This time last year, it was the period when Carlisle United made their move.

It needs to be so again this time, but in a different sense.

The spell from mid-November until the end of the year in 2020 brought wins, good performances and status near the top of League Two for the Blues.

Whatever they can muster this time, there is no question that the nine-game spell from here until January is going to be hugely important.

It seems widely accepted that United, currently second-bottom, are going to have to do some serious work in the winter transfer window to give their survival chance the boost it needs.

They cannot, though, afford to be too far adrift by then. The challenge for Keith Millen is to get a struggling team into some sort of points-gathering habit so they can recruit from a position of…if not strength, then at least not irretrievable weakness.

How difficult will that prove?

United’s string of opponents between now and the start of 2022 come from different points on the table and on varying runs of form.

At some stage the Blues are going to have to make opportunities count and where better than at Brunton Park against 15th-placed Barrow?

The first league clash between the two Cumbrian clubs in front of fans since 1964 is going to be an occasion off the field.

On it, a United win against a visiting side without a victory in five league games - but, like United, with two recent cup triumphs under their belt - could certainly galvanise both the team and supporters who are desperate for an uplift.

From there, Carlisle go into a couple of games against teams enjoying better fortunes in League Two.

The second-longest trip of the season to Exeter City comes on November 20, the Grecians currently sitting fourth having lost just once all season, and that was back in August.

How timely it would be if the Blues could summon the spirit of Jamie Proctor, Danny Grainger or – yes – Richard Offiong and repeat one of their memorable wins at St James’ Park from years past?

Three days after that long haul, they are back at Brunton Park where Harrogate Town are the visitors.

The Sulphurites, whose assistant boss is former United man Paul Thirlwell, set a positive early pace this season and are still usefully placed in seventh, although winless in four in the league.

Home action follows the next weekend, with improving Walsall the visitors, also with an ex-United figure as No2 (Neil McDonald). Matty Taylor’s Saddlers are currently 14th and unbeaten in eight in all competitions.

The Papa John's Trophy second round (a Brunton Park fixture to be drawn on Saturday) and then December's FA Cup second round tie against Shrewsbury extends that run of home games. When league action resumes, Carlisle will go to Mansfield Town on Tuesday, December 7. By then they’ll be hoping Nigel Clough’s fifth-bottom Stags are still near the mire; it could be an opportunity for United to keep one of their rivals close at hand.

If that proves a six-pointer, the game after that could too: Stevenage away on December 11. The Lamex Stadium club are tumbling, with just one win in their last 13 league games; with any luck, the anxiety of the situation will be gripping them a little harder come United’s visit.

The last game before Christmas then brings Bradford City to Brunton Park on December 18. Derek Adams’ fancied Bantams, who include ex-Blues Andy Cook, Alex Gilliead and Elliot Watt, have yet to hit a serious stride and sit 12th, with a mediocre away record.

Then it’s Boxing Day, and more home action, and it would be a festive occasion indeed if United can both improve their fortunes beforehand, and then put Rochdale to the sword at Brunton Park.

2021 then closes for the Blues with a December 29 trip to Salford City who, for all their spending, have yet to make their mark on this season and, at the time of writing, sit 19th.

Given events to here, it would be unrealistic to expect Carlisle to take a big chunk of the 27 points on offer from no until January.

At the very least, though, they need to show themselves more capable than they have so far, and a points average of 0.8 per game will simply have to improve if they are to stand a realistic chance of pulling clear.

Once January comes, United’s trading will have to be sharp, smart and considerable.

Until then – it’s their job to render the situation a fraction less desperate.