Aaron Hayden has boosted his chances of stepping up to the Carlisle United side with an eye-catching reserve display, says coach Nathan Rooney.

The centre-half scored twice and helped keep a clean sheet in yesterday’s 4-0 win at Morecambe.

His display comes at a time the Blues’ defensive line-up remains under the microscope after Byron Webster’s error for Port Vale’s winner last weekend.

Former Wolves man Hayden, 22, has not yet made a league appearance since joining Carlisle in the summer, but has put himself in the picture in the battle for centre-half places along with Webster, Jarrad Branthwaite, Jon Mellish and Nathaniel Knight-Percival.

Rooney said: “We’re not governed to start or not to start any particular player. They’ve got to catch the eye week in week out, it can’t just be now and again.

“Aaron has caught the eye with his enthusiasm, his energy and his love for the game.

“He’s a big centre-half, perfect for our division. Let’s see if that’s gonna be required.”

Hayden scored twice in the first half of yesterday’s Central League Cup game, either side of a goal from fit-again midfielder Stefan Scougall. Elias Sorensen added another after the break in a comfortable victory.

Rooney took charge along with academy boss Eric Kinder, with caretaker manager Gavin Skelton watching from the stand at the Globe Arena.

Skelton will remain in temporary charge for this weekend’s League Two game against Cambridge with Rooney next in command.

On Hayden, Rooney added: “He’s a great lad. I think Aaron plays football the way he lives his life – he’s humble, a strong boy who gets out there and works day in, day out.

“The afternoon sessions we do aren’t a problem to him. He’s maximising his opportunity. He’s just got to continue to do that and grow within himself.”

Scougall completed an hour of the game on his return from injury and Rooney said he hoped the Scot was now closer to a first-team return.

“It was brilliant [to see him back] – it was the same tempo from him, dribbling, driving, getting past players,” the coach said.

“It’s been a long road for him but let’s hope we can actually push on for the second part of the season and players like him can help us get over the line.

“He definitely could be in contention [for the weekend]. The 60 minutes is what we do – you never want to overrule the medical side.

“He’ll be in training on Thursday and it’s up to him now to put himself in contention.”

Rooney said United’s display in Lancashire had given him and Skelton food for thought ahead of the Cambridge game.

“We are always plugging ideas, that’s what we’ve both got to do,” he said. “We’ll challenge each other, and make sure we get the team out at the weekend that will roll their sleeves up and look to get the job done.

“There were players out there [yesterday] who will make that decision a bit harder for us.”

United included Scougall, Knight-Percival, Hayden, Sorensen, Louis Gray and Christie Elliott from the senior ranks, with youth team players Charlie Birch, Taylor Charters, Jamie Armstrong, Liam Lightfoot and Lewis Bell also starting.

They prevailed against a Morecambe side that included plenty of experience in the likes of ex-Carlisle striker Shaun Miller and veterans Kevin Ellison and Barry Roche.

Rooney said: “We know what reserve team football’s about – sometimes it’s about minutes, or an opportunity.

“We said to the boys to go and maximise the opportunity and get yourselves in the plans.

“I know the game was a bit flat after 60 minutes but attitude-wise the majority were there, and that’s all you can ask of these boys in these games.

“Everybody stepped on the pitch in the right manner. You know what it’s like when things aren’t in a good place – the lads have to do it for themselves.

“If they’re maximising their opportunities, nobody can ask any more of them. So in the long run they’ve put themselves in the right place again.”

Newcastle loan striker Sorensen appeared to be enduring another frustrating afternoon until he finally scored in the 76th minute.

Rooney added: “We’ve got a lot of young players, not just in the youth set-up but the loans as well, and sometimes they need a bit of a kick.

“Elias had two chances in the first half which [when you miss them] you’re bound to drop in your effort levels at times, but he’s got through it and got his reward.”