Workington Reds 0 Carlisle United 3: On a baking hot day in west Cumbria, the sun splitting the flags and lots of cold pints washing away the sting of sunburn, Workington and Carlisle United…

Okay. Not quite. There seemed to be plenty of cold pints going down still, but there was a great deal more of the other liquid, pouring from the sky. The game was, thankfully, not a washout but Borough Park did feel at one stage like a venue for watersports, not pre-season football.

It is credit to Workington’s pitch, first and foremost, that it coped with the climate so well. And then credit to those using it for a useful, hard-working friendly which shed positive light on some areas, illuminated others in need of more work.

That sort of mixed reading is what you’d expect of a warm-up game in mid-July. Carlisle looked what they are, a few steps above Workington, and the idea of them winning this game never looked under serious threat.

News and Star: Callum Guy wins a headerCallum Guy wins a header (Image: Barbara Abbott)

There were some notable individual performances, and while nobody should over-exaggerate the importance of them on such afternoons, it can still be flagged up that Jordan Gibson, for instance, has returned for pre-season with some pleasing dash in his boots.

Floating behind the front line, stamping creativity on United’s game…this was a bright day under gloomy clouds from Gibson, who was one of two players to complete 90 minutes and also scored Carlisle’s third goal after playing an unwitting one-two with a Workington post.

The midfielder was more finisher (substitute) than starter under Paul Simpson the longer 2022/23 went on. He has challenges for his place from the likes of Alfie McCalmont and new signing Dan Butterworth as League One edges closer.

News and Star: Ryan Edmondson goes up for a header against WorkingtonRyan Edmondson goes up for a header against Workington (Image: Barbara Abbott)

On early performance, though, Gibson is doing his bit, catching the eye. Others in the Carlisle side stepped up capably at Borough Park, Jack Ellis rifling a lovely goal to cap his new-contract week, McCalmont poaching one himself, Callum Guy his old industrious self in midfield and, on a general defensive level, Paul Huntington and co offering very little encouragement to Danny Grainger’s forwards.

United could have been more ruthless with some of their attacking situations, as Gavin Skelton conceded afterwards. They still look a striker or two short as a squad. Again, this is no secret and will, all being well, be addressed in the remaining weeks before the campaign.

An intense week of work in Scotland now begins for the Blues. As for Workington, they can be pleased with some of the passages of play they executed, some of the principles which have long been impressed upon them under Grainger’s management.

They were also, it should be noted, several key players short, and will be in more emphatic nick themselves as pre-season goes on. It will have been a demanding but good learning exercise for Grainger’s players against a side as urgent as Paul Simpson’s Carlisle typically seek to be.

News and Star: United's Jack Ellis takes on Reds debutant Kofi MooreUnited's Jack Ellis takes on Reds debutant Kofi Moore (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Simpson was vocal, issuing sharp demands, throughout. There is no such thing as a gentle loosener under Simmo, though this was never likely to be one. Workington did their best to contain United for much of the first half even as Carlisle had the bulk of possession and time in the opposition quarters.

They had to work for proper chances. There were flickering moments from Gibson and Owen Moxon, an early sighter from McCalmont, a combination between Ellis and McCalmont which led Moxon to clear the bar but not a great deal else until we were past the half-hour mark.

Workington themselves made some well-constructed moves, Conor Tinnion’s balance and footwork at the familiar heart of many of them, but their half-openings could not be taken by Lewis Reilly and Sam Smith. United in general kept them far enough away from the goal guarded by trialist Dan Langley, then they upped things and duly got the opener.

News and Star: Jon Mellish in a dispute with Workington playersJon Mellish in a dispute with Workington players (Image: Barbara Abbott)

After five successive corners had examined Reds and their own trialist keeper, Lewis Boyd, closely, Carlisle cracked them via a sweet Ellis volley from Jack Armer’s cross. United then finished the half with gusto, Edmondson and Gibson almost making it two – then started the second 45 at the same clip.

There was early dynamism as they pulled further away from Workington, Jon Mellish overlapping onto a Gibson pass and McCalmont gobbling up a rebound. A short while later, Gibson smacked the right-hand post only to receive the ball back from Ellis and this time cream it low across Boyd.

News and Star: Alfie McCalmont makes a run for UnitedAlfie McCalmont makes a run for United (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Things then entered the substitution phase, eight for United, a gradual succession for Reds. Reilly sent a shot from a decent position down Tomas Holy’s throat and at the other end Workington executed some diligent blocks to deny Joe Garner (as did Boyd with a diving save), Max Kilsby and Jack Robinson.

Amongst those flurries, Grainger’s side recovered composure on the ball and built better presence in United’s half. Their tip was not sharp enough to reward them or punish Carlisle, but that, against lesser opposition, will surely come – as the Blues, after towelling down from this soggy Saturday, now seek to take things up a few steps themselves.