Swindon Town 3 Carlisle United 2: The heavy gusts at the County Ground also blew a sense of reality into this fledgling Carlisle United season. This was not the way to set about trying to beat a side with pace to burn and offering danger from several angles.

Steven Pressley said Carlisle were below the necessary level in terms of possession. They donated too much ball to a coiled spring of a Swindon team. Perfectly true. To add to that list: lightweight at key times in the middle, and rather sluggish at certain moments at the back.

Defeat by the odd goal in five does not look on paper like a gulf existed between these sides. The truth, though, is that Richie Wellens’ team were by far the most threatening. United showed flashes of what they could do when attacking down the sides but it did not happen often enough and nobody could dispute the outcome.

There is a debate over Canice Carroll’s red card, which was shown just 24 minutes into a substitute appearance designed to give Carlisle a little extra heft. First impressions of the incident were not good and while replays reflect the fuller nature of the 50-50 situation, the midfielder still surely put himself at too much risk by going in as he did on Jordan Lyden.

Little else, though, lends itself to argument as United sift through the rest of this first defeat of 2019/20. The result was a clear enough risk in a goalless first half spent on the defensive, then became a reality when Carlisle failed to seal off their advantage earned by Olufela Olomola’s goal.

“At no stage did we have control of the game,” Pressley said, and this aspect cost the Blues when Swindon eventually located the net: first through a scrambled equaliser from Jerry Yates, then – more damagingly – a routine set-piece headed in by Zeki Fryers. Kaiyne Woolery’s clincher came as United were pushing for parity and Mo Sagaf’s poached consolation was just that.

Swindon’s second was where the red light should flash brightest. United failed to keep track of left-back Fryers as he met Michael Doughty’s corner. There was talk of improving Carlisle’s set-piece threat in the summer but this was not a good reflection at the other end.

In general, there was not enough of their good (Harry McKirdy and Nathan Thomas’s breaks down left and right) and too much of the bad. Their midfield was short of authority and at the back there were tremors. Jon Mellish found it hard going at left-back before succumbing to cramp, and Byron Webster was less imposing than a centre-half of his experience would wish to be.

On other occasions Swindon were sharp onto opportunities and forced the issue. Adam Collin, who made some good saves, also diagnosed a “naivete” in what his outfield colleagues did, and if this is to be expected of a side that is green in places, this XI certainly lacked a little old-school game management.

It was not particularly down to the lack of a striker which remains a void to be filled. Olomola got off the mark and did his best in an often isolated task. United’s problems were further back and, through the first half, they had to mask them with some backs-to-wall defending. Swindon started on their toes, forced a string of corners and hit the crossbar through Doughty’s curling attempt.

The hosts spread play, looking for Lloyd Isgrove’s speed on the right and Woolery against Christie Elliott on the other side, and while Jack Bridge made a couple of forays, once denied by Luke McCormick after a useful link with Thomas, United were otherwise unable to connect midfield with attack.

Swindon kept on. Keshi Anderson wasted a gift of a header and then Yates warmed up, evading Webster to shoot over before Collin denied Anderson, Woolery and Yates. Many of these chances arose from Carlisle being sloppy or outmuscled in the middle. A strong wind had also been at Swindon’s backs but the idea of that as the heaviest factor was exposed once the second-half goal fest went in the hosts’ favour.

United surprised by scoring the opener, which owed everything to McKirdy. He brilliantly powered to the byline, away from a host of red shirts, and Olomola arrived to tuck his cross home.

This saw Pressley shelve a plan to bring on Carroll and Ryan Loft in search of that elusive “control”, but once Swindon had levelled – an Isgrove break, a scramble and a final stab from Yates – he made the change anyway. McKirdy and Olomola were withdrawn and one wonders if these were the exact areas which were costing the Blues.

In a more defensive-looking shape, Carroll fouled Isgrove and Doughty clipped the free-kick over. Swindon had surrendered none of their momentum and Anderson then skinned Elliott and shot narrowly wide.

The pressure was, alas, overwhelming, Carlisle coughing up the ball again on 70 minutes and Doughty’s second corner finding Fryers’ head after he got free of his marker, the smaller Stefan Scougall. After Collin had then bailed out Webster by saving from Woolery, Carroll’s afternoon was cut short.

The midfielder had been affronted by a challenge a while before the ball broke between him and Lyden; his lunge into the tackle was too tasty for ref Nick Kinseley’s liking, who cut through a swarm of angry Swindon players with a red card Pressley felt had been brandished too quickly, before the official had “taken stock” of the situation.

Swindon then took United’s measure a third time, countering through Woolery, who finished clinically. It was pleasing to see Sagaf, who had replaced Scougall for a late debut, turn home a Thomas cross 10 minutes into his Carlisle career, but that came too late to change a pattern of events which was by now established, and which United need to affect much better to avoid being blown over like this in future.

Swindon: McCormick, Hunt, Fryers, Conroy, Baudry, Lyden, Doughty, Isgrove (Twine 94), Woolery, Anderson, Yates. Not used: Henry, Reid, May, McGlashan, Ballard, Curran.

Goals: Yates 57, Fryers 70, Woolery 90

Booked: Doughty, Wellens

United: Collin, Elliott, Mellish, Webster, Knight-Percival, Jones, Bridge, Scougall (Sagaf 79), McKirdy (Carroll 59), Thomas, Olomola (Loft 59). Not used: Gray, Iredale, Hayden, Branthwaite.

Goals: Olomola 51, Sagaf 90

Sent off: Carroll

Ref: Nick Kinseley

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