Leyton Orient 3 Carlisle United 1: If only football matches didn’t last 90 minutes, things would be a sight easier for this Carlisle United side. Make them 15 or 20 minutes long and it’s game on.

In bite-size football, you could lever yourself into a decent position without the unpleasant business of trying to sustain it. You could flatter yourself into thinking that some of the answers are enough of the answers.

Alas, that’s not what we’re dealing with – and the big-boy stuff is exposing the Blues. They had about a sixth of this FA Cup tie, tops, with Leyton Orient claiming most of the rest. The result therefore was entirely in keeping with the pattern, and not just Saturday's pattern.

Too much of 2023/24 has gone this way too. At Cambridge the week before, United played for the first 20 minutes or so then gradually teleported themselves from view.

The League One table, thankfully unaffected by this latest defeat, also reflects the Ctrl-C Ctrl-V nature of Carlisle’s habits since promotion. It is, all in all, deceptive football: a form of cheating both yourselves and those invested in you. If all you can manage is a chunk of a game (here it was the opening period of the second half) then the conversation needs to shift.

It has to progress from the assumption that United are good enough, if only they could do it more often, to concluding they aren’t, because they can’t.

News and Star: Orient's Sol Brynn in the thick of the action as Carlisle apply early pressureOrient's Sol Brynn in the thick of the action as Carlisle apply early pressure (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Just like the fig leaf of “fine margins”, which was ripped away by Paul Simpson in a rather melancholy post-match assessment, being “good enough” doesn’t just come down to the demonstration of ability. It also accompanies stamina and consistency: things Carlisle, right now, do not possess enough of.

Orient, who opened up to claim a fourth consecutive win over the Cumbrians, are quite plainly a better team. They are better not just because of the quality of their football and footballers, but because they can play the long game.

Here they got in front, rode a United comeback, then used different tools, in tactics and personnel, to win the game. They used the full afternoon to do it, not just a period when the wind was with them. They look way more advanced than Carlisle as a promoted side and should not be troubled by the rear-view mirror in the league.

United are and will be. It is “blatantly obvious”, Simpson said, that new players are needed, something the Piataks’ takeover should help with, and as much as you’d prefer not to look to January as the only panacea, that’s how it’s appearing.

Short of throwing the Americans’ wealth at the market, what else have they got? They have Simpson’s acumen, certain first-team regulars who are up to the mark and steadfast support. Those factors alone are not proving enough.

News and Star: Callum Guy's afternoon ended early with a serious-looking injuryCallum Guy's afternoon ended early with a serious-looking injury (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Buckle up, then, for a couple of hard months until the new year. For Callum Guy, meanwhile, many more are likely to be endured. The saddest sight on this gloomy November day was the midfielder turning, twisting and then flopping to the turf in clear agony in the 14th minute.

Guy is one of United’s bankers and his loss will be felt. May he recover as well and as safely as possible – and may Carlisle somehow find alternatives in the meantime.

With him, they were already a goal adrift at Brisbane Road. Without him, they flirted with the contest at best. Orient had begun confidently, sharply, more energetically than Carlisle, Idris El Mizouni elusive early on, Jon Mellish almost scoring from a set-piece for United but Sam Lavelle’s high foot on Dan Happe offering an 11th minute penalty which Joe Pigott accepted.

The Blues, it felt, had sleepwalked into arrears. Then we had poor Guy’s misfortune, a six-minute stoppage as a cluster of medical people came to his aid, Simpson hollering to his players during the wait to keep them alert, Dylan McGeouch eventually replacing Guy.

Carlisle’s main threat appeared to remain of the set-piece variety, as Orient found better spaces around United’s box; Theo Archibald a persistent threat, Ethan Galbraith’s quick feet almost unlocking something. United, via Dan Butterworth, Sean Maguire and Jordan Gibson, engineered a period of half-chances but when Pigott reprieved them with a bad miss at the far post, the Blues’ lack of penetration was shown up again.

News and Star: Joe Garner celebrates his equaliser - but it came in vain for UnitedJoe Garner celebrates his equaliser - but it came in vain for United (Image: Barbara Abbott)

To their brief credit they resolved that after the break when, with Mellish pushed into midfield and defender Corey Whelan on for Butterworth, Carlisle had their spell. Mellish and Joe Garner constructed a move of pleasing zip and, when Sol Brynn saved Garner’s finish, Carlisle worked a throw-in and Ben Barclay’s deep cross was nodded home with experienced accuracy by Garner.

There was then a brief period of further good work, good hounding of Richie Wellens’ players, good hunger and territory. The Orient boss, though, readjusted, put Jordan Brown closer to Mellish in midfield, switched their half-time sub, Aaron Drinan, from right to centre, sent Archibald into the spaces he had vacated, and things shifted back quickly.

News and Star: Jack Robinson got a start in the absence of suspended Jack ArmerJack Robinson got a start in the absence of suspended Jack Armer (Image: Barbara Abbott)

The lead was restored when Tom James crossed early and Drinan caught Whelan cold to slide it home. Carlisle duly faded, and the hosts powered up. Tomas Holy denied Drinan another, Garner headed a free-kick against his own bar, United’s late substitutions were as futile as you feared and there is really little to say about their remaining efforts other than they appeared to be pedalling backwards well before the coda, supplied by another home sub Ruel Sotiriou, who ran clear of Whelan and fizzed a third goal through Holy’s legs.

A victory in instalments was duly completed. Orient skipped into the second round as Carlisle, bruised and pained after another fraction of a job, went home: 1,833 miles in three losing weekends, the furrows on Simpson’s brow a millimetre or two deeper. Confidence that it can soon get better was not available on this dark London day.