Carlisle United 0 Forest Green Rovers 2: If anyone at Carlisle United would like to dispute the following, let them do so – but on the condition it is with credible evidence, rather simply than optimistic claims or so many mitigating factors.

Here goes. The Blues are in a relegation battle and look bereft in the vital art of winning games. Yes, this was a defeat to a strong team who deservedly top their division, and yes United should have been ahead before falling irretrievably behind.

But please. The moment Forest Green got their goals, Carlisle reverted to impotent type. By the end, their attacking play was hopeless, fruitless.

This is the reality, the product of all that has happened over recent months, and it leaves you worriedly asking: where are the victories in this team? Where are the qualities that are going to prevent this being a campaign of prolonged struggle and increased stress pushing down on the head coach position and, let’s be honest, the Blues’ EFL status?

They were not in vast evidence here, once a rejigged United faded from an energetic start, and it certainly looks like all they have to sell to their supporters right now is another campaign of toil. Another question: do they have enough to tough that sort of scenario out?

Looking towards the exit points of Brunton Park a few minutes before the final whistle brought a forlorn scene. A good number of fans were on their way out, leaning into the wind and rain like Lowry figures.

Some had gone sooner, further vacating a ground which had already seen its lowest Saturday league crowd (Covid limits aside) since March 2020, and this is the harsh truth that confronts whatever qualification is put on the table to explain why United are sixth bottom with two victories from 10.

News and Star: The visitors celebrate Jamille Matt's openerThe visitors celebrate Jamille Matt's opener

Chris Beech suggested the “bigger picture” was relevant – one that included his initial rebuild of a flawed team, Covid’s assault on his second term and having to deal with significant player sales early in his third.

Nobody would argue those circumstances have been a doddle. The boos, though, at half-time and full-time here, and one or two anti-Beech chants emanating from the Warwick Road End, suggested plenty do not have time for studying the landscape when the immediate situation is so clearly short.

It was better than at Sutton, as Beech said, but not to the extent of it being “excellent” as he claimed. United played as though refreshed for 20 minutes, but then failed to defend a corner (again) and that was that.

Before going behind, Carlisle  - their side featuring four changes and without the newly sidelined Rod McDonald and Jordan Gibson - should have scored twice, through Brennan Dickenson, yet so should Forest Green, for whom Jordan Moore-Taylor had a header saved by Magnus Norman and Ebou Adams fluffed a clean-through chance.

News and Star: Brad Young in action on his first league start for UnitedBrad Young in action on his first league start for United

It was, at least, urgent and honestly-contested in this period, Corey Whelan stepping in from his deep midfield position well, Brad Young buzzing around up front and almost scoring when his header was saved by Luke McGee.

But the visitors always had purpose and plans around the line-leading of Jamille Matt, and a more obvious threatening style. They nearly scored when Matty Stevens was denied by Norman, and then did from a corner when Matt escaped league debutant Jonathan Dinzeyi.

United’s set-piece defending has been shoddy for too long now. After Gime Toure (another recalled) spurned a Dickenson cross, the excellent Nicky Cadden then eased into left-sided space and sent a rocket past Norman, and at that point the tieless Dale Vince, whose comments about boardroom etiquette had dominated the pre-match agenda, could sit more comfortably in his Pioneer Stand seat.

News and Star: Dale Vince, owner of vegan-friendly Forest Green, applauds his team in front of a backdrop of United''s Pioneer Foodservice sponsorshipDale Vince, owner of vegan-friendly Forest Green, applauds his team in front of a backdrop of United''s Pioneer Foodservice sponsorship

Rob Edwards’ side went on to show their strength from a slightly deeper and more watchful base, while United created nothing of note. Young, twisting and holding off defenders, was the one player to enliven the crowd occasionally, but Carlisle couldn’t serve him or anyone else with chances.

Their play was blunt, a sense of inevitability crept in like the dark rainclouds, and there was, it was impossible to ignore, extra gusto in the booing from some when Beech and the players applauded the supporters at full-time.

Expecting those folk to see past their frustration and have faith in the process is a big ask, frankly. This United, sad to say, are not good enough. The time to defy that conclusion, in deed and not word, is now.