Carlisle United 0 Harrogate Town 2: Siri, show me a more toothless team in the history of Carlisle United. Sorry - there isn't one. This, sad to say, is getting serious.

The Blues are 12 league games without a win. They are five league games without a goal at home. They are, as of today, a long way down the road to quite the most desolate relegation.

That is the sorry truth. This team could be damagingly adrift by the time January comes around, the transfer window being the only realistic way United can possibly avert the nightmare of an EFL departure now.

This latest barren offering at Brunton Park, which equalled a club record for consecutive home games without scoring, summed up the picture. Carlisle tried, with what they have, which, alas, isn’t much.

Then they were picked off. Harrogate were no spectacular shakes but scored two opportunist goals and Brunton Park, by the end, was echoing to the derisive chants of 84 travelling supporters.

Where do the Blues go from here, other than closer to the abyss? Keith Millen has organised them, given them a degree of “structure”, but has no magic dust to make an impotent side dangerous. George Thomson and Alex Pattison’s goals for the visitors capped things off, and if any home fan left the ground with any sort of hope after these events, may they share what they’ve been supping with the rest of us.

May those at the ultimate helm also convey the grand plan to get United out of this hole. The great news is the attempt to salvage their Football League status will be executed by the same people that have taken the club from the brink of the Championship to 91st out of 92.

The same folk that made a horlicks of managerial appointments and extensions at different points in their tenure. That have shaved thousands of people from Brunton Park's regular attendances since taking charge. That spent the best part of two years in "investment" "talks" with Yahya Kirdi, and further time on doomed stadium schemes. That signed off a hefty bonus scheme and were then left counting the cost.

That required the emergency help of Philip Day - "more of a rugby man" - and duly commenced "succession" talks whose snail-like progress and information vacuum irritates the masses. That want to know which newspaper you'd like them to advertise the club's availability, ha ha. That oversaw one of the most poorly executed periods of recent player recruitment imaginable and argued it had resulted in a squad stronger than last season.

That has an absolutely smashing handle on "external affairs" but not quite the same sure touch when it comes to the internal ones: the debt position, the future of the club, the critical, troubling present.

So...yeah. Lots to be reassured by.

Harrogate did not arrive in peak form themselves, with one win from six in the league, but that still made them closer to Arsenal's Invicibles than United. The Yorkshire side were not emphatic opponents by any means, but League Two offers decent status to a side with an amount of focus and ability to pounce.

They sit sixth, compared with United's 23rd, for good reason.

Things had started reasonably enough, as they often do. Millen’s side survived a couple of early Harrogate forays and went close in the ninth minute when Jordan Gibson crossed and only the width of the left-hand post denied Brad Young. 

The margins remained against the Blues; again, though, they always do, and this has long since stopped being a question of luck. The first half, as it went on, saw Carlisle pass and play their way into a few good areas but without any sort of finish, while Zach Clough’s set-pieces, in the early stages at least, were of underwhelming quality.

We continued to wait for the moment Carlisle would discover their inner predator. And wait. And wait. 

That secretive beast declined to show itself and Harrogate ended the half with a keener eye. Rod McDonald had to make a vital interception when Luke Armstrong turned and crossed, Jack Muldoon failed to beat Mark Howard with a free header – and then they took the lead, stand-in left-back Brennan Dickenson failing to cut out a pass and Thomson driving in to score.

United's shortcomings had rebounded on them for the umpteenth episode – as occurred at the start of the second half, when Callum Guy fed Young, only for the loanee to slot the sitter past the post. 

As the second half went on, a couple of rotten touches from Tristan Abrahams frustrated the 3,172 crowd, who had begun to sense where Carlisle's fruitless endeavour was taking them again. Harrogate were not especially enterprising in pursuit of a second, but held their lines in the utterly sound confidence they could soak up Carlisle’s offerings.

Millen took until the 68th minute to change things, Sam Fishburn and Manasse Mampala replacing Abrahams and Young; an increasingly inexperienced strikeforce from an inexperienced bench asked to get Carlisle back on the scoreboard. 

Mampala, a couple of minutes after coming on, was denied a penalty when competing for a cross, while Clough was then thwarted by Mark Oxley’s save. Dickenson later sent a low teaser through the six-yard box, but the time to bemoan agonising moments like that has long passed.

Carlisle have done this time and again in 2021/22. Their inability to do the bit at the end is chronic and ingrained.

Hence their susceptibility to being put to bed in the way that happened here, Pattison drilling home after Howard had saved from Diamond following a counter-attack.

The small group of visiting fans mocked United’s plight with a combination of unprintable songs and those predicting their relegation. A cluster in the Warwick Road End, meawhile, sang “sack the board”.

Among the dark questions now: which will happen first - “succession”, or the next goal by someone in a blue shirt at Brunton Park? Depressingly, at this rate, it’s going to be too late with either. A long and harsh winter awaits us all.