Dulwich Hamlet 1 Carlisle United 4: All that matters is that Carlisle United are in the FA Cup second round this morning. The rest is colour and cameras and romance and tin-foil trophies and all the other things that can be wiped out by an outbreak of clinical finishing.

This was not always an easy evening but, where it mattered, the Blues did comfortably enough. Two tidy goals from close range were followed by an excellent one from further out and then a late clincher, and while Dulwich Hamlet certainly caused Steven Pressley’s side some discomfort – as did United themselves, at times – the job was, in the end, done.

In order to make these nights truly dramatic for the minnows, neutrals and television viewers, certain periods in the game have to go a certain way. Instead, Dulwich could not score when at their blustering best and, when they did get a glimmer, through Christian Smith’s header, United dismissed thoughts of a fightback just five minutes later.

Mike Jones’ goal, Carlisle’s third, was the best moment of the tie. The midfielder’s third United strike – all in different competitions, all from outside the box – was amply his most impressive.

Whatever the gap between opponents, his 30-yard hit was worth winning any game and, here, it made the last 35 minutes less stressful than they might have been. It also tipped a further £36,000 into United’s account and put them 90 minutes away from a possible third round bonanza.

That would be extremely welcome in Brunton Park’s corridors in a season which is testing the patience of supporters. At least an embarrassing cup night was not added to the concerns doing the rounds, Olufela Olomola and Harry McKirdy scoring in the first half before Smith and Jones faced off afterwards and McKirdy then made things entirely safe with another.

It also prevented Pressley’s selection decision, which saw Byron Webster in and Mo Sagaf out, reaching the forefront of the post-match arguments. Webster had his fair share of iffy moments here and that debate will not ease even though United won.

Pre-match rain greased the Champion Hill pitch as the TV floodlights aimed their bright glare down onto the Blues. Dulwich’s fans, in the build-up, streamed into the ground for an occasion which must have felt special after their club’s recent history of severe off-field worry.

Some of their fans waved pink and blue balloons in front of a tapestry of banners. One chap brought his dog. The excitement then nearly became greater when, in the seventh minute, Webster dithered on the ball and Carlisle needed Jarrad Branthwaite to deflect Ade Yussuf’s shot wide.

It did not feel like the foundation for a United goal but the Blues, in a 3-4-3 formation, were decisive in how they broke when Dulwich’s corner was cleared. McKirdy had space on the counter-attack and after beating his man, he served Olomola to volley home.

Nerves settled? United at ease? Come on, now. As things unfolded one felt glad Carlisle had smuggled that early opener, since some of their play afterwards was shoddy in the extreme. Their ball-retention was poor and Dulwich were sharp onto second balls, winning scraps from an under-staffed central midfield and bothering Pressley’s back line into regular mistakes.

McKirdy went down, theatrically, holding his face after a tangle with Danny Mills, earning a night of booing from the south London faithful. Dulwich got the free-kick then and sent that, and other set-pieces, into the box, where big Mills was an obvious aerial threat. Smith whipped a free-kick over and United were barely able to stop the non-league side coming onto them.

Whatever Carlisle’s strategy was at this point – presumably to feed their attacking runners in channel space, on the counter – it was being concealed by some very ordinary execution. More Dulwich pressure saw Marvin McCoy clip the top of the crossbar with a shot from the right and while United were doing enough to deny the hosts serious chances, once again you did not feel a second goal was coming.

Yet it was, and while it may have felt ill-deserved to those watching, you could not, at least, argue with its clinical creation, Gethin Jones providing the drive on the right, McKirdy finishing neatly at the near post.

Even then, it was not the end of Dulwich’s pressure but Carlisle did enough to survive it, Jeffrey Monakana seeing a shot deflected wide and a couple of avoidable corners kept from danger.

The second 45 minutes had to be about capable game-management and destroying any lingering threat of an upset. About drawing the last of the energy out of Dulwich’s legs.

So United went and conceded four minutes after the restart. Jon Mellish gave away the free-kick on the right and there was no stopping Smith as he got up to power Monakana’s delivery past Adam Collin.

Game on. Moments later, Webster clumsily fouled and Ben Chapman curled a free-kick narrowly wide. United needed another release valve. Mike Jones may not have been the obvious candidate to provide it, given his meagre goalscoring record, but there was great style in the way the midfielder cut into space and sent his shot into the top corner.

It was enough, this time. Jones nearly hit another, just to make sure, this time clearing the bar, before Sagaf replaced the sub-par Nathan Thomas to add some midfield grit - and, as United attacked with a touch more comfort, there was finally the sense that Dulwich’s brief sting had been removed. Mills remained a target but Carlisle's defenders mostly kept him, and his fellow attackers, away from scoring positions.

There could have been more Carlisle goals quickly, Branthwaite and Webster in the mix at a free-kick (the latter missing a sitter), and McKirdy denied by a Charlie Grainger save after spinning past his man. Dulwich tried some more, sub Nyren Clunis firing over the bar, before McKirdy - the tie’s most dangerous player – made it safe four minutes from time, running onto Sagaf’s pass down the left and finishing well.

Dulwich had the story, the dream, the TV attention and no little ambition. But Carlisle had the goals.

Dulwich Hamlet: Grainger, McCoy, N Smith, Dempsey, Orlu (Hunte 84), C Smith, Chapman, Vose, Mills, Monakana (Clunis 66), Yussuf (Akinyemi 66). Not used: Edwards, Connors, Ijaha, Taylor.

United: Collin, Branthwaite, Webster, Mellish, G Jones, Iredale, M Jones, Bridge (Carroll 84), McKirdy, Thomas (Sagaf 56), Olomola (Loft 80). Not used: Gray, Hope, Knight-Percival, Sorensen.

Ref: James Oldham.

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