Forest Green Rovers 3 Carlisle United 0: As he crossed the pitch to fulfil his media duties, Rob Edwards had the relaxed air of someone just back from a particularly soothing spa treatment. It was just another day in paradise for the manager of League Two’s best team.

For Keith Millen, the frown of a person who knows it will be a long time before all his stresses are eased. Carlisle United turned up, lost heavily and looked what they are: a team that try, and are trying.

For all their diligence, all their flirting, all their recent improvement, they still too often enter the penalty area like a shy teenager approaches the dancefloor. United have lacked emphasis in attack all season, and Millen was never going to be able to conceal this every week.

News and Star: Keith Millen shows his frustrationKeith Millen shows his frustration

Against a team as good as Forest Green, a side with Carlisle’s shortcomings either need the right breaks or to totally nail things tactically. Instead, they blundered into a one-goal deficit and then, after a broadly even first half, were sliced and diced by Edwards’ team.

The longer things went on, the more you envied not just the ability in the home ranks but the variety their head coach could call on. If the demand is to go long, Jamille Matt offers an imposing target.

News and Star: Jamille Matt tussles with Jack ArmerJamille Matt tussles with Jack Armer

If the need is to spread to the flanks, Nicky Cadden and Kane Wilson are highly effective wide operators. If invention in central pockets would be useful, look no further than Jake Young. If it’s a finisher in the form of his career you require, here’s Matty Stevens.

After dabbling with the idea of reaching League One, this will surely be the season Forest Green get there. Carlisle may have greater Football League history than this little corner of Gloucester but are much further back on the grid when it comes to building an effective team.

News and Star: Callum Guy is closed downCallum Guy is closed down

This was always likely to be a strict examination of their progress under Millen. In itself, losing a game they were, on balance, likely to lose is no reason for pearl-clutching.

It was still stark, though, to see the difference once things opened up. Events on Saturday ought to remind us that survival is going to be the realistic limit of what this side can achieve in 2021/22, unless further help can be sourced in the market by January 31.

News and Star: Joel Senior gets in a blockJoel Senior gets in a block

Carlisle turned up in Nailsworth hoping to guard a five-game unbeaten run against Forest Green’s forthright assault. The opening stages were balanced; the darts and feints of Omari Patrick and Jordan Gibson versus the fast-acting breaks of Edwards’s side.

The decisive contribution, though, was mistaken; Morgan Feeney diverting Cadden’s cross past Mark Howard for an own-goal whose roots were in the home side’s ability to switch play and put one of League Two’s best left-sided operators in decent space.

News and Star: Mark Howard is beaten by Nicky Cadden's cross and Morgan Feeney's deflectionMark Howard is beaten by Nicky Cadden's cross and Morgan Feeney's deflection

There was no gulf from that 16th-minute mishap, but equally little sense United were going to power back. They won and worked some useful ball, but couldn’t fashion more than half-chances.

News and Star: Forest Green celebrate their openerForest Green celebrate their opener

Their best opening, crafted by Brennan Dickenson and wasted by Gibson, was offside in any case, and when Tyrese Omotoye later got a rare glimpse of goal, he couldn’t finish with true authority.

In between, Forest Green had countered at pace without seriously endangering Howard, though the odd cameo reminded you, and United, that they could offer a blend of threats: such as the moment late in the half when the sizeable Matt sent Rod McDonald bouncing onto his backside.

News and Star: Omari Patrick on the attack for UnitedOmari Patrick on the attack for United

There was a creeping sense Carlisle knew, for all their hard work, they were gazing uphill. A free-kick routine attempted by Callum Guy and Dickenson ended in farcical failure. After the break, United’s early surges were kept at bay, and then Young glided into right-sided space and set up Stevens to do what Stevens does.

News and Star: Matty Stevens drills home the second goalMatty Stevens drills home the second goal

Two-nil was now the perilous stage when Carlisle had to stay open against an excellent side on their toes and now in their groove. Young floated a shot narrowly wide for Forest Green while for United, there was encouragement in the way Joel Senior attacked from right-back on his full debut, but not enough quality from those alongside or in front.

The introduction of Lewis Alessandra and Sam Fishburn proved a futile rearrangement, likewise Zach Clough’s return. By the time the latter came on, Carlisle were three down, Matt finishing clinically after Baily Cargill’s run and sub Jack Aitchison’s craft, and once more United’s lack of up-front presence by comparison was plain.

News and Star: Lewis Alessandra lifts a cross over the barLewis Alessandra lifts a cross over the bar

Alessandra lifted one good Patrick cross over the bar, Jon Mellish battled as per and Patrick was not wanting for persistence, but frankly there was more chance of Dale Vince succumbing to the meat sweats than Carlisle reviving their hopes.

News and Star: United react after Jamille Matt put the hosts three aheadUnited react after Jamille Matt put the hosts three ahead

If you could briefly look past the fact it was against the Blues, you could at least admire the nimble skill of such as Wilson and Young, and a heightened confidence in the green shirts which almost led to more goals through Stevens, Cargill and latterly Wilson: the latter zipping through and going close in the 95th minute, a stage other dominant sides might have switched off for a snooze.

News and Star: United applaud the travelling fans after the gameUnited applaud the travelling fans after the game

From Millen afterwards, there was an old conclusion which a contest like this brought back into harsh light. “We are getting into good areas, but we’re not taking or creating enough chances,” he said. This is where United are: still toiling for answers, while Forest Green glide over the horizon.