Carlisle United went down to a 2-0 defeat to Exeter City on Saturday - but what did we learn from the game? Let's take a closer look...


It is the issue so obvious this sentence could be written in invisible ink and it would still be obvious: Carlisle are short up front.

You have to go back to the 3-2 defeat over Salford City in April for the last time a Blues centre-forward scored in a competitive game.

(Unless you count Omari Patrick at Wembley. And, as he’ll be at pains to tell you, he’s a winger)

News and Star: Ryan Edmondson didn't manage an attempt on goal before being substitutedRyan Edmondson didn't manage an attempt on goal before being substituted (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Carlisle have lost frontmen and gained them and the transition, both in personnel and the step up a division, has not seen the goods produced yet.

There were moments of promise and disappointment intertwined in the Exeter defeat.

Sean Maguire, on his second start, certainly showed some of the quality and invention that will surely bring goals.

He almost netted after a minute of the game and, when Carlisle were at their best, tended to be at the hub of things.

Four attempts, two on target, a decent ratio of aerial challenges won and good passing stats: the Irish frontman looks like he’s going to be key as United work out how to open more third-tier doors.

By contrast it was not a remarkable afternoon for Ryan Edmondson, who did not muster an attempt on goal and, for all his toil, struggled to escape Exeter’s shackles.

Paul Simpson, speaking after the game, said he wants a pacy addition as well as a target man. United did some good things against the Grecians but the lack of a sharp tip remains blatant right now.


Set-pieces, then. The source of one of Carlisle’s two goals this season (that dreamy free-kick by Owen Moxon against Fleetwood) but, otherwise, not yet a reliable route.

If United are to get the upper hand in tight League One games, of which there are going to be many, they have to find a way to be as effective from dead balls as they were in stages last season.

Like everything else in 2023/24, making this happen entails a step up in standard and a smaller margin for error.

News and Star: A Paul Huntington chance from a corner goes beggingA Paul Huntington chance from a corner goes begging (Image: Ben Holmes)

A good set-piece side, though, can maximise its benefits even if other areas are short.

On Saturday, Carlisle forced 11 corners, comfortably the most they’ve mustered in any of their League One games so far.

One almost saw Paul Huntington profit, and it is not as if the deliveries from such as Moxon were poor.

The Blues, though, did not produce enough in the way of chances across the board for all their efforts in earning dead-ball opportunities against Gary Caldwell’s side.

Exeter’s defensive three of Alex Hartridge, Wil Aimson and Pierce Sweeney were largely excellent from set-pieces and in open play, and were another good barometer in terms of the standard Carlisle must aspire to at this level.


Fin Back earned the man-of-the-match vote on Saturday and that decision was probably justified.

The Nottingham Forest loanee, in his third game of the campaign, looked like he was getting back up to speed on the right of United’s team.

Although Paul Simpson went with a back four again, this did not deter Back from piling forward to useful effect at times.

News and Star: Fin Back showed good signs against ExeterFin Back showed good signs against Exeter (Image: Ben Holmes)

He was a whisker away from his first Blues goal in the first half when he met a Jordan Gibson cross.

Back also helped Carlisle find a little extra balance in their play, getting forward almost as much as Jack Armer, whose raids down the left are more familiar on average.

The man on the right was United’s top tackler in the game, contributed some important interceptions and his determination ought to have resulted in a red card for Exeter’s Demetri Mitchell, who certainly gave Back and the Blues a test down that side.

Back at full tilt last season was an impressive sight and it should not be forgotten that he is still feeling his way back into regular first-team football, which injuries have cost him since last November.

Saturday, although a disappointing outcome overall, offered encouragement that the 20-year-old is gradually getting back the bite of 2022.


“I have consistently said that doing takeover deals in football in a public glare and media spotlight is not conducive to achieving a successful outcome. I still strongly believe that.”

So said Nigel Clibbens in an official club update to supporters on Friday.

The next day, Tom Piatak senior and junior were in with the fans at Brunton Park.

In the first half, the American businessman and his son sat in the Andrew Jenkins Stand, quickly spotted by our photographers and some supporters.

News and Star: Tom Piatak snr and jnr in the Andrew Jenkins StandTom Piatak snr and jnr in the Andrew Jenkins Stand (Image: Barbara Abbott)

In the second half they migrated to the Warwick Road End and enjoyed themselves to much that Tom jnr posted on Instagram about the experience.

A couple of things to take from all this, then.

One, there is not even the slightest pretence of absolute confidentiality on all this. The Piataks have been hiding in plain sight for some months and, if negotiations are at any sort of delicate stage, a little extra exposure is not deemed much of a risk by United’s would-be owners.

They are clearly content to be seen, to be associated with the place. This reflects, surely, a firm degree of confidence as regards the endgame of their takeover interest.

Yet being so public – in appearance, if not yet in comment – also influences the general picture before things are over the line.

It puts certain ideas right under our noses even though, as far as we know, a deal is not yet done; certainly not one that involves the rather large chess piece of the Purepay loan repayment being moved into the appropriate place.

It is sometimes said that truly credible suitors don’t buy football clubs in public, and that the most clinical deals are done without anyone outside knowing about it.

There are clearly exceptions to that notion – the need to convince supporters’ trust members is a necessity, and that cannot be done privately – yet this is now a matter being played out in the public eye.

The genie can’t go back in that particular bottle, and one simply hopes the substance of whatever is going on fully measures up, now the fancies of fans have been suitably tickled.