Carlisle Utd 2 Crawley Town 1: For all the talk of high-energy, high-pressing and whatever other tactical plans Steven Pressley has up his sleeve, it was a moment of old-school brutality that won this game for Carlisle.

In stature Stefan Scougall may not appear the most powerful of players. He did, though, strike the afternoon’s most powerful shot. A good thing he did, too.

The crossbar did its best to get in the way. Supporters were about to curse that length of metal as Crawley’s 12th man. Carlisle’s smallest player, though, had applied enough velocity so that the ball crashed down, back up again and finally caressed the ceiling of Glenn Morris’s net.

Scougall was a rarity in this United side, in that he was still there from last season. He is also one of a cluster of No10s eager to take on the creative mantle in 2019/20.

This was a more industrious performance – it had to be, such was the exhausting nature of the game and Scougall’s role in a more orthodox midfield position. He will, though, be pleased to have kicked things off well in an attacking sense, as did Carlisle generally speaking.

This much-changed side laid on a traditionally stressful Brunton Park spectacle but good things were visible. These included Harry McKirdy’s pace and purpose with the ball and Nathan Thomas’s ability to elude his full-back while, at the other end, Adam Collin – the new captain – was his reliable self in goal.

There is much more to learn, more substantial tests ahead. This is not, as we know, a side assembled through heavy spending and laced with sure things.

It instead depends on some young and willing players emerging from the shell of inexperience. In this sense, McKirdy looks desperate to put potential behind him. United were at their best when he and Thomas, either side of Olufela Olomola, received the ball beyond Crawley’s midfield press and advanced.

These features, as well as Carlisle’s goals, curiously emerged at a time when Crawley were also at their most dangerous. The visitors built their way into several good positions in the first half and seemed equipped to torment a nervous defence.

They should have scored before United did, and would have had more goals with better shooting purpose. The second half, though, was a different matter and United could have extended their lead before the end (one shot that seemed to cross the line was not given – no goalline technology at these humble levels). Not that Pressley was of a mind to quibble with a first opening-day league win since 2010. “I didn’t know that,” he smiled. “I like these statistics.”

Another significant fact was the number of debutants in Carlisle’s team: seven. Four more newbies were on the bench and the gelling process may take time. Wins like this, then, can go straight in the bank.

It was clear from an early stage that this first-day spectacle was going to be taxing in certain ways. After five minutes Byron Webster miscontrolled a pass and fouled his man. Seconds later Crawley’s Panutche Camara was bustling onto a rebound and clean through.

The perfect chance for the worst possible start. Camara shot wide.

Reprieved, Carlisle then scored. Thomas took on his man and whipped a shot which startled keeper Morris into an airborne parry. McKirdy met it with his head and it dropped over the line.

This early salvo, and both sides’ lack of instant polish, made for an open game. Crawley passed and pressed into Carlisle’s half, looking for spaces between defence and midfield. Bez Lubala gave Christie Elliott a rough start at right-back and, though the equaliser came only 10 minutes after United had scored, it had been coming. Lubala got the better of Elliott in the left of the box and beat Collin with a low, angled finish.

Game on. Season still warming up. Thomas and the overlapping Jon Mellish, the latter emerging from an anxious opening, sought a change of direction. A few Carlisle attacks broke down through miscommunication and Collin pushed away a useful David Sesay cross.

Then, out of this hectic fayre, Scougall’s goal, after ref James Oldham had played a good advantage. Thomas had Lewis Young for his afternoon snack and Scougall battered home Morris’s save.

United ended the half in more reassuring shape, Thomas very close with an ambitious curler, their building from the back finding better poise. After the break Crawley sent on the right-sided runner Reece Grego-Cox for Dannie Bulman but Mellish by now had his timing in order.

Neither side could tune up further in front of goal. Olomola almost put Thomas in, and a McKirdy shot ricocheted close. Crawley’s Lubala was now fading and their other efforts saw Filipe Morais shoot wide and Collin reel off a fine double save from Camara and Palmer.

There was also work for the officials to do. United’s change of approach involved sub Ryan Loft engaging Crawley’s centre-halves aerially. The Leicester loanee won a string of free-kicks and was up for the physical challenge.

A third goal should have followed, and technically did if you believe supporters who felt Morris had not recovered quickly enough to claw Scougall’s deflected shot to safety. McKirdy and Mellish failed to render the goalline debate irrelevant from the resulting chaos and this kept Crawley interested.

Apart from a Nathan Ferguson header they couldn’t seriously put Carlisle’s nerves to the test - Webster dealing solidly with aerial tests and Nathaniel Knight-Percival’s reading of danger on the mark - and, in added time, sub Jack Iredale (a left-back on the attacking right) felt a heavy aerial challenge from Young and then drew a tetchy reaction from the Crawley man.

The red card came out and, after Young had stalked off, full-time saw Pressley striding across the pitch pumping his fist, grateful his players had shed so much sweat on this warm day, a happy feeling after the first eventful, tiring but successful show of a long season.

United: Collin, Elliott, Mellish, Webster, Knight-Percival, Jones, Scougall, Bridge, McKirdy (Carroll 75), Thomas (Iredale 80), Olomola (Loft 64). Not used: Gray, Hayden, Galloway, Branthwaite.

Goals: McKirdy 6, Scougall 32

Booked: Webster, Loft

Crawley: Morris, Young, Dallison, Tunnicliffe, Ferguson, Sesay, Bulman (Grego-Cox 46), Morais, Camara, Lubala (Nathaniel-George 66), Palmer (Bloomfield 63). Not used: Luyambula, Galach, Payne, Doherty.

Goal: Lubala 16

Booked: Camara, Sesay, Cioffi. Sent off: Young

Ref: James Oldham

Crowd: 4,833 (81 Crawley fans)