Carlisle United 1 Shrewsbury Town 2: It was always, sadly, a reasonable bet that there’d be at least as many tennis balls as Carlisle United goals in this fixture, even if there weren’t many tennis balls at all.

Off the pitch, there was a mini-protest by a few young fans; some of whom lobbed balls from the Paddock, some who were removed from the ground by police after displaying an anti-board banner.

The ruthless dealing with that situation was not, alas, emulated by those on the pitch when it came to protesting against the prospect of an FA Cup exit. Carlisle were once again reminded what they are missing in crucial positions, only this time the reminder came with a Carlisle accent.

The 78th minute distilled a season so far into a few moments. The ball was fed forward where Shrewsbury’s Ryan Bowman had the run on Morgan Feeney. One smart turn and clinical shot later, and this FA Cup tie was out of United’s reach.

News and Star: Ryan Bowman hits the winner in the 78th minuteRyan Bowman hits the winner in the 78th minute

Bowman, when coming through United’s academy, cannot have imagined it would take him until December 2021 to score a professional goal at Brunton Park. He has doggedly built his career away from his home-city club and is now in a position where Carlisle could really do with someone of his like.

The 30-year-old was not in this game a huge amount, but when the clutch moment came, he displayed the strength and finishing that remains in such scarce supply at the footballing place where he grew up. United did reasonable things between the boxes in this second round tie but their moves on the dancefloor, so to speak, were again out of step.

This is what will hinder the prospect of progress under Keith Millen until it’s resolved. The fact they are relying on an 18-year-old loanee is one way of summing up their shortcomings since the summer. Brad Young has a career in front of him to learn how to make better use of the chance he passed up in the first half here. Carlisle, when they return to crucial league action, simply have to source those who can remove all doubt from such situations.

News and Star: Brad Young is foiled after opting to shoot despite Tristan Abrahams being in space to his leftBrad Young is foiled after opting to shoot despite Tristan Abrahams being in space to his left

The young forward at least showed the appetite and persistence to earn the chance. What he lacked was the eyes-up vision to spot Tristan Abrahams yearning for the ball in space to his left. Young, who had sidestepped Shrewsbury’s goalkeeper Marko Marosi outside the box, put his head down and shot.

It was blocked, and you wondered how many better chances United would get against a League One side who sat off in protection of their early lead, earned by Tom Bloxham’s 10th-minute goal.

None, is the answer. Jordan Gibson curled in a late consolation but it wasn’t enough to defer United’s return to a basic diet of League Two football seasoned with the exotic thrills of the Papa John’s Trophy for the rest of 2021/22.

News and Star: Tom Bloxham's shot finds the net for Shrewsbury's openerTom Bloxham's shot finds the net for Shrewsbury's opener

Carlisle could have done with the money attached to third round progress, but didn’t, if we are being truthful, earn it. They competed well in their shape and gave Shrewsbury some issues in a first half punctuated by injuries, but neither side could emulate Bloxham after the young visiting frontman kept his composure to drill home a low shot after Nathaniel Ogbeta had cruised onto Luke Leahy’s pass in gaping space and crossed.

By that point Abrahams had failed to beat Marosi at the other end after running onto a well-timed Zach Clough pass. Shrewsbury went on to stretch United, especially down the left, while the first tennis balls, which landed on the turf in the 17th minute, only held things up briefly.

News and Star: Tennis balls are removed from the pitchTennis balls are removed from the pitch

“Are we at Wimbledon?” the travelling fans sang, their team leading 15-love. Carlisle tried, pressed, Brennan Dickenson shot wide, Ogbeta lashed into the side-netting for Shrewsbury. Ethan Ebanks-Landell then went off injured, as did Clough and Kelvin Mellor.

The half was further disrupted by ref Samuel Barrott’s card-waving, and there was further grief for the official when he accidentally fouled Blues sub Danny Devine amid an attack.

News and Star: Ref Samuel Barrott and Danny Devine hit the deck after collidingRef Samuel Barrott and Danny Devine hit the deck after colliding

Half-chances, from here, was as good as it got. More tennis balls came on before half-time, back off they were kicked. Back on United came for the second half; back Shrewsbury pedalled to hold their lines.

Steve Cotterill’s side made the middle of the pitch stodgier, and United were short of invention to prise them open. The 53rd minute brought the banner incident – the latest expression of anti-board dissent inside Brunton Park shut down by stewards and cops – while a triple change by Millen on the hour represented a final bid to change the pattern of things.

News and Star: Ryan Bowman battles with Morgan FeeneyRyan Bowman battles with Morgan Feeney

Only to a slight degree did it. Taylor Charters was a whisker from setting up Sam Fishburn, but then Bowman showed the Blues how it should be done, and any tension had long gone by the time substitute Gibson curled an excellent effort inside the left-hand post.

United look broadly better structured under Millen. United can’t score when it counts. The owners aren’t the most popular folk in town. One is reminded of Father Ted Crilly. “So, Dougal, have you learned anything?”