Gavin Skelton said he is encouraged by the way Carlisle United have started pre-season after last night’s 8-0 win at Penrith.

The Blues claimed a comfortable win in their first friendly with new signing Zach Clough grabbing a hat-trick.

Fellow new boy Tristan Abrahams opened his United account with Josh Dixon, Taylor Charters, Gime Toure and Jon Mellish also scoring, and defender Corey Whelan also making his first appearance.

Assistant boss Skelton says he was pleased with the way the Blues’ new recruits made their mark, on a night when experienced and youthful players also caught the eye.

On three-goal Clough, he said: “It gives people confidence in him, both in the team, and among the supporters.

“We know that it’s pre-season, a first game, we’ll come up against stiffer tests and he knows that.

“But you see it in training – I don’t need to tell you he’s got that bit of quality.

“You could see Tristan’s quality at times and it’s great to see him score. Hopefully we can get that out of him this season and he can be successful.”

News and Star: Lewis Bell (photo: Barbara Abbott)Lewis Bell (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Skelton was also pleased with what he saw from some of the rookie players in United’s ranks.

Lewis Bell set up Abrahams’ goal with an excellent long pass, while youth defender Max Kilsby and Jack Ellis gave solid performances at the back.

There were 45-minute outings too for teenage keepers Gabriel Breeze and Scott Simons.

On Kilsby and Ellis, Skelton said: “They did well. They looked composed. It’s a different pressure than they’re used to – it’ll be the biggest crowd they’ve played in front of, the first team manager’s here, with the first team players…the demands are more.

“Some take to it and some find it more difficult. I thought they adapted really well.

“The [young goalkeepers] will be pleased with clean sheets. There are things they probably need to tidy up on but some pleasing things as well.

“They’ll be better for it. They train with us daily, regularly, and you can see an improvement in that. Two really promising young keepers.

“Games like this help young players understand what it takes. It’s different demands and pressures – not just the footballing side but the expectation, the speed of play the experienced lads are used to.

News and Star: Scott Simons (photo: Barbara Abbott)Scott Simons (photo: Barbara Abbott)

“You are trained and coached all you want, but playing with experienced, good players, helps you – you follow their lead with how they train and play.

“I thought right through there were some really pleasing performances from the young lads to the experienced ones; the likes of Callum [Guy] and Aaron [Hayden] showed good character and personality to drive the team on. Jack Armer second half, lots of energy getting up and down, George Tanner composed….everyone takes something from it.”

United led 3-0 at the break after goals from Abrahams, Dixon and Charters, with Clough’s treble coming after boss Chris Beech had sent on an entirely different XI for the second half.

Toure and Mellish completed the scoring late on.

“I felt a bit sorry for Penrith in the first half – I didn’t feel they deserved to be 3-0 down,” Skelton added.

“We tired them out, probably, then exposed them second half, but they had some good chances before then and credit to them.

News and Star: Gime Toure in action against Penrith (photo: Barbara Abbott)Gime Toure in action against Penrith (photo: Barbara Abbott)

“I’ve been here before when at times they’ve struggled to get out of their own half – that wasn’t the case here and you could see they played for the manager Dabber [Dave Hewson].”

Skelton feels United are “in a good place” after their early weeks of pre-season work.

He said: “We’ve been back two or three weeks and the players were champing at the bit for some real stuff. We played a couple of different formations, looked at different things, people playing in different positions and a few lads from the youth team.

“It’s always nice to win and it’s good for the confidence.”

A healthy 670 crowd watched the game at Frenchfield Park – a helpful boost to the home club's coffers, and the first game Carlisle have played in front of fans in 2021.

Skelton added: “It is miles better [to have supporters back in]. It was a great pre-season night, the weather’s good, the pitch was good…it just felt back to a little bit of normality and long may that continue.”