Crawley Town 0 Carlisle United 0: With one last run, one last chance, Nathan Thomas dribbled in from the right and shot. The ball skimmed the wet surface and Crawley’s goalkeeper touched it past the post.

United had a corner, but the eye lingered on Thomas. The attacker was on his back, exhausted and disbelieving. He had, in the second half, emptied his cupboard, gone right through the repertoire, tried every trick, bent and turned and spun the blood of his left-back, Josh Doherty.

It came to nothing, and Thomas in that moment knew it was over. The first thing to do is probably to put ourselves in the boots of those on the pitch and credit them for putting on a decent show in such dreadful conditions. Storm Dennis lashed the People’s Pension Stadium, yet Crawley and Carlisle did not let it completely ransack the spectacle.

It is easy to sit in a stand, or a press box, and imagine that certain crosses are straightforward, that shots on goal are easy to defend or take. When the elements are so grim it is right to say that United’s clean sheet here was creditable, as was their dominance in the second half.

The ‘but’ to tack onto this was a rollover from the previous Tuesday against Cheltenham, since Carlisle could not score the goal their efforts demanded. Without their leading scorer and one of their new January strikers (Harry McKirdy and Joshua Kayode), they did not have the close-range devil that would have settled things.

Thomas, with his quick feet and intent from the right of United's forward line, was relentless in the creation of opportunities. Jon Mellish, in a notable midfield performance, came closest, denied on the line with one effort and inaccurate with other tries. Before the break, Lewis Alessandra also missed a great chance, and for all he and others have brought to United’s improvement lately, Carlisle’s blood was not cold enough here.

Crawley, it should be said, were no deadlier when presented with a couple of gifts, but Carlisle put on most of the pressure. In the shakedown they will probably take this point at a ground which hasn’t seen a home league defeat since November.

The Blues have also yet to lose at this place in the Football League, so perhaps we could all have saved ourselves the motorway spray and accepted it would be a draw. It was a challenging journey indeed in the latest gales and rain, and the 263 Cumbrians who made it to Sussex must be, like the rest of us, ready for a cup of tea and a home game now, hopefully in a calmer climate.

Mellish’s season, meanwhile, is also changeable. Tested in midfield in a friendly at Kendal, he was used in the same role here by Chris Beech: not in the holding position one expects of a centre-half stepping up, but asked to eat up ground and drive forward. That he did with enthusiasm, getting into some good attacking positions once he felt his way into things.

It’s an experiment worth repeating, at least, and one that took effect once Crawley’s early chances passed, the best of them driven against the post against his old club by Ashley Nadesan after he had caught Byron Webster unawares.

That sounded an immediate alarm and John Yems’ team tried to build on this, often using Reece Grego-Cox on the right. United’s defending from here, though, was firmer and gradually they settled into a better counter-attacking shape. Their first chance came to Mellish, flicked into space by Elliot Watt, but he smashed it over the bar.

Carlisle were now playing higher, working through the lines better. Thomas and Alessandra missed half-chances and better precision when Omari Patrick led other attacks would have helped. When Crawley came back, Nadesan prodded wide a wind-affected cross.

United were playing into the gust, and Adam Collin saved another effort from Panutche Camara. They ended the half better, though Alessandra was wasteful when a Glenn Morris save fell to his feet.

The first five minutes of the second half then seemed designed to punish Carlisle for this, but Crawley’s aim was also off – and Collin was alert. First, he saved from Nadesan when the striker got behind Webster again. Next the keeper denied Grego-Cox after Nadesan had won it from Aaron Hayden.

That, though, was not far off the sum total of Crawley’s threat, since Carlisle started recycling the ball better with the breeze at their backs. Thomas did well to serve Mellish, Morris saving, and he was fed time and again to burn past Doherty. When he had a shooting chance himself, though, he opted for a delicate pass, and one yearned for someone in blue to put their laces through the ball.

United’s shot count was, actually, high overall, but this was the one department without conviction. Collin saved from a scramble, and then Thomas was back down his familiar furrow, setting up Watt for a shot, testing Morris himself then, improbably, keeping the ball despite being on the floor, getting up to beat his man, and chucking over a cross which Crawley shovelled behind.

Alessandra was a short distance behind that one, and these were the margins that cost Carlisle when on top. Mellish had another attempt, there were more unsuccessful deliveries and dashes, yet for the frustration at the end of these it was, all in all, more entertaining than perhaps we were entitled to expect in the wind and the diagonal rain.

Crawley: Morris, Doherty, Tunnicliffe, Dacres-Cogley, Sendles-White, Grego-Cox, Francomb, Ferguson (Allarakhia 79), Camara (Lubala 59), Palmer, Nadesan. Not used: McGill, Bloomfield, Powell, Adebowale.

Booked: Tunnicliffe

United: Collin, G Jones, Anderton, Webster, Hayden, Mellish, M Jones (Charters 80), Watt, Thomas, Patrick, Alessandra (Scougall 87). Not used: Gray, Iredale, Bridge, Loft, Hunt.

Booked: Webster, Anderton, Hayden

Ref: David Rock.

Crowd: 2,114 (263)