth. Notts County have been League Two’s basket case this season but here they capitalised on a United side miles from play-off standard.

The wind was a factor, yes, but that argument becomes less powerful when both teams get their share of it. Notts made better use of it in the first half and, even if the gales eased slightly after the break, they still found Carlisle modest opponents when the Blues were supposed to be throwing themselves forward. Only when Hallam Hope burgled a highly unusual goal out of visiting keeper Ryan Schofield did United look like they might gain any kind of result from the 92nd team of 92.

A breakaway third by County’s Lewis Alessandra put paid to that delusion and this will go down as another of those occasions when Carlisle, faced with a big opportunity against a highly beatable opponent, make a mess of things.

Their false nine system seldom gained them control, their passing and invention was paltry. Notts showed more gumption and nouse in midfield  and Kane Hemmings’ two goals either side of the break gave Neal Ardley’s side a seldom-seen platform. United made little impression on the visitors’ defence in response.

As Gareth blew in, they proved unable to blow the doors off a team who had conceded 70 goals in their previous 36 league games. Steven Pressley cannot have had this in mind when pledging, pre-match, to show them “respect”.

Without the injured Mark Cullen, Kelvin Etuhu’s recall and Jamie Devitt back up top was Pressley’s tactical pick in an attempt to come through this foul night positively. Anything else to distract supporters from the awful conditions would also have been welcomed but it soon became obvious there would be little chance of that in the blustery opening stages.

Often it was simply a case of seeing how far upfield Adam Collin could send his goal-kicks. Halfway or thereabouts was an achievement. Notts, as well as the wind, also had more of the ball, yet the conditions turned a few good passes into bad ones. Sam Stubbs and Mitchell Rose both saw deliveries forward blown heavily out of play.

Carlisle, for their part, struggled to get it far into the visitors’ half, Devitt and Stefan Scougall jumping for headers they were never likely to win and early set-pieces not examining Notts very much. One good chance emerged for County’s Enzio Boldewijn, whose shot was saved by Collin, Hemmings sweeping the rebound over, and this came after they had outsmarted United’s left defensive area. On other occasions they got the wrong side of the Blues in midfield through David Vaughan, with Michael Doyle offering slightly deeper control, and these were early signs that United were not in control structurally, as well as with the elements (Pressley's view was that Carlisle were short of "character", rather than deficient in terms of strategy).

Vaughan was the first to try a wind-assisted shot from range but it bent well wide. Gary Liddle, who had a bad night against his former club, then got his feet in a mess and presented half a chance to Alessandra, but he couldn’t direct it. Jim O’Brien next shot wide, before a Doyle inswinger was volleyed just wide of his own net by Tom Parkes.

The veteran midfielder Doyle had figured out the wind well enough to probe United with more set-pieces. One glanced off a head and drew an excellent save from Collin. It was bleak enough even before Notts capitalised on their pressure and scored, and the goal was not so much the result of the wind as a mistake by Liddle, whose backpass to Collin was weak. The keeper did well to save at Hemmings’ feet but the rebound fell for the striker and he slotted it home.

Carlisle, here, gave the impression of being completely discombobulated by events. Their decision-making and delivery was of a poor standard in general and they failed to register any kind of shot until the 44th minute, when Hope fed the ball in from the left and Danny Grainger arrived to stab a low shot which Schofield smothered at the second attempt.

Half-time was greeted by understandable boos and, probably in the Carlisle players, a certain relief. Surely they had to transform their fortunes with a tailwind?

They did not - certainly not enough. Notts showed a further ability to work the ball positively in United’s half, Alessandra taking on Liddle, Gerrard slicing haphazardly out of play and Rob Milsom crossing narrowly between Collin and the arriving Boldewijn.

Further jeers were heard when United lost the ball badly on the right, having had a couple of sighters through Regan Slater and Grainger but not making Schofield work nearly enough. The Blues did not appear to have enough idea of how to break Notts down and while Pressley then sent on Nathan Thomas for Scougall, all that happened was an increase in the frustration when Notts went and scored again.

This time it came from the penalty spot, after Gerrard fouled Richard Duffy as he chased a rebound. After a mini-melee, Hemmings clipped the spot-kick into the top corner. A bad evening was getting worse.

Connor Simpson’s height was next into the fray, for Grainger. Thomas almost put O’Hare in and Gerrard had a blast deflected behind yet when Carlisle then produced some genuine imagination it remained quite out of keeping with their night.

Hope had decided to hide in plain sight, visible to everyone except Schofield as the forward lurked in the goalmouth. Notts’ keeper had the ball in hand at the edge of his box and the moment he rolled it forward, Hope sprinted back and stole it, completing the ambush by slotting into the empty net.

From nowhere, it was the chance of salvaging something. Thomas, who at least played with some purpose, was denied by Schofield at the near post, and the sub then whipped in a wicked attempt from the right which the keeper parried skyward. A Devitt cross was then glanced just wide and, when Schofield wasn’t taking endless time over goalkicks without any concern shown by ref Eddie Ilderton, United were suddenly piling it on.

Hope, though, wasted a good break by selfishly shooting instead of feeding Devitt and duly the night crumbled away. Collin came up for a late set-piece, Notts broke into the Blues’ half, Alessandra walked it home and United ended up with what they deserved, ground to make up again and fresh questions at their door after this sodden, miserable night.

United: Collin, Liddle, Grainger (Simpson 71), Parkes, Gerrard, Etuhu, Slater, Scougall (Thomas 56), O’Hare, Devitt, Hope. Not used: Gray, Miller, Kennedy, Jones, Grant.

Goal: Hope 76

Booked: Devitt

Notts County: Schofield, Duffy, Milsom, Stubbs, Rose, O’Brien, Doyle, Vaughan, Boldewijn (Bird 82), Alessandra, Hemmings. Not used: Fitzsimons, Tootle, Barclay, Gomis, Patching, Etete.

Goals: Hemmings 38, 66pen, Alessandra 90

Booked: Milsom, Hemmings, Rose

Ref: Eddie Ilderton

Crowd: 3,514 (151 Notts County fans)