Southend United 0 Carlisle United 2: So you’re telling me…there’s a chance? At the very least, this Carlisle United season is going to be interesting for a while longer. At the most, the Blues are recovering form just at the right time for a dramatic gallop to the play-offs.

Our expectations should probably remain somewhere in between the usual extremes; a sensible nudging of the brakes when giddy hope threatens to consume us, but also enough optimism to dilute all the recent heavy gloom.

There is still much work to do – and they won’t come up against many sides as weak as Southend in their final nine games. At the time of season when you seem to get a little more for your results, though, six points from two matches has certainly lifted the Blues from their prolonged mid-campaign trough.

To keep going and keep climbing is going to require some big performances against big sides. Just to be thinking this way, though, is a definite step forward from the misery of mid-March, when you wondered where on earth the next victory was coming from.

The Blues without the filip of a midweek win, the United who had won once in 13, might have found a way to drop points even at Roots Hall, a place long devoid of good things. The Blues slightly emboldened from beating Crawley, though, were confident enough to make the key moments count against Mark Molesley’s brittle team.

Offrande Zanzala’s goal was excellent, Gime Toure’s finish high-grade too, Paul Farman chipped in with a penalty save and if it was otherwise anything but an attractive spectacle, the winning feeling must be especially valuable to Carlisle right now.

Not since their interrupted January, after all, had they put together two Ws on the spin, likewise consecutive clean sheets. Doing so against a team as paltry as Southend does not entitle you to claim you’re unbreakable, but League Two does have a long-standing habit of throwing up peculiar results, and it was important United were not on the end of one on Saturday against a side desperate for anything.

Momentum is another major commodity at this time of year and we will now find out if United have it, whether they can also account for Scunthorpe and Barrow from the lesser end of the division before what ought to be a cluster of higher-stakes meetings with the likes of Newport, Bolton and Cheltenham.

It would indeed be the Carlisle United way to keep things on the boil right the way to May. The hungry work of Zanzala at the front of their side gives them a sharper edge currently, and Toure’s goal resulted from some aggressive midfield pressing which was a hallmark of their better 2020/21 work.

The context, of course, is...Southend: the fourth tier’s most feeble side in terms of goalscoring and who lived down to that reputation here. Other than a few persistent ventures into reasonable positions, there was very little that terrified Carlisle even in a scrappy first half that lacked quality and poise all round.

What class there was came in Zanzala’s 17th-minute goal, the striker sweeping onto an Aaron Hayden header, leaving one defender for dead, shimmying past another and arrowing the ball home. United did not especially kick on from this splendid work, but appeared safe at the other end until referee Alan Young was deceived by Simeon Akinola’s fall as Callum Guy stuck out a foot. Akinola, though, followed his slow shuffle with a wretched penalty which deserved the solid interception of Farman’s save.

The hosts were also weakened by the first-half loss of Alan McCormack, one man who looked like he might impose a little control on their game. Forwards such as Emile Acquah offered a watery threat and if anything United’s worst enemy might have been themselves, if they failed to take proper command and settle down the odd defensive jitter.

By and large, though, they were a step enough ahead, Rod McDonald reassuring at the back, Joe Riley and Jon Mellish covering useful ground to push the hosts back, United surviving a few corners, Zanzala riding heavy challenges, Molesley then bringing on three subs but Chris Beech’s one change in that 73rd-minute glut proving the more effective arrival.

That was Toure, who sent his second chance of the game flying past Mark Oxley after Riley, Mellish, Jack Armer and Lewis Alessandra had revived a chance on the left. It was comfortably the Frenchman’s best piece of ball-striking in a United shirt and the rest of proceedings were a case of poking a prone Southend with a stick to see if they were still twitching.

Truly, if the Shrimpers wriggle out of relegation’s net at this point it will be a minor miracle. Barrow and the other strugglers will have licked their lips at another sterile Southend showing.

Carlisle, frankly, won’t care about any of that and nor should they be too tormented about the spells in this game when the football was of low, scuffling quality. It is results that put bread on the table at this time of year and – what do you know – we might just be getting an intriguing end to this volatile Blues season after all.