Chris Beech insisted Carlisle United deserved praise for their draw at Oldham – even though the survival battle is now tighter.

The Blues are now just four points above the relegation place with fellow strugglers Stevenage thrashing Cambridge 4-0.

United’s 1-1 draw saw Beech’s side fail to take chances that could have boosted their safety hopes.

The head coach, though, preferred to compliment his side for their efforts in the wake of their draining FA Cup replay against Cardiff three days earlier.

He said: “We’ve just come to Oldham away, on the back of taking Championship Cardiff to the 12th round, and not been beaten. We deserve a little bit of credit.”

Byron Webster’s first Carlisle goal was cancelled out by a deflected Jonny Smith shot before half-time.

Top scorer Harry McKirdy missed good opportunities to win it, as Beech handed a first start to new defender Max Hunt and a substitute debut to loan striker Joshua Kayode, with Nick Anderton an unused sub.

Beech, who said he is getting closer to a fifth January signing, said he was frustrated not to have picked up a win, but happy with United’s endeavours at Boundary Park overall.

He said: “We’ve not been beaten, which I’m pleased about, and we scored a very good goal.

“It was a great second wave to the original set-play, Nathan [Thomas] picks Byron out, he heads the ball down, it’s a good goal.

“Their equaliser was quite easily avoidable, but of course we didn’t [avoid it]. In the second half we had some really good chances, especially off a couple of goalkeeper spills down to Harry McKirdy’s feet and some great play as well from Nathan.

“But considering the efforts from Wednesday, the recovery and trying to go full-tilt against this Oldham team that we’re trying to catch, I was very pleased overall.”

McKirdy, having scored four in his previous five games, had chances in both halves but the 11-goal man couldn’t be United’s hero this time.

Beech said: “A lot of chances fell at H’s feet, especially second half.

“In the first half he could have squared it, we had three players there but he decided to shoot.

“I said to the players at half-time, we’ve got to forgive him, he put the ball in the back of the net on Wednesday.

“I can’t make those decisions for him. In that last third he has to make the right one. If he takes the shot on – he did hit the target and worked the goalkeeper, but he needs to get it right.

“To get the real balance, I said, it would be nice to score one of those goals like Arsenal used to score, when you just square it and you’ve got an empty goal to put it in, but he didn’t do that.”

Kayode came on for Elliot Watt in the second half and Beech said the Rotherham teenager’s display was something to build on.

The head coach said: “It took him 10 minutes, but after those 10 minute she started playing those centre-halves, utilising his body.

“He’s got pace, and as a team we have to recognise and serve that pace.

“You can see he’s got a little bit about him. I’m looking forward to him being let off the leash.”

Beech also felt ex-Derby defender Hunt did well on his debut while he said it would not have been fair to throw Anderton straight in after just one training session with the squad, the left-back having also only recently returned from injury.

He will aim to build up his match-fitness when he figures against his former club Blackpool in Tuesday's Central League Cup away reserve game.

Jon Mellish missed out as he recovers from the facial injury he suffered in the Cardiff replay, while Jack Bridge was dropped from the squad along with Olufela Olomola.

On the latter, Beech said: "Fela travelled with us, it was a decision late as to who was gonna be on the bench.

"With [Kayode] on the bench and [Ryan] Lofty in an away game...Jack Iredale was unfortunate to lose his place, he played very well on Wednesday, but I felt we needed a bit more height in the defending elements."