Oxford United 1 Carlisle United 0: Mark Harris' second-half goal was enough to consign shot-shy Carlisle to defeat at the Kassam Stadium.

The Oxford frontman got beyond the Blues defence to flick the ball past Tomas Holy in the 76th minute.

And Carlisle did not do enough to threaten a response in their first away game of the League One season.

Paul Simpson's side created very few chances as the Cumbrians' boss made a losing return to his former club.

It was another occasion where newly-promoted Carlisle's attacking shortcomings were clear early in this 2023/24 season.

Other than a couple of attempts from outside the box, United rarely threatened James Beadle's goal as Liam Manning's hosts prevailed - and could have won by more with a more clinical edge themselves.

United boss Simpson was again without Owen Moxon after injury and illness.

But he did have Paul Huntington and Fin Back available after they were rested in midweek.

Callum Guy also came back into the side, while Ryan Edmondson got his first start of the season up front and Taylor Charters kept his place in midfield for his first league start since December.

News and Star: Fin Back fails to reach a crossFin Back fails to reach a cross (Image: Richard Parkes)

New keeper Jokull Andresson was on the bench but Sean Maguire and Dylan McGeouch were out.

Reading had Cameron Brannagan in their side despite a midweek injury concern.

Although Oxford made the first serious inroad through Marcus Browne, whose cross was dealt with by Huntington, it was Carlisle who settled the quickest in general.

A confident start by Simpson's side saw Guy shoot just wide from outside the box before Charters also had an attempt blocked.

Carlisle saw plenty of the ball in the opening stages against a home side initially looking anxious.

Chances, though, were scarce and Oxford gradually grew back into things with Browne's running down the right a dangerous outlet.

Sam Lavelle had to make a timely block to deny Billy Bodin while the offside flag denied Harris as he latched onto a ball behind the Blues defence.

Carlisle were alive to anything loose from Manning's men but Oxford created more as the half went on, a Ciaron Brown cross from left-sided space going unrewarded after Harris had been denied at the near post by Jon Mellish.

At the other end, Guy rifled a shot against an Oxford defender and a succession of corners were survived by the hosts in a nip-and-tuck first half, with the Blues' attacking threat fading.

The opening 45 minutes ended with Holy saving a Brannagan effort from outside the box with the need for real quality in the final third still apparent.

Carlisle had a major scare early in the second half as Lavelle's pass was cut out and Harris raced forward into the box, but the defender got back to intercept as the Oxford striker cut in to shoot.

The hosts remained on the front foot and Carlisle had to block a Ruben Rodrigues attempt after Holy spilled a Brannagan free-kick.

News and Star: Callum Guy makes a challengeCallum Guy makes a challenge (Image: Richard Parkes)

Moments later Bodin fired wide from outside the box and the Cumbrians were struggling to impose themselves.

Guy, McCalmont and Back were all booked in quick succession as United toiled to keep their hosts at bay, while an Edmondson header easily claimed by keeper James Beadle was the sum total of Carlisle's attacking efforts in the opening second half spell.

Home skipper Elliott Moore then just beat Edmondson to the ball as the Blues frontman looked to pounce on a loose backpass.

Simpson sent on Dan Butterworth for his league debut at Jordan Gibson's expense with 20 minutes to go, but moments after a double Oxford change the hosts finally struck.

Harris was deemed onside as he ran onto the ball from sub Tyler Goodrham behind the defence to the left and, as Holy advanced, the striker flicked it past the keeper and the ball trickled into the net.

Simpson sent on Joe Garner and Luke Plange for the closing stages as Carlisle looked for a way back, but Goodrham almost punished the Blues again when he shot just wide from the Oxford left.

Holy then saved from Brannagan and sub Stan Mills shot wide as Carlisle, who had Jayden Harris on as a late sub, failed to make anything happen at the other end.

Oxford: Beadle, Long, Brown, Moore, Negru, McEachran, Brannagan, Rodrigues (McGuane 75), Browne (Mills 67), Bodin (Goodrham 75), M Harris (O’Donkor 90). Not used: Eastwood, Smyth, Stevens.

Goal: M Harris 76.

Booked: M Harris, O’Donkor.

Carlisle: Holy, Lavelle, Huntington (Garner 80), Mellish, Back, Armer, Guy (J Harris 87), Charters, McCalmont, Gibson (Butterworth 70), Edmondson (Plange 80). Not used: Andresson, Whelan, Barclay.

Booked: Guy, McCalmont, Back, Huntington, Mellish.

Ref: Jeremy Simpson.

Crowd: 7,964 (770 Carlisle fans).