Oldham Athletic 1 Carlisle United 1: A home side who may as well have inconsistency tattooed on their skin. An away side, for all their efforts, still unaccustomed to winning. There are going to be many more of these – energetic, fruitless draws – until this relegation battle breathes its last.

A point on the road is seldom a bad thing, and defeat at Boundary Park would have been wretched indeed. Victory, though, would have been extremely helpful, yet Carlisle could not move any further down the road to safety.

It is often psychological at this stage, when scrambling at the bottom of a division. The clarity Carlisle found in Cardiff’s box in two FA Cup games was alien to them when League Two tension returned. Harry McKirdy has finished well lately but was the opposite of clinical here, while Oldham, too, did not seem to know how to get their mitts on three points.

Stats can be bent, Chris Beech recently said, to fit an argument, but sometimes they tell cold truth. Oldham are winless in six in the league, United have one victory in 10 in the competition. These outfits are 18th and 21st in the fourth tier for good reason and expecting dramatic transformation at this stage is unrealistic.

Instead, it is a case of making the most of whatever sweat and skill one can apply in a world of shortcomings. Beech was entitled, to a point, to be happy with his side’s general endeavours, given their draining cup replay three days earlier, while he has new signings still to bed in (and hopefully more to acquire).

The awkward fact, though, is that things are getting itchier at the foot of the table. Stevenage’s 4-0 thrashing of Cambridge will ring a warning bell where nearby clubs like United are concerned.

If only the Blues could join them one of these weekends, and put a side away, this season could progress to a less stressful conclusion. Alas, Carlisle last held a two-goal lead over a league opponent in 2018/19. It means no cause is entirely secure, even when they go ahead in six-pointers like this.

Byron Webster’s first United goal capped an opportunistic spell, led by Nathan Thomas, but Carlisle do not have the ability to kick for home – and hence the Latics came back, aided by a deflection with their equaliser but, crucially in that attacking moment, still in the game.

Beech, naturally, remains in the market, still “spinning plates”. He hopes Joshua Kayode, a lively enough second-half sub here, and Nick Anderton, also on the bench, can somehow take his team up a notch. Max Hunt, who got the unfortunate touch to Jonny Smith’s scoring Oldham shot, must also build on a raw but wholehearted first appearance at centre-half in these post-Jarrad Branthwaite days.

This is also unfolding with a number of senior players out of favour. Moving one or two out from the unwanted does not appear an easy task. With 19 games to go the head coach and his colleagues must cut through the cluster of maybes and hope-sos, and find a clinical solution.

Initially, on Saturday, Carlisle absorbed a bright, hectic Oldham start and then built what seemed a useful lead. Dino Maamria’s team seemed a collection of different, conflicting ideas rather than a convincing whole. Their best players, such as the tricky winger Smith, were at times let down by risky and flawed passing from further back. Up front, debutant Danny Rowe was an early threat but he shot wide in the second minute and Carlisle, not looking entirely fresh, survived an offside goal from Desire Segbe Azankpo and further efforts from Christopher Missilou and Mohammad Maouche.

In midfield, Elliot Watt was below his previous standards, the hosts more urgent with their passing and movement, and up front United were unable to hold balls which lacked thought. Their best route, it turned out, was through pressing an iffy Oldham back line (on the floor, at least), and an inspired spell from Thomas changed the course.

First he pounced on a Carl Piergianni slip and forced a free-kick. Then, after two Watt deliveries, he revived an attack with a sharp exchange with Mike Jones and a cross which Webster, still forward, nodded precisely home.

It was just what United needed against a home crowd short of numbers due to a boycott against Oldham’s owner. Carlisle, though, could not safeguard it. Piergianni beat Collin to a free-kick but headed it wide, and when Maamria’s players realised Smith, on the right, was comfortably the best outlet going, the direction switched firmly back.

Carlisle could have made their response futile by then, but McKirdy twice passed up chances, the second time with a tame shot when others were better placed. The door left ajar, Oldham duly came forward and Smith picked up a piece of miscontrol from Gethin Jones and saw his hopeful effort fly into the net off Hunt.

The timing of this, shortly before half-time, was deflating, and Carlisle almost conceded again when Maouche ran onto an Aaron Hayden interception. After the break both sides had their spells but United couldn’t make the most of theirs, Hallam Hope chasing down all sorts of causes yet unable to attach a final touch.

The best of his efforts, a goalbound drive, was well saved by Zeus De la Paz. Thomas, against a defence that plainly did not enjoy the challenge of containing him, then embarked on a brilliant run, beating two and feinting past another, but McKirdy skied the shot. When the latter then headed over a friendly parry from De La Paz, it seemed clear United would not punish Oldham, and then it was a case of surviving things.

That they did, Oldham sub Mo Sylla engaging defenders, Hunt getting his head painfully in the way of a Rowe rocket, and another home replacement, Zak Dearnley poking a cross wide. A little more thud and blunder, and then it was full-time: another day at the shallow end of the Football League, another day of effort, flaws and the usual frustration. Onto the next one, as they say.

Oldham: De La Paz, Mills, Hamer, Piergianni, Wheater, Smith, Maouche, Missilou (Sylla 67), N'Guessan, Rowe, Azankpo (Wilson 30, Dearnley 72). Not used: Allen, Iacovitti, Nepomuceno, Branger-Engone.

Goal: Smith 41.

Booked: Azankpo.

United: Collin, Hayden, G Jones, Hunt, Webster, Watt (Kayode 53), M Jones, Scougall, McKirdy (Charters 86), Thomas (Loft 90), Hope. Not used: Gray, Iredale, Sagaf, Anderton.

Goal: Webster 24

Booked: Hayden

Ref: Rob Lewis.

Crowd: 3,977 (573 United fans)