Carlisle United 1 Charlton Athletic 1: Owning the north would be a damned sight easier if it wasn’t for the awkward and quite frankly rude involvement of the opposition. After the flag waving and the fiesta, this was just another of those League One afternoons that reminded you of the immediate task, before we can even start on the long-term.

Charlton Athletic started the day in 11th, and are now tenth. They're seven points from the play-offs, and just as many from the relegation zone. A middling force in the third tier, then, right now.

And Carlisle, once more, had to empty themselves entirely just to stay with them, to hang onto their coat-tails. To their credit on this remarkable Brunton Park occasion, they did. A point was earned, soaking in sweat, even if the Blues rarely looked like giving the Piatak era a winning start. And so the fight goes on.

“You stand there at times and think, ‘Oh, wow, let’s just get through to half-time’.” So said United’s manager, their leader, their inspirational strategist, when considering Saturday's visitors. If that’s how Paul Simpson sees it, the campaign being waged by United at present could hardly be clearer to the rest of us.

News and Star: Armed with flags, fans in the Andrew Jenkins Stand greet the Piataks before the gameArmed with flags, fans in the Andrew Jenkins Stand greet the Piataks before the game (Image: Ben Holmes)

Every so often in League Two, you might stumble across a lost cause. There are no such opportunities in this higher league. Players such as Corey Blackett-Taylor, Charlton’s dangerman on Saturday, lurk around every corner.

United’s challenge, with the Piataks’ “step change” budget, is to unearth one or two more of their own. Until then, it is a case of sleeves up, overalls on and doing anything necessary to keep the motor running.

On this particular day, Sam Lavelle did the most important part, a clinical finish against his former club earning the defender a headline he deserves after some consistent and front-foot performances lately. He might not get much in the way of headlines in reality – the six folk from Florida will retain most of those for a while – but it is players like Lavelle keeping United honest, just about, in terms of the table.

News and Star: Tomas Holy, who had a sound game in goal, claims a crossTomas Holy, who had a sound game in goal, claims a cross (Image: Ben Holmes)

A winning goal would have taken them out of the bottom four, but winning goals are coming at an exorbitant price for Carlisle just now. Simpson himself admitted it was the commodity furthest from reach in the free agent market, so it still feels like a weekly bout of headscratching to find a new way, a hidden answer, in what United currently have, until the January window flies open.

The path to that point also now involves the half-dozen folk whose stroll onto the pitch at 2.45pm brought about some of the most extraordinary scenes this old ground has ever seen. Some of the Piataks punched the air as they headed for the centre circle, while Tom Piatak snr bowed in the direction of the Andrew Jenkins Stand. United’s new owners then turned and did the same in unison towards the Paddock, who responded with some very unPaddock-like flag waving and “USA-USA” chanting, same as the rest of a buoyant Brunton Park.

Given their statements of ambition and commitment to date, this is proving a romantic honeymoon indeed for the Jacksonville family – something also reflected by the bustle in a souped-up fanzone before the game. Let us hope the marriage proves just as passionate.

News and Star: Josh Emmanuel had a positive debutJosh Emmanuel had a positive debut (Image: Ben Holmes)

In the meantime, the first game of their era summed up Carlisle's 2023/24 to date: United up against a technically better side but throwing maximum endeavour at the job of sticking with them. Josh Emmanuel, at right wing-back, was an immediately positive presence even when the darting Blackett-Taylor tried to get at him early.

The new signing, in the second minute, lifted an already high crowd with a clever feint inside: a telling dash of composure in a fervent situation. As the first half went on, little happened in terms of last-third drama. Jordan Gibson was, as ever, United’s main weapon, shooting from range at the times he could escape swarms of black shirts.

As for Charlton, their football and mobility was at times impressive yet they were kept at bay by a combination of good last-ditch defending and a certain lack of conviction. Alfie May was rather peripheral on the right of their attack – though Ben Barclay did deny him with one superb slide – while United survived other half-chances, ricochets and then a Blackett-Taylor missile that cracked the post.

News and Star: Carlisle's players react after Charlton's openerCarlisle's players react after Charlton's opener (Image: Ben Holmes)

Carlisle otherwise contributed enough to the balance of things to merit being level, Simpson having adjusted mid-half by sending Gibson from the No10 area to the left, as Jon Mellish roamed in midfield. Charlton, though, started the second half with greater purpose and scored when Tennai Watson’s overlapping run ended with a firm Blackett-Taylor finish.

United’s response was good, and eight minutes on they were level: Gibson’s pass to Jack Armer nudged perfectly into the latter's path by a deflection and then Lavelle, up for a set-piece, finishing with a striker’s composure at the Warwick Road End.

He joined George Oghani, Brian Wake, Karl Hawley and Danny Carlton in the recent list of first scorers under a new regime. And he then protected the point by adding to some sturdy defensive work in which Tomas Holy, in goal, was also a regular contributor as Charlton upped things.

News and Star: Sam Lavelle fires home Jack Armer's cross for the levellerSam Lavelle fires home Jack Armer's cross for the leveller (Image: Ben Holmes)

Miles Leaburn and Michael Hector were among the visiting players who found Carlisle’s keeper a well-positioned barrier, while Barclay’s antennae were alert to a Blackett-Taylor attempt after Corey Whelan had let a long ball drop. A very late flurry the other way brought little, but as full-time came and people took their flags home, they did not appear to feel short-changed at United’s overall effort.

It was not a day for pessimism in general – quite the colourful opposite, in fact, given the wider picture and mood. Sort the detail out of what this Carlisle team so plainly needs, and Saturday’s good feelings can last and even grow.