Blackpool 3 Carlisle United 0: By the end, after Blackpool had scored one of those slow-motion goals that felt inevitable even before they’d got the ball, it was no different than it had been at the start. Ninety minutes, a lot of wind and rain, a 3-0 defeat – and exactly the same predicament as at 3pm.

Seriously, how complicated do we need to make it? This Carlisle United team will be relegated; the one that takes them into the first half of 2024 hopefully won’t be. It’s as basic as this, an either-or outlook only underlined, not rewritten at all, by this bitter day beside the sea.

And that’s what it boils down to, whatever other noises, opinions and gestures are out there. Nothing in football should ever be taken as totally inevitable – Carlisle could certainly have performed better than they did at Bloomfield Road – but there is not enough here to change the narrative, not after 20 games, not with these general limitations.

So it comes down to January or bust, in terms of survival: not the healthiest outlook to consider but, in the absence of others, the one United simply have to throw themselves towards.

News and Star: Luke Plange is crowded out by Blackpool defendersLuke Plange is crowded out by Blackpool defenders (Image: Richard Parkes)

In the meantime, whatever results do or don’t come before the new year, it would clearly help if fractures don’t appear in the most important and powerful relationship the club has seen for a generation. Paul Simpson gave the impression of a man deeply upset after this game and it left you feeling things were more delicate than they’ve seemed at any other time since February 23, 2022.

Simpson contended that he’d been treated to hand signals connected to the letter W, and abusive words closely linked to the letter F, as he went to display his appreciation to United’s travelling supporters at full-time.

Some fans said it was the team, and their diluted performance, who’d been the subject of the grief, not the manager himself. In this mood one doubts whether that will wash with Simpson, who was also incensed that his decision to substitute Luke Plange was greeted with loud and ironic cheers.

News and Star: Tomas Holy and Ben Barclay react after Blackpool's opening goalTomas Holy and Ben Barclay react after Blackpool's opening goal (Image: Richard Parkes)

These are not the sights and sounds of a club in total harmony, which is how things have been almost exclusively since that transformative day last year. Simpson went in heavy after this convincing defeat as a way of reminding us all of the journey since then, the surprising speed of Carlisle’s improvement from a pitifully low point, the fact that complaining about some defeats in League One would have seemed like a laughable drawback less than two years ago.

As ever, the line between measured and merited criticism, and abuse, needs to be observed. Fans are entitled to an outlet after a defeat such as this, which did not witness a single Carlisle shot until well after the 70-minute mark, and which showed very little that you could associate with proper and lasting League One potential.

The support in numbers that United received at Bloomfield Road was short-changed. It warrants the improvement Carlisle hope to bring about in the market soon, and criticism must have its day. Always waiting for tomorrow puts a certain test on anyone’s patience yet still, it’s probably in everyone’s interest to keep some, show some, until the Blues can do what everyone, from Simpson down, have long known they sorely need.

Perspective is always at hand given United’s recent story and it is certainly getting a good workout on occasions like this, when Blackpool’s superior quality was constant, however and whatever Carlisle tried.

News and Star: Ben Barclay battles for the ballBen Barclay battles for the ball (Image: Richard Parkes)

It was a filthy December day, a sodden Golden Mile enlivened by the sight of fruit salad diving in and out of bars and arcades beforehand. The skies turned greyer before kick-off and an afternoon thick with rain and powerful gusts saw United fall into a puddle 22 minutes into the game.

By then, Blackpool had grown into the contest's more efficient and accomplished footballing team without particularly threatening to score. Both teams were troubled by the wind when it came to their set-pieces yet a swirling high cross then caught Tomas Holy in a squall of indecision, his eventual opting to punch only delivering slight contact and a stranded position on which Andy Lyons, with a measured chip, capitalised.

Given the effort needed just to stay in games at this level, Carlisle do not need such unforced errors – yet the pressure of their position risks bringing them on. For the rest of the half, United came under more sustained raiding as Kenny Dougall, Karamoko Dembele, Lyons again and Jordan Rhodes threw jabs for Blackpool, not quite connecting.

News and Star: Jordan Rhodes' third goal wraps things up for BlackpoolJordan Rhodes' third goal wraps things up for Blackpool (Image: Richard Parkes)

Carlisle’s own attempts were paltry, hopeful and never particularly connected, and everyone, whether on pitch or on orange seats, knew it. Early in the second half there was more urgency about them, but no chances of the sort the hosts went on to create, as Lyons tested Holy, CJ Hamilton hit the side-netting and then, after a triple Carlisle change – including Plange’s withdrawal and those unnecessary, let’s be honest, cheers – a second goal, when Rhodes gobbled up a Holy save from Jake Beesley’s header.

From there, you knew it was a case of trying and failing to dispute the inevitable. Jordan Gibson, left out of the XI after illness earlier in the week, added some of the zip Carlisle had been missing and Sean Maguire, denied by a marginal offside call on the right, also offered a better angle. Jack Robinson, initially on the left and then in midfield, was one of United’s firmer competitors yet the 74th minute was reached before a serious shot: by Gibson, blocked from 30 yards.

News and Star: United players show their frustration as Alfie McCalmont fails to connect with a crossUnited players show their frustration as Alfie McCalmont fails to connect with a cross (Image: Richard Parkes)

There is little need in dwelling on the rest: a belated Carlisle flurry, an Alfie McCalmont miss, a couple more attacks, a final Blackpool counter ending in some desperate United rearguard work and Rhodes eventually firing home, and then wildly contrasting scenes: Neil Critchley milking cheers and applause at the home end, and Simpson coming to the forefront to clap the Blues fans still in Bloomfield Road, and some of them giving it back, seemingly, with interest.

An unhappy day, then – but of a pattern. The hardest thing right now might be to hold steady until it can be changed, but dismantling the powerful unity of the recent past would be a worse option. That's probably the best message to illuminate from all Saturday's gloom.