The glaringly obvious area for improvement at Carlisle United is in front of goal - and the stats firmly back that up.

The Blues' meagre tally of 11 from their first 16 League Two games is now a record-equalling low.

Never in the club's history have they mustered fewer goals from their opening 16 league encounters.

And only once before has the current total been equalled.

That came in 2003/4, a season which started under Roddy Collins before Paul Simpson stepped in to replace the sacked Irish boss.

Carlisle scored 11 in their first 16 then, and extended that dire sequence to 11 from 18, before making gradual improvement - not that it saved the Blues from Football League relegation in the end.

News and Star: Unierd's 2003/4 team started with 11 goals from 16 league games - a record equalled by the current side (photo: Stewart Blair)Unierd's 2003/4 team started with 11 goals from 16 league games - a record equalled by the current side (photo: Stewart Blair)

Every other side in the club's history has managed more from the same period despite a range of struggles, including the 1984/5 Second Division side, that started with 13 goals from 16, with 1932/3's Division Three North vintage getting 14 from 16, the same tally achieved by the 1975/6 and 1983/4 second-tier outfits.

Even the team who put together the lowest-scoring season in United's history - Harry Gregg's 1986/7 Third Division side - managed 16 goals from their opening 16 games, before subsiding to a paltry 39 from 46.

The need to improve the 2021/22 record, starting at Exeter City this weekend, could not be clearer, then.

And when United return to Brunton Park, the need to avoid another damning stat will also be urgent.

For Carlisle have now gone four league games without scoring at their home ground, suffering blanks in defeats to Forest Green Rovers and Tranmere Rovers and draws with Oldham Athletic and Barrow - a six-hour run without fans seeing a Blues league goal at Brunton Park, their last home league strike remaining Brennan Dickenson's equaliser against Scunthorpe on September 18.

While they've got home goals in the cups since then (two against Horsham in the FA Cup, and two against Everton Under-21s in the Papa John's Trophy), in the league things have been different.

And they'll now have to score against Harrogate Town on November 23 if they want to avoid equalling the longest such run set by a United side.

That came fairly recently - in the 2018/19 campaign, when the shot-shy Cumbrians went five home games on the spin without scoring under John Sheridan in League Two.

They failed to hit the target in consecutive autumn defeats to Tranmere, Stevenage, Grimsby Town, Morecambe and Yeovil Town.

News and Star: United's 1-0 defeat to Yeovil in October 2018 was a record fifth straight home league game without a goal (photo: Stuart Walker)United's 1-0 defeat to Yeovil in October 2018 was a record fifth straight home league game without a goal (photo: Stuart Walker)

If United want to take any hope from that, it's that Sheridan's team subsequently snapped out of their funk and went on a sudden goalscoring run, smashing three past Newport County and, the following month, four against Colchester United and six against Oldham.

That season, Carlisle were propped up by decent away form until they sorted things out on home soil.

This time around, they have more points at home (eight) than on their travels (five) so far, despite their scoring struggles.

The Cumbrians' total of five goals in eight home games, meanwhile, is the worst tally in League Two, one behind Swindon Town, Colchester and Scunthorpe United.

It is also the equal worst figure in the entire Football League, with only Hull City in the Championship matching the Blues' poor home goals return.

News and Star: Only Championship side Hull have a home scoring record as poor as Carlisle's in the EFL (photo: PA)Only Championship side Hull have a home scoring record as poor as Carlisle's in the EFL (photo: PA)

Away from home, United have mustered six goals, with three of their rivals managing fewer.

Overall, their 11-goal league tally is the joint worst in the fourth tier along with mid-table Tranmere after 16 outings.

Things are a little different at the other end, with Carlisle's record of seven home goals against bettered by only five sides in League Two.

An away goals conceded total of 17, though, is the joint second worst in the table, with only Stevenage (18) more brittle on their travels than the Blues and Scunthorpe.

Their overall number of 24 conceded is the fourth worst in the division.

Their next opponents? That would be Exeter, who have not lost a game of football since August 14, when they were thrashed 3-0 at Leyton Orient.

It's been 14 league games without defeat for the Grecians over the last three months.

Given United's long and proud history of helping other teams off long winless and scoreless runs, how timely it would be if the roles could be reversed this time.

"The basic structure of the team is to keep a clean sheet; we’ve done that for three games and that’s the foundation for success,” Blues manager Keith Millen said after the 0-0 draw with Barrow, which followed cup shut-outs against Horsham and Morecambe.

“The final end product is what everyone wants. We’re lacking that at the moment."

The solution to this major problem in United's season certainly needs to be found soon.