Rochdale 2 Carlisle United 1: It would not take an analyst long to figure out what is costing Carlisle United right now. Steven Pressley did not get the money-spinning path to the third round that would have gained him that extra staff member last night, but even the layman can see the current faults.

They are too brittle, too friendly, at the back. In four consecutive first halves they have conceded twice and too much of what they are attempting from minute 46 onwards is about deficit reduction.

This is the frustration as Carlisle exit the League Cup for another year. The moment Steven Pressley made his substitutions last night, United were a different team. Harry McKirdy in particular made this a vibrant tie again and the shame is that they were 2-0 down when their best work was being made.

McKirdy won one penalty, which Jack Bridge converted, and would have gained another had strong handball appeals been successful. As the second half went on their pressure became relentless and had Rochdale in a state of deep anxiety. Had things gone on much longer they might well have levelled things and forced penalties.

Gallant defeat it was, though, with a few injury worries for good measure, and once the bravery of their later efforts has been acknowledged they must get back to work on the rearguard problem which is showing no sign of going away in these early weeks of 2019/20.

The first goal they conceded, to Aaron Morley, was at least a fine strike; the second, though, too easily gifted, via a Byron Webster header which Matt Done gobbled up. That set the tone and, ultimately, Carlisle could not quite change it enough.

Pressley’s pre-match talk of “fatigue” proved a body-swerve for anyone thinking the cup would bring rotation. Despite Saturday’s exertions against Salford, the same XI were sent out here in the hope they could be slick at the Crown Oil Arena.

Both sides had a preference for building from the back and this drew some early mistakes. One almost came from home keeper Robert Sanchez, but he rescued his own heavy touch before Hallam Hope could pounce. Jack Iredale was positive down the left while United also tracked back well.

They needed to when Rochdale began working their way more positively through the lines, also stretching play with frontman Calvin Andrew peeling to the left. Carlisle contained most of this invention but had no answer to the opening goal: a peach of a hit from Morley from about 30 yards after the midfielder was fed from the left.

There was no stopping that, and there were other occasions when United had to rein in Rochdale’s mobility, Done shooting wide after Callum Camps had broken into the box. The hosts, though, were not particularly venomous in their work around the 18-yard box and Carlisle had decent intent about their reply, with Mike Jones setting a constructive tone in midfield and Nathan Thomas receiving a few opportunities down the right.

Pressley’s team worked the ball well in the middle part of the half and should have equalised when Christie Elliott was alert to Hallam Hope’s run. He fed the ball forward, the striker was onside, but instead of some quick conviction Hope allowed a defender to save Rochdale with a tackle.

They were ruthlessly punished for this a few minutes later and it is hard not to focus once more on the holes in United’s back line. Webster’s header to his left only found Done in space and he cruised clear to score.

This was a leg-up they could hardly afford to offer to a League One side – and the latest sub-standard contribution, it must be said, from the experienced Webster. It had the effect of sucking dramatic tension from this tie and there was little in shots from Hope and Thomas that offered hope of reviving it before the break. Carlisle forced a few set-pieces from a sometimes stretched home defence but these were also tame.

Rochdale threatened to kill the tie stone dead before Pressley made his changes after the break. Morley and Stephen Dooley went close before an injury to Jones saw Canice Carroll introduced. A second substitution, McKirdy for Hope, seemed to bring about a few cheers from the away seats when the latter’s number went up.

The alterations enlivened United. At last they set about fashioning the chances that might salvage something. McKirdy sped past his man from the left but rifled high over the bar. Elias Sorensen, on for Olomola, got a chance down the middle but the next opportunity was for a Rochdale replacement, Ollie Rathbone, whose rifled shot was blocked.

Then, though, hope. With McKirdy there is always the prospect of something out of the blue and his run that led to United’s penalty was inspired. He was brought down by Eoghan O’Connell with the target in sight and Bridge sent the penalty down the middle.

Carlisle’s arrears were reduced, but so were their numbers, Stefan Scougall going off for treatment in a period when more United players were in the wars (McKirdy and Webster). With all their subs already used, and Scougall unable to reappear, could 10 men limp further back into this contest?

Almost, via another penalty, but this time ref Peter Wright did not blow his whistle when McKirdy’s cross appeared to strike a Rochdale arm. This brought about furious Carlisle appeals, and came after Sorensen had been denied by Sanchez and suddenly there was a much more urgent feel about the tie, with United on the attack.

As well as a competitive bite, Carroll was showing a good range of passing, and from one good ball to Thomas, the overlapping Elliott’s cross was deflected over. United, boosted by their subs, were giving the door a heavy old rap and Dale looked much more stressful.

There were balls forward aplenty, raids from left, right and centre and, amid this gung-ho finish, one glorious opening for Sorensen which Sanchez saved, but Rochdale went through and, however gutsy Carlisle's efforts felt by this point, the reasons for their departure were found much earlier in the evening - and, sadly, are nothing new.

Rochdale: Sanchez, Matheson, Magloire, Keohane, O'Connell, Ryan (Pyke 63), Morley, Dooley (Rathbone 67), Camps, Done (McLaughlin 86), Andrew. Not used: Lynch, Norrington-Davies, Delaney, Henderson.

Goals: Morley 11, Done 31

Booked: Camps, O’Connell, Keohane

United: Collin, Elliott, Iredale, Webster, Knight-Percival, Jones (Carroll 53), Bridge, Scougall, Hope (McKirdy 53), Thomas, Olomola (Sorensen 63). Not used: Gray, Mellish, Branthwaite, Loft.

Goal: Bridge 71pen

Ref: Peter Wright

Crowd: 1,974 (436 Carlisle fans)