There are times when being able to draw games is a sign of obduracy, determination and resolve in a struggling side. There are others when it helps to highlight exactly what is lacking.

Take Carlisle United in 2013/14. Of their last 11 games that season, only five were defeats, yet it remained a sharp fall towards relegation. It wasn’t that they were always losing; it was that they didn’t have a clue how to win.

Drawing wasn’t a problem for that United team under Graham Kavanagh – yet it was also a big problem indeed. In that spring run, they faced four fellow strugglers in a row. They lost to one (Notts County, heavily) and drew the other three 0-0.

Normally, a goalless draw at, say, Tranmere wouldn’t have been so bad. Take the point, go again, etc. Not, though, when you are trying to lever yourself out of a poor situation.

There were other times when United established the chance of winning but could not see it through. At home to mid-table Walsall, for instance, they took the lead but, unable to capitalise, buckled to a late equaliser. Between February and April 2014 the Cumbrians lost one in seven at Brunton Park. Much good it did.

The strain of the struggle crushed them in the end, and a major reason why they were doomed was because Kavanagh’s haphazard team, churned with sub-standard loanees, managed just one win from those last 11 fixtures, failing to convert five draws.

On certain Saturdays the difference between one point and three can seem microbe-sized; a deflection here, a cooler finish there. At this time of year, though, the gap can also be huge, and the tension that comes with trying to kick clear of danger is the defining factor.

Carlisle’s 1-1 draw at Oldham last weekend was accepted by some as a decent result. In one sense it was. In context, though, it gave no additional encouragement that United could make their run-in smoother. A lead was taken, lost and not regained, and it is why many simply filed it with their many other winless games, placing extra importance on this afternoon’s visit of Walsall.

You see this edginess elsewhere, too. Macclesfield’s draw with Crewe on Tuesday also had the stamp of a side in difficulty. Bright start, advantage claimed, but not, as victory loomed, the clarity of a second goal. Then, in the 95th minute, an equaliser.

That finale was reminiscent, if you do not mind a walk back into other dark periods, of United’s efforts to get safe in 2008/9. In that League One season, before the final day, Carlisle drew five games out of six, having taken the lead in all of them.

The anvil of pressure came down on them again and again, last-minute goals for Oldham and Swindon arriving with harsh predictability, and it all left Carlisle in need of victory against Millwall, and a favour from Leeds against Northampton, on the last day.

They got what they required, because their players at last showed the necessary nerve against visitors who had one eye on a safe play-off spot, but if United do not want the high risk of it coming down to the final 90 minutes this time they are going to need to find an ability to win more often, and sooner.

One more example: 1998/9. The mad glory of Jimmy Glass’s goal should not mask what was a dire Carlisle era and, a few honourable exceptions aside, a bad Blues side.

What did that team do, when challenged over many weeks to find enough wins to escape bother? They drew. Nine of their last 19 games, in fact, and four of the five that preceded Glass’ absurd intervention against Plymouth.

Those who experienced that struggle will remember how anxiety poisoned practically all their efforts. There was Darlington at home, two weeks before the end; a volatile 3-3 draw when United’s increased desperation for a win clanged against their incompetence.

You could not question the team’s spirit, which made them briefly harder to beat against sides with less to play for, but you could certainly question their poise – the same as the following week, when another draw at Hartlepool put United on the brink of oblivion, reliant on Glass’s one-in-a-million shot.

This might all feel like a long route to stating the obvious, but with 19 games to go it is a relevant topic when Carlisle, under Chris Beech, are losing less than under Steven Pressley, but not yet winning any more.

Their previous boss supplied nine defeats from 17 in the league, a 53 per cent losing ratio, something Beech, having inherited an under-performing squad, has trimmed to 37.5 per cent with three from eight.

Ideally, by April, we will be reflecting on this as the time when United strengthened their base before improving up front. Beech has plainly identified problem areas – left-back, midfield, attack, centre-half post-Jarrad Branthwaite – and now we will see if the solutions work.

If they do, United will add to Beech’s one league win and move reassuringly clear of non-league’s jaws. If not, they will remain a side you wouldn’t bet on too heavily to win if everything depended on it. And nobody, at this nervous stage, truly draws their way out of danger.