Port Vale 2 Carlisle United 1: Whatever new broom Carlisle United opt for, it is going to take the entire hardware shop to get rid of the problems which turned this game from something promising into something very familiar.

The Blues, under Steven Pressley, were often vulnerable to crosses and it was fanciful to think that two days of Gavin Skelton’s caretaker management would sweep that flaw away.

It was, though, still deflating indeed to watch the Blues turn a winning position into a losing one because of this recurring issue. The haphazard manner of Port Vale’s second goal in particular was painful to observe.

Byron Webster, it is well known, has not enjoyed a formidable first few months in United’s defence, but until the 83rd minute here the centre-half had looked largely secure. In the first half, he had headed umpteen crosses away and it was more like the sort of No5 performance Pressley had expected when signing him in the summer.

Then came James Gibbons’ cross, from generous right-wing space. Webster swung at it rashly, like an England middle-order batsman during one of those inexplicable Ashes collapses. It flew past his left boot, and Mark Cullen poached with his head.

And that was that. Another Carlisle venture, at the end of a turbulent week, and another defeat. The league table is looking set at this stage and the fact they are 20th, only five points above the relegation place, spells out the challenge for whoever takes charge.

The managerial decision, whenever it comes, will also arrive in a climate of further change – or at least the potential for it. Supporters awaiting kick-off at Vale Park were also chewing on revelations about an approach to the club by local business people and two former players.

One of them, Chris Lumsdon, was in the commentary seats here and the coming days, or weeks, should determine whether the proposal has legs, and what detail it contains. At the very least, it adds new intrigue to United goings-on, at a time things on the pitch need saving.

Skelton’s attempt to deliver a result here involved a 4-4-2 formation, an extremely early goal (Ryan Loft, after 21 seconds) and a toil of a first half which saw the Blues on the back foot but intact. If anything, they created more after the break but were also picked off twice by John Askey’s side.

There was always a reasonable chance it would be an ex-Carlisle player who would ruin their day, given the five in the Vale ranks. Cullen did not score for United in an injury-ruined loan spell last season but here snaffled the sort of goal that would certainly have benefited their play-off push in the spring.

Any penalty-box operator will always fancy the sort of opportunity that came his way via Webster’s air-clearance. Carlisle had failed to shut down the cross, failed to get it away and failed to prevent the Port Vale sub getting between defenders. David Worrall had earlier equalised from a similar route and this freedom to deliver from the flanks was perhaps a risk of United’s approach, with Harry McKirdy and Nathan Thomas not the most defensive of operators in wide positions.

Skelton, who received a good-luck hug from kitman Colin Nixon after the teams came out, opted for attack as the best form of defence in a formation that probably satisfied many supporters when they saw it. Nobody could have anticipated how quickly things would pay off but the caretaker must have wondered if fate was smiling at him when, immediately, Gethin Jones linked positively with Olufela Olomola and crossed low for Loft to slide the ball home.

This offered instant hope, and saw an urgent opening period unfold. Richie Bennett, one of Vale’s ex-Carlisle legions, tested Adam Collin on three minutes, and then McKirdy almost fashioned something downfield. Next, Jake Taylor hit the post from 25 yards and, by then, only six minutes had passed.

From there it was not quite so breathless, but patterns were forming. Vale’s involved examining United wide, through Worrall and David Amoo, and aiming crosses for Bennett. Half-chances followed, as did some sub-par final balls from Amoo, as young Jarrad Branthwaite engaged Bennett in the air.

Carlisle could no longer break beyond or behind Port Vale, who were dominating in United’s half, while the visitors’ occasional set-pieces were poorly delivered. Canice Carroll earned Skelton’s applause by winning a 50-50 and later somehow avoided censure when sliding in aggressively on Taylor. In the Carlisle box, Webster headed three deliveries away in quick succession and this came in a period when Vale were offering things in hope rather than expectation.

McKirdy was a greater presence for his ability to rile the home support than any danger with the ball. On half-time, he stayed down after a tackle then seemed to be barged back over by Cristian Montano. Martin Coy was not the most severe of referees and let this pass without serious attention.

A shame Carlisle took the same approach to Port Vale’s second-half crosses. Worrall’s goal came as United were pulled out of their defensive shape. Amoo then crossed for Gibbons to glance on, and Worrall sneaked in to score.

The old blemishes, back again. Skelton swapped Olomola for Jack Bridge, an extra midfield man, but it was sending Thomas to the left that regenerated United. Dribbling past Gibbons, he spanked a shot which keeper Scott Brown pushed over his near post. A while later, he teed up Loft, but the striker cleared the bar.

Carlisle not scoring from good positions is another issue which has not left town with Pressley. Duly they were punished again, and the details do not really bear repeating. Whatever good work they had attempted was now toast, and anyone who felt this would be a quick turnaround was reminded of the sour reality.

Port Vale: Brown, Gibbons, Legge, Smith, Taylor, Joyce, Burgess (Cullen 73), Montano, Amoo, Worrall (Browne 84), Bennett (Pope 57). Not used: Maddison, Evans, Brisley, Lloyd.

Goals: Worrall 60, Cullen 83

Booked: Montano

Carlisle United: Collin, G Jones, Iredale, Webster, Branthwaite, M Jones, Carroll (Sorensen 87), McKirdy, Thomas, Olomola (Bridge 64), Loft. Not used: Gray, Elliott, Mellish, Hayden, Knight-Percival.

Goal: Loft 1

Booked: Carroll, Loft

Ref: Martin Coy

Crowd: 4,783 (343 Carlisle fans)