Steven Pressley hailed “devastating” Harry McKirdy after his matchwinning efforts for Carlisle United at Stevenage.

The former Aston Villa man was United’s star in their 3-2 victory, scoring twice and setting up another.

McKirdy took his goals tally to four when he struck the late winner that eased pressure at Brunton Park and took the Blues up to 15th in League Two.

It was the perfect way to cap his recall to the side and manager Pressley said: “He’s a devastating young player when he’s at it.

“When you look at McKirdy you always think something’s going to happen.

“I’m really pleased for him. He was disappointed that he didn’t play the previous week, and when I speak to him he’s always stressing how disappointed he is, and I like that.

“But it’s important not to show your disappointment on the pitch or in training – show me you should play. He did that here.”

McKirdy fired United level after Kurtis Guthrie’s opener, then set up Nathan Thomas before Guthrie made it 2-2.

He scored the winner in the 83rd minute as Pressley got the better of winless Stevenage and their caretaker boss Mark Sampson.

Carlisle’s manager admitted there are still flaws in his side, particularly with the goals they are conceding.

But he was pleased with the character they showed to record a second successive away win.

He said: “It was a really important game for us – I think if we hadn’t won, there would have been daylight between us and the top seven clubs.

“I thought we acquitted ourselves really well. We were devastating on the counter-attack, and we played a lot of controlled football – much more than recent weeks.

“The disappointment again is we lose two defendable moments, but to come away from home and win the game is a really important aspect.

“We went 1-0 down, continued to play our football, got ourselves back and after getting in front, to get pegged back as quickly as we were can be quite demoralising, but the group responded really well. It was a great finish in the third goal from McKirdy.

“The real disappointment last week wasn’t only the loss to the top of the table team [Exeter], it was the manner of the loss. It was important we responded in the correct manner and the players certainly did that.”

Pressley switched to a 3-4-3 system in Hertfordshire, including new defender Gethin Jones on the right of his back three.

On the new formation, he added: “I felt that from a defensive perspective we were giving up too many crosses, and I wanted to get greater pressure in the wide areas.

“When you have the additional player in there, in the deeper position, we can get extra pressure to the ball.

“Also, in possession, it gives us greater width, and it’s a really effective counter-attack shape.

“We have clear principles that we play to and the 3-4-3 doesn’t deviate a great deal from that. It allowed us to make the transition from that without too much change.”

Pressley was pleased with the contribution of former Fleetwood man Jones on his debut.

He confirmed that United had made extra funds available to sign the free agent on a deal until January.

The Carlisle boss said: “He was very calm, and the big thing was he gave us mobility down the sides.

“When you play with a three at the back, quite a number of clubs play with two bigger full-backs in those areas; it’s a good way to play.

“I thought he did terrifically, gave a really assured performance and was very controlled in possession.

“It had always been in my mind at times to play with three at the back in that system. Not regularly but being able to flip between two systems.

“I think Gethin coming in gives us that flexibility. I’m really pleased.”