Steven Pressley says Carlisle United have been trying to toughen Connor Simpson up for League Two battle – with the help of rugby equipment.

The Blues boss has only given the young Preston loan striker four sub outings since taking charge in January.

Some fans have called for the tall teenager to be given more opportunities as a tactical Plan B given United’s recent shortage of victories.

Pressley says that will happen if Simpson continues to benefit from work on the training ground, which has included some specific methods aimed at making him a more physical player.

“He’s a young kid that’s not had a lot of football. He’s come here and he’s raw,” Pressley said.

“He is a raw talent, but he’s a big, imposing guy.

“If people think we’re not doing any work with him, [or are neglecting] the kid…we actually got rugby pads in to work with him on his physical contact.

“Part of his game was that he didn’t use his size. He’s 6ft 5in but didn’t use that physical size.

“We’re doing exercises with him with physical pads, so he’s actually exposing himself to contact.

“We are working hard on the kid.

“He’s a young boy that is raw and, I agree, he might be able to contribute in some areas. But we are trying to make him better.”

Simpson was credited with United’s winner at Port Vale in late January, one of six sub appearances since his loan move that month.

The 19-year-old linked up with the Blues from North End prior to Pressley’s appointment, having earlier featured on loan for Hyde.

Pressley added: “In training [on Tuesday] I thought it was one of his best training sessions for using his body.

“I said to him during the session, ‘Now you’re finally using it’. Maybe the work’s beginning to come through.”

While United’s attacking options are being assessed ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Bury, Pressley has also called for more clean sheets.

It is 10 games since the Blues’ last shut-out and the manager, whose side are three points outside the play-off places, wants all his players to take more “responsibility” in not letting things slip at key moments.

“Our best statistical defensive performance of the season was at Colchester, but we still didn’t keep a clean sheet,” Pressley said. “We lost a goal from a corner.

“Forest Green was one of the top three defensive performances and we still didn’t keep a clean sheet.

“When we defend like that and give up few chances, we have to keep clean sheets. You don’t win football games [otherwise], and that has to start happening. I want to go into an analysis meeting on a Monday morning and say, ‘Well done, clean sheet’. I need to see that.

“It is about responsibility on those key moments. Players taking that on. That corner [at Tranmere when United conceded in the 45th minute] – we should be pointing at each other, cajoling each other, ensuring this doesn’t happen.

“That’s football. That’s what’s required.”

Pressley said it was not just United’s senior players who need to take charge in such situations.

He believes he is seeing plenty of “positive” work on the training ground but it needs to be consolidated by tighter work in certain situations.

“I’m asking more from the whole group,” he said. “I think young players can do it as well. The whole group have got to take responsibility in these moments.

“Don’t put that hard work that we’re doing to nothing, by letting yourself down on these details.”