Carlisle United produced one of their better performances in recent months at Morecambe last night.

A much-changed Blues line-up won 2-0 in the Papa John’s Trophy, and gave new boss Keith Millen plenty to think about.

So - what did we learn from the game in Lancashire?


News and Star: Danny DevineDanny Devine

Okay, easy headline. But it's very much justified.

Danny Devine has often been used at right-back in his cameo performances so far this season.

Last night, though, he was back in his favoured middle ground, and was probably Carlisle’s most effective performer.

Devine was positionally sound and used the ball with increasing purpose.

Alongside Corey Whelan, it was as secure as United’s midfield has looked for some time.

Given Millen’s stated intention to become a better and more composed passing team, Devine did his prospects no harm at all at the Mazuma Stadium.

On this very early evidence, he looks a fit for how the new boss wants the Blues to operate.


News and Star: Jordan GibsonJordan Gibson

Set-pieces have not been United’s strongest suit so far in 2021/22. To say the least.

Whereas last term, in their best run, they were highly effective from dead-balls, too often this time they’ve just been…dead.

That changed at Morecambe, primarily thanks to Gibson, who scored with a free-kick and then aimed a couple of telling corners into Morecambe’s box.

One of those saw United work a chance which Kelvin Mellor put away to seal the victory.

Delivery coupled with movement: it was much more like it, and refreshing for Carlisle to be dishing it out, not receiving.

First things first: while United’s set-piece men have often been Callum Guy and Zach Clough, Gibson is now entitled to take a place nearer the front of that queue.


News and Star: Zach CloughZach Clough

Keith Millen has wasted no time in making clear the kind of football he wants to introduce.

Any notion of United being a long-ball team appears to have vanished. Now it’s about passing; patiently, but hopefully also with a purpose.

Time will tell whether the manager can get effective results out of this team where it truly matters, in the league, where their position remains highly precarious.

A big Brunton Park occasion against Barrow will be a much different environment, too, to an anonymous midweek night in the Trophy.

But still: it was noticeable how United grew into their shape and plans last night, once their midfield got a hold on the game.

The flaky start developed into a brighter middle. Players appeared to trust in one another’s positioning and intent. By the end, a few were trying things a little more instinctively than before.

Small signs, sure. But good ones.


News and Star: Jonathan DinzeyiJonathan Dinzeyi

Chris Lumsdon, co-commentating on BBC Radio Cumbria, made an inescapable point whilst praising what he saw at Morecambe.

It was that Millen may not be able to entrust the same team with the same job in the heat of a hard League Two battle.

While Whelan and Devine excelled in midfield, it’s hard to envisage the manager going with Jonathan Dinzeyi and Morgan Feeney as his centre-halves on Saturday. A more ruthless Morecambe team could have taken advantage of a few moments at the back last night.

In other words, Whelan could be needed in that back four rather than the middle ground.

In that case: how does Millen make the midfield adapt and tick?

Devine is surely a strong contender to start against Barrow. Does he do so alongside Guy, Mellish, Riley or a different combination? Is one good display enough to earn him the responsibilty?

Barrow, under Mark Cooper, are a possession team – something Millen also wants Carlisle to be. Are the Blues, in current shape and form, capable of matching and bettering the Bluebirds’ style, or do they have to be more disruptive?

Either way: if there are grounds for a little less bleakness in the build-up than has been the case in many recent weeks, United and Millen must seize upon them, and try and take further forward steps now.