Chris Beech says he has seen data proving that Carlisle United have finally returned to the physical heights they reached before Covid-19 interrupted their season.

The head coach says Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Cambridge was the first time the Blues had emulated their late-2020 efforts in this respect.

Beech suggested it has taken this long for United to return to the regular levels of physical output they were showing until January's virus outbreak and a string of postponements.

Their efforts even in defeat to Mark Bonner's side on Saturday - which they followed with victory over Crawley - have encouraged Beech to believe they are finally returning to their old selves.

“We didn’t train that much [on Monday] because for the first time since all this has happened, we hit the physical markers we generally did regularly before Walsall [on January 2], before Covid," he said.

“On Saturday it was the first time we’ve hit those physical statistics.

“I thought, ‘Well done boys, we’re now getting back to where we are’.

"I went easy on them [on Monday] in terms of prep.

“We hit those statistics physically on Saturday, so I think we will have repeated them against Crawley; the ball seemed to stay in play a bit more, probably because there was less wind.”

The effects of United's mid-season disruption has often been referred to by the Blues boss - and has been a regular subject of discussion among fans during their recent poor run of results.

The hope is that their midweek win can herald an improved spell now, with United preparing for one of their longest trips of the season this weekend.

They face Southend at Roots Hall on Easter Saturday.

Beech said that, because of the long journey ahead, he turned down the chance of another reserve game for his squad this week.

He said: "We did have an option to play Middlesbrough but decided not to.

"It would be nice, but with the travel…and [the risk of] picking injury up, sometimes you think it could be a good thing and next minute you’re fove players down.

"We’ll train here [today], and then it’s about a seven-hour trip and on Good Friday as well, and there’s a little bit of loosening up of household behaviour, so I’d imagine the roads will be a bit busier.

"We’ll head down there and try and do something when we get down there rather than travel, train and carry on travelling. It’ll turn into a nine or 10-hour day if we did that."

Beech, meanwhile, has spoken of his respect for Cambridge boss Bonner after his pre-match comments last week, in which he acknowledged how hard United must have been hit by their virus outbreak and string of postponements.

"I’ve got a lot of respect for Mark Bonner now," Beech said.

"He's the first manager to recognise [that], because he found a difference in his team just having one game called off."