Keith Millen believes Carlisle United will be “fine” if they can consistently repeat the performance levels they showed at Exeter.

The Blues went down to a 2-1 defeat at St James’ Park after Jon Mellish’s red card.

But manager Millen said he was pleased with the effort of his players and said it shows United are totally committed to the job of turning their league form around.

The Blues boss said players are buying into what he is asking of them, and said: “I’m really pleased with their understanding of what we’re trying to do.

“You saw another side to them [on Saturday] where they were totally committed, no-one let their heads drop and they ran ‘til they couldn’t run any more

“I said to them, ‘If you keep doing that you’ll be fine’.”

Millen felt United could have come away from Devon with something – but conceded they are still not dangerous enough when getting into good positions.

“My mindset before the red card was to tell the lads that the game was there for the taking,” he said.

“If we kept our shape and discipline in the way we played, and in the way we were looking after a good front three, with Matt Jay in the hole who was being kept quiet…our structure and tactics were fine, it just needed that extra quality, which we know about anyway.”

United now start a run of four home games, starting with tomorrow night’s visit of Harrogate Town.

The Blues will be aiming for only a third league win all season as they bid to escape the relegation zone.

Mellish will start a three-game ban tomorrow, though Millen will have Callum Guy back from suspension, having made Corey Whelan captain in his absence at Exeter.

Of the latter decision, the Carlisle manager said: “He’s done well since I’ve been here, and he was captain against Morecambe [in the Papa John’s Trophy] and played well. He just seemed a natural choice.”

Jack Armer will be assessed after suffering a gash to his leg in a challenge that saw him substituted on Saturday. The Harrogate game could come too soon for Joe Riley, while Lewis Alessandra is out.

Millen, meanwhile, has saluted the 155 supporters who made the long trip to Exeter.

He said: “I’m very proud of the fans. They came all that way and it was tough for them to see that.

“The way they clapped the lads off at the end, you could see that they appreciated the effort the lads had put in.

“You just hoped that we would get that one more chance so we could send them home with something.

“I’d like to thank the fans for the journey they made and also for the support they gave us. The players really appreciate it and I’ve told them to make sure they understand why they were clapped off.

“They weren’t doing that because they lost, they were doing it because they’d seen the effort.”