Carlisle United 0 Oldham Athletic 0: Unless Carlisle United’s next manager can also throw off his trenchcoat and get on the end of crosses, this is going to remain a very long haul. The definition of futility? Watching the Blues in Saturday’s second half, trying, toiling and failing once again in the rain.

Second bottom nil, third-bottom nil. Roll up for the commemorative DVD. The barren outcome was enough, by full-time, to nudge both up a place in League Two. Gavin Skelton, as well he might, wanted to sift the positives out of it, namely a clean sheet and a second game unbeaten.

But the caretaker manager could not and did not swerve the more pressing reality: that Carlisle can’t score. Five of their last six league performances have ended without a goal, and it’s now three on the spin at home. It is the blatantly obvious drawback that will keep their Football League status in serious peril until it’s sorted.

The next person into the dugout must come with the contacts, and a plan, to address this, otherwise the appointment will be a pointless exercise: a shuffling of deckchairs, just a different leap of faith. United, in the first half against Keith Curle’s Oldham, worked their way into a few good positions.

And then…the usual. Balls into the box, crosses fed into reasonable positions, and a ghostly presence where a No9 ought to be. The tactical changes attempted by Skelton in the second half did not solve the problem – in fact, United became less threatening as things went on – and the spectacle ended up resembling a boxing match where two sluggish fighters have their hands tied behind their backs.

Who, entering that manager’s office in the coming days, can instantly solve this? Who on the presumably shortening list of would-be United bosses can locate prolific work out of this sterile squad? “You’ve got to look in that [free agent] market to see who’s available,” admitted Skelton, addressing the inevitable.

This is, you have to say, a thumping failure of recruitment, something many fans were actually pinpointing throughout the Blues summer. They were not being negative. They were observing a squad being put together without some of the most essential parts.

The result is that United, 14 games in, look like one of the weakest teams in League Two, and sadly incapable of beating those in the same category (Scunthorpe, and now Oldham). They have no victories in eight games and, for the reasonable aspects Skelton got out of them before half-time here, there can be no confidence in a revival until they look like they can relocate the letter W.

Saturday began with Oldham fans chanting and displaying banners against their unpopular owner. It ended with a cluster of home supporters in the Warwick Road End singing, ‘Sack the board’.

In between these disgruntled bookends, 90 minutes of grind, United moving between the lines well enough to begin with, as Zach Clough dropped into useful pockets and Jordan Gibson buzzed out wide, but without anyone penetrating the safe zone of Oldham’s 18-yard box.

The Blues’ best work came amid some useful passing in tight spaces and the odd clever flick from Clough or Lewis Alessandra, but beyond a Clough volley that cleared the bar and a free-kick that Jayson Leutwiler beat away, Carlisle couldn’t deliver an end result. Oldham got clear a couple of times midway through the half but Harry Vaughan shot over.

United’s best opportunity came later, when Joe Riley’s searching cross found Brennan Dickenson to the left of goal, but Oldham’s defence got in the way. At the other end Mark Howard then earned his corn, saving superbly from Davis Keillor-Dunn and United benefiting from an incorrect offside call as Jamie Bowden tapped the rebound in.

At least fate was on Carlisle’s side. Howard rescued them again when a deep Oldham cross found Hallam Hope, who briefly unshackled himself from home-fan booing to rifle a shot towards goal. United’s defensive hold had weakened in that period and they were thankful Dylan Bahamboula, whose skill was evident in stages, was just as impotent in the end.

After the break Skelton shifted Clough to the left in a bid to free him from a busy central area. It was a position where he’d been productive at Newport in midweek, but Carlisle seldom found him this time and their changes (Brad Young, Taylor Charters and finally Tristan Abrahams) did not sharpen their tip, as Oldham contained and broke, also without conviction.

It says something when the most imaginative effort came from halfway – Keillor-Dunn’s chip saved by Howard – and it felt for quite some while that we were all wasting our time thinking someone was going to do something clinical. Good luck indeed to the man United ask to get them firing now.