For all the stick players today receive, and for the flak one or two at Carlisle have taken this season, we have not quite reached the levels of 1990/1 at Brunton Park, when there was one man in particular who would be booed when he touched the ball, and even at times when he scored.

The unhappy era of Eric Gates in a blue shirt is not fondly recalled and the fact we are approaching the 30th anniversary of his signing reminds us of something else: that recruiting strikers, even those you imagine as a sure thing, is rarely a precise art.

Carlisle felt they could bank on Gates when they committed close-season funds to the 35-year-old former England forward. “It’s experience that counts,” said manager Clive Middlemass – yet all it counted for, when Gates’ performance and effort levels were deemed unacceptably low bearing in mind his reputation, was increasing bitterness in those paying to watch him (listen to the crowd, for example, 1 min 47secs in to this).

Eight goals in an underwhelming season were not sufficient to justify the faith and it goes to show that, occasionally, the moves felt to be reliable at the time don’t always turn out that way.

Graham Kavanagh presumably also felt he had made a safe bet when he went for Billy Paynter in the summer of 2014, given the centre-forward’s pedigree, yet two goals from 21 games, in a season when Kavanagh was sacked and Paynter was then ostracised by successor Keith Curle, amounted to a United career that made next to no mark.

It is, then, a path the Blues must walk down with due care and an awareness of the risks when they make their moves in this department in the summer. Yet walk down it they still must, given that this is shaping up to be another season of goalscoring which is rather less than vintage.

It is right to acknowledge and praise the way United have been bolstered defensively since Chris Beech took charge; making a struggling team harder to beat has created this cushion of 13 points which most supporters would have gladly accepted when Steven Pressley was steering them much closer to the precipice.

The next step – and it might be unrealistic to expect it to happen in the last two months of this campaign – is to make them better in front of goal, given the way their most recent two games, against Cheltenham and Crawley, have highlighted something lacking just now.

It is true that two forwards, Harry McKirdy and Joshua Kayode, have been unavailable lately. Kayode, with two goals in two starts, certainly gave the impression of a young striker who can sense where opportunities might drop, while McKirdy is Carlisle’s leading scorer.

Solutions were attempted in January and it is too early or too difficult to judge them all. Of course it is unfortunate that Kayode was forced out through injury almost as soon as he came in. Yet here we are again in late February with the sense that, when a couple of men are sidelined, goals are rather having to be forced out of this United team.

There were issues this time last season, when loanees had left, the main centre-forward replacement, Mark Cullen, could barely get on the pitch and Pressley tried an unsatisfying false nine strategy, and this time around light can shine on the same area given that, after 33 games, no individual in their squad has more than five league goals to his name.

Considering one of the three on that number is Olufela Olomola, who has not found the net in the league since September 28 (McKirdy and Nathan Thomas are the others) it is easy to understand why United are the fifth lowest scorers in League Two and that, however well they finish 2019/20, they must find better ways when recruiting those who specialise in the point of the game.

Last summer set much of this scene and it is easy to remember how, with United’s budget limitations in mind, Pressley opted to wait for loan strikers rather than sign those permanently available. “Better value for money” was thought to lie that way and considering this policy of patience left Carlisle with Elias Sorensen (12 games, no goals) one has to wonder what impatience would have brought through the door.

McKirdy has, at times, flourished, on 11 goals in total because of some impressive work in the cups, while Thomas has looked more potent since Beech took charge. Omari Patrick and Lewis Alessandra are very recent additions yet it is hard to think United will not, come the summer, be seeking someone else who'd more naturally wear a No9 shirt and finish off some of the creative play we saw from Thomas last weekend, and from others against Cheltenham.

It may require Carlisle to be as bold financially as they were with other areas in January. It will also, though, boil down to Beech’s contacts and his touch in the market which, so far, has been decent.

All in all it would be nice if, one day soon, we are no longer talking about Karl Hawley in 2005/6 as their last player to pass the 20-goal mark in a campaign. Hawley was a trialist who came good; other good Carlisle strikers of the recent past, like Charlie Wyke, Lee Miller and, further back, David Reeves, came mid-season. One or two, like Gary Madine, have broken through fertile academy soil.

Some cost, others did not, and for every Reeves there is, painful experience tells us, a Gates or a Richard Offiong. Restocking your side with goals is not as simple as we sometimes like to think. But United, if their improvement is to continue and last, must surely try.