Paul Simpson believes Carlisle United are “not a million miles away” from being an effective League One team despite their wait for a win.

But the Blues boss conceded that his team must do better in the final third after their 2-0 home defeat to Exeter City.

Carlisle had good spells in the game but failed to score for the third time in five games so far in 2023/24.

Simpson, who remains on the hunt for new strikers, said United must be better at scoring when on top.

He said: “I can’t fault the effort the players are putting in, the way they’re trying to go about it.

“Unfortunately we’ve not finished things off when we’ve had the opportunities – when we’ve been in control of the game, we haven’t been able to take our chances.

“That’s something we’ve got to do better and improve on. Overall I don’t think we’re a million miles away, we’re not far off, and we have to get it to turn as quickly as possible.”

Carlisle started the game brightly with Sean Maguire and Fin Back going close.

Early in the second half Maguire again threatened while Paul Huntington also had a good chance later.

News and Star: Carlisle show their frustration as a chance for Paul Huntington goes beggingCarlisle show their frustration as a chance for Paul Huntington goes begging (Image: Ben Holmes)

But the Blues were picked off when Ryan Trevitt and Demetri Mitchell scored for the Grecians.

“They were better than us in those moments,” Simpson said.

“We weren’t able to find the corners of the goals. I think we’ve worked the goalkeeper but a lot of it were comfortable saves, and we weren’t able to do what they did to us.

“I do think we had some real good passages of play, we were controlled in the way we had possession and kept switching play and getting into wide areas.

“We have to just improve on that quality. I suppose that’s been the thing I’ve said after every game so far this season.

“We’ve also been punished for a couple of lapses in concentration and that’s something we’ve got to learn from. The higher you go, you get punished for any little mistakes you make.”

Simpson, meanwhile, refused to blame ref Adam Herczeg’s controversial decision not to send off Mitchell in the first half for the defeat.

The Exeter winger, already booked, looked set to be dismissed when he hauled down Fin Back.

But Herczeg declined to produce a second yellow card.

News and Star: Fin Back went close in the first halfFin Back went close in the first half (Image: Ben Holmes)

“I really don’t think that’s the reason we’ve lost the game – I really would be clutching at straws [if I said that],” Simpson said.

“I actually thought the referee was good today, the officials were good today. I thought the fourth official treated us with respect which I don’t think we’ve had in other games.

“Unfortunately it’s one of those things. He could have given a yellow, and I really do think he would [have] if Mitchell hadn’t had the first one.

“I know that’s not right, but that’s just human nature. And it’s always the way – something like that happens, and Mitchell pops up and scores the second goal.

“The first challenge was a bit reckless, the second one was probably a bit of a lazy winger’s challenge just tripping him up, and I don’t want players sent off…who knows what it would have done if he had gone off.”

Simpson said that, while there was positivity in plenty of Carlisle’s play, he cannot settle for faint praise when his side have remained goal-shy.

“You can’t let it drag you down but you also can’t sit back and think there was a lot of nice stuff and it’ll be ok, because it won’t,” he said.

“We have to strive to be better. I’m not satisfied that we were ok in patches. I want us to be better in patches.

“I asked for a full performance, not half a game, I wanted a full performance. I think we had a full game of trying to do the right things, we just weren’t as effective as I want us to be, particularly in the final third.”