Steven Pressley said Carlisle United’s opening-day win was a tribute to the efforts they put in during a punishing pre-season.

The Blues boss said the 2-1 victory over Crawley came after his players put in the hard yards in the preceding weeks.

A hot day at Brunton Park saw the Cumbrians prevail through goals from debutant Harry McKirdy and Stefan Scougall.

The manager said the energy levels needed to win such a testing first fixture were put in place in pre-season when work included a gruelling day running up sand dunes at Lytham.

He said: “I said to them after the game that the hard yards and the sand dunes and the running they’ve done are all worth it when you can see a game out like we did, with the mentality we showed.

“The players deserve great credit because it was really hot out there. The conditions were difficult for both sets of players, but the most important thing in the first game of the season is the result, and thankfully we got that.”

McKirdy nodded Carlisle in front with Scougall restoring the lead after Bez Lubala’s Crawley equaliser.

United could have added more goals with Scougall denied a deflected second despite many Blues fans feeling the ball had crossed the line before keeper Glenn Morris got his hand to it.

Crawley had Lewis Young sent off at the death as Carlisle closed out their first opening-day league victory for nine years.

Delighted Pressley added: “There was a little bit of nervousness from both teams and it took us a little bit of time to settle, but I was pleased with the performance.

“I know there’s more fluency to us than we showed, and I know there are things we can do better, but one of the things that is key to any team having any success is the desire and togetherness, and I thought they were amazing in that.

“I thought the team managed the end of the game brilliantly – when the ball came in the box and we had to defend, we showed real desire.

“When we had to run the extra yards we showed that desire. I thought it was a really professional performance in the end.

“The most important thing was that we won and scored a couple of goals. It gives the supporters hope.

“We understand they’ve been nervous about the recruitment and the patience we’ve showed. Hopefully the performance gives them something to hang on to.

“But we have got so much work ahead of us, I know that.”

Pressley was pleased with the efforts of many of his debutants, with seven new faces in the starting line-up and four among the subs.

He is giving his players the first part of this week off after the initial six-week “cycle” of training since the end of the summer break, but said some, like Olufela Olomola and Nathan Thomas, had been given fitness programmes to help get them up to speed with the rest of the squad.

On the display, he added: “We got caught a little bit in the early stages because we went on the press with our front three, but Crawley were then going direct which meant we weren’t picking up second balls.

“Once we got the information on to our midfielders to sit in a little bit, we started to get to grips with the game a lot more. There will be teams who play more than Crawley did, and there will be times where our press is far more effective.

“Christie [Elliott] got a real test but I thought he came through it really well. He’s a modern-day defender and I thought he stood up to his task brilliantly. I also think I should mention Jon Mellish – I thought he really grew into the game. He had a nervy start but you have to remember this is his first experience of league football.

“He started with a bit of apprehension, but he grew into the game and gave a terrific performance, especially in the second half.”

Pressley said he felt Scougall’s second-half shot had crossed the line but admitted: “It’s hard to be absolutely sure.”

And on Young’s injury-time dismissal after a clash with United sub Jack Iredale, the manager said: “I didn’t see anything. There was obviously an altercation between Jack and him [Young] and thankfully Jack didn’t get too involved. With a squad the size of ours and the way we want to work, we can’t afford to have people sent off.”

Pressley will now turn his attention back to the transfer market after confirming he is still keen to land a long-term striker loan target from a Championship club.

He said that, despite many in the club having a few days off, it would not affect the recruitment efforts.

Pressley said: “I’ll still be in constant contact with David [Holdsworth, director of football] and that won’t change.

“I don’t know if there’ll be any action in the early part of the week, but you never know. It might go down to the wire in the Championship and Premier League before we get a definite answer.

“We’re going to be a little bit patient on this one. We know who we want and we’re hopeful we can get him, but we do have a couple of fall-backs. I hope we can do that business [this] week but, if we can’t, we’ll just have to stay patient.”

Pressley said the potential deal would depend on the club concerned bringing their own players in. Championship clubs have until Thursday’s deadline to make signings.

He said: “They’re selling, but they’re also recruiting, so they’re a club that has quite a bit of their own business to do, so we’re a little bit dependent on that.”