Crawley Town 0 Carlisle United 3: Shortly after full-time, Chris Beech was asked if the “p-word” was being aired in Carlisle’s dressing room. “Which one’s that?” the head coach replied.

United’s boss is no fool. He will have known exactly what James Phillips of BBC Radio Cumbria was referring to. Others at Brunton Park, though, might have been thumbing their dictionaries at that moment.

It hasn’t been on the agenda for a while now, after all, and who knows where this strange season will yet go? At the very least, though, Saturday raised the possibility of promotion returning to the conversation after its long holiday away from Carlisle. It suggested United’s best work in 2020/21 is no passing fad.

They are still up there, still producing excellent victories this far in, which tells you this team and squad have plenty of the right substance. They were far too good for Crawley and this win in particular was the sort that makes you think nothing should be beyond Beech’s team. If they can keep their best men fit and if they can keep putting together collective displays like this, the rest of League Two will see them as contenders; so should United themselves.

Beech will not wish for us to go overboard, which is sensible enough. He was still able to identify faults in this performance which the rest of us were merrily disregarding. A focus on the detail, a refusal to settle for imperfection – if this has taken Carlisle fourth, we should sit back and trust in it to guide them further.

We can still heartily applaud from the sidelines, though, when it is as good as this. Crawley had not lost a home league fixture for a year until Saturday – at which point Carlisle beasted them so thoroughly the Blues almost won two games.

Every part of the action was sewn up in their favour, and not just in the style column. United were also, in the right (and non-Home Secretary) way, bullies. They left a bit of interest when making certain tackles. They made sure the referee knew what they thought of one or two edgy incidents.

They wore a snarl, whether that was Callum Guy producing what was sometimes an aggressive masterpiece in midfield, or Rhys Bennett putting himself at the forefront of any disputes when United’s honour was being questioned, or when something sneaky had landed on a blue ankle.

There are times when what goes on in these shadows of a game is as important as what happens under the spotlight. Carlisle were second-best to a streetwise Cheltenham side the week before, but this time they were more “horrible and dirty” – words which did not seem natural coming from the smiling young face of Joshua Kayode, but still made perfect sense.

By such means, United will let the rest of their division know they can back up their play with attitude. They also, finally, spread their goals around here, giving Jon Mellish the afternoon off in a scoring sense, Kayode’s welcome finish coming in between a pair of centre-half goals from Bennett, on his full league debut, and Aaron Hayden.

For Rod McDonald, missing with a groin injury, the challenge to reclaim his regular place will not be easy if this is what Bennett can bring to the party. His stature and positional sense were impressively primed for a man who has seldom played since February. Crawley’s attack dashed against this rock more often than not and while Paul Farman seldom got his gloves stained, United had more substance.

The first half was a slow burner initially but steadily Carlisle’s more robust attacking style forced the issue better than Crawley’s more intricate patterns had. A series of shots eventually came, some blocked, one from Kayode saved, one from Lewis Alessandra whistling wide, Crawley’s best openings having glanced off the fringe of Tom Nichols. Kayode led the line superbly, showing strength and aerial poise against experienced foes, and in the 42nd minute United scored, Bennett stabbing in at the second attempt after some patient passing and a saved Gime Toure shot.

It was a lead they brilliantly converted in the second half, the first 20 minutes of which were irresistible. George Tanner’s run which set up Kayode’s clinical low finish was a treat – nimble footwork and vivid intent from the right-back – and Kayode is back off and running for the Blues after nodding his goal for Ireland’s Under-21s during the week. The relentless Hayden then donned his poaching hat to poke in number three after good anticipation from the ever-shrewd Alessandra.

It was totally emphatic, totally merited, and Beech was right that it could have brought more. Hayden had by then seen a header cleared off the line, and new dad Nick Anderton showed few signs of sleep deprivation as he crashed a shot into someone’s backside.

Omari Patrick, later, was denied by David Sesay, but then the latter brought down the former and was sent off: another sign of how forlorn the afternoon had turned out for Crawley, and of how comprehensively United had given them the slip.