Forest Green Rovers 2 Carlisle United 2: Chris Beech, upon being introduced to Carlisle United’s fans, said he wanted them to watch his team and think, ‘This is alright, this.’ An entertaining 2-2 draw against Forest Green was a decent first step on what is bound to be a long road back to regular enjoyment.

Breaching a defence which has kept seven home clean sheets, and then breaching it again, was a good first tick in the box for United’s new head coach. Conceding a couple of shabby goals less so, but this building wasn’t going to be completed in four days.

At the moment it is about putting in a few new tactical foundations and displaying enough smart judgement to get League Two’s fourth-bottom team into better shape. Beech did a few interesting things at the New Lawn and is clearly not a man who wants the excuse of a long run-up before making his mark.

Inserting Aaron Hayden into the back four, for instance, was a move seldom made by his predecessor, despite signing him. That was vindicated by a solid centre-half performance. Elsewhere, Beech asked different things of certain players, such as pushing Mike Jones into a much higher midfield position.

It had the effect of giving Forest Green a more awkward game than they might have expected from a team which has too often floundered in 2019/20. With Nathan Thomas also bursting into goalscoring life there was enough to take home from Nailsworth before Beech’s first week in charge begins today, and then ends with a league six-pointer at Morecambe.

That is where the pressure of a relegation battle will solidly return. In the meantime, Carlisle put their number in tonight’s FA Cup draw and will hope for a big third-round opponent to fight over when Mark Cooper’s side head north for next week’s replay.

There were spells on Saturday when United were under pressure, giving up possession and having to reach for the spade to dig themselves out of trouble. Adam Collin, whose mistake cost the first goal, pulled things around with a couple of good saves.

Sharper finishing from Forest Green, whose forwards were well served by Joseph Mills from the left, and the game might have gone down a different road. But United were also an inch or so from a third goal themselves and earned what they got at this small ground.

“I’m absolutely gutted we didn’t win that game for the supporters, because we were good enough,” Beech later said, at the end of a busy week which saw final interview, job offer, meetings with staff and media, training and then a trip to Gloucestershire without his best young centre-half (Jarrad Branthwaite, who was ill).

Beech, though, has been hired to solve problems and offered up a 4-1-2-3 system by way of putting extra bodies into Forest Green’s half, where Cooper’s side typically keep and work the ball patiently. The home side were quick to spot Mills’ ability to threaten on the left but it was on the other flank where they first doubled up to torment Carlisle.

Liam Shephard and Dom Bernard, interchanging and overlapping, found space behind United’s defence and the opening goal came from that side, when they gained space to cross and Gethin Jones’ clearance went airborne. Collin’s attempt to claim it resulted in a misjudgement that saw the ball hit the bar and then find Aaron Collins’ head at close range.

Beech had, then, his first view of United conceding avoidably, even though Collin is not normally the man at fault. There was more such pressure, Matty Stevens heading just wide and more difficulties as Cooper’s side passed and moved with confidence.

Beech acted in one respect by bringing Thomas to the left to help protect Jack Iredale behind him. Olufela Olomola put a shot wide but it was when Carlisle’s pressing became stronger and more balanced that they found a more persistent response. Canice Carroll grew into the game and Mike Jones should have done better from a Thomas cross.

After Collin bailed out Byron Webster – saving from Shephard after the centre-half missed the ball – Carlisle rebuilt and scored. Iredale stole the ball back at the very beginning of an attempted home break, and from there it was all about Thomas, who dribbled and chopped his way into space before cracking a right-footed shot past Jojo Wollacott.

This was the best of United and Thomas, who later cleared off the line when Forest Green, driven by the powerful midfield play of Ebou Adams, came back. Mills’ deliveries, often from set-pieces, needed to be kept at arm’s length and Carlisle’s best defensive plans were courtesy of their high press, the good work in front of the back four by Carroll, and Hayden’s meat-and-potatoes clearances.

Beech also got Thomas to track back plenty of times and it meant there was plenty of sweat shed and fewer serious chances. Stevens slashed one wide and then United, who had struggled to connect counter-attacks for a period, did so expertly on 76 minutes when Carroll drove forward convincingly, sent the ball on to Hallam Hope, and the sub crossed for Thomas to sweep it home.

Thoughts of a seriously eye-catching start for Beech were then, though, snuffed out when a Mike Jones foul (Beech felt it was not) led to a Mills free-kick and some imperfect defending before Stevens’ finish went in off Gethin Jones.

Carlisle’s vulnerability at deliveries is a long-standing matter but at least they saw off further danger, when Junior Mondal and Stevens failed to convert. A Stefan Scougall goal was chalked off because the ball had crept out of play and, after a late home flurry blew out, you had to recognise that United had fared better against one of their division’s top sides than we have normally seen this season.

“We couldn’t have asked for any more,” Beech said. All things considered, in a hectic and vital week, he was probably right.

Forest Green: Wollacott, Bernard (Grubb 85), Rawson, Kitching, Mills, Adams (Dawson 69), Winchester, Shephard, Aitchison (Mondal 65), Collins, Stevens. Not used: Thomas, Taylor, McGinley, Morton.

Goals: Collins 10, Stevens 77

Booked: Adams

United: Collin, G Jones, Iredale (Mellish 83), Webster, Hayden, M Jones, Carroll, Scougall, Thomas, Olomola (McKirdy 75), Loft (Hope 58). Not used: Gray, Bridge, Knight-Percival, Sagaf.

Goals: Thomas 41, 76

Booked: G Jones, Webster, Thomas

Ref: Trevor Kettle.

Crowd: 1,504 (228 Carlisle fans)