A further commitment to openness, honesty and communication is needed at Carlisle United in response to the feelings expressed in Tuesday's pre-match protests, Keith Curle believes.

While Brunton Park was not stormed by hundreds of rebellions fans, the scenes outside the stadium were still significant, and rare enough to attract a good deal of attention.

Several news organisations dispatched reporters to the area of the Main Stand where a cluster of supporters were standing with banners.

A few yards away from them, certain members of the Blues' hierarchy were stood talking to individual fans, conversations that grew longer and more animated as the minutes passed.

Of those senior figures who did speak to some of the disgruntled, Nigel Clibbens remained the longest. Andrew Jenkins was also there close to him, while Steven Pattison watched from a slightly further distance, eventually heading indoors when some of the protestors approached him with their banners, eager for a photo opportunity.

Phil King also came outside. Suzanne Kidd watched from a ticket office window. The only figure holding significant power on United's boards targeted by the protest who did not show was co-owner John Nixon, the subject of one unfriendly chant.

Curle, naturally, was preparing for the Luton game at the time and those involved in the protests had stressed that their grievances were not about the manager or his team.

Rather, it was the running of the club, the "billionaire" debacle, a perceived lack of "ambition" - those were the allegations United's top table had to face when the protest got under way at 7pm.

Whether the answers delivered by the likes of Clibbens convinced those involved is for them to know. On Twitter, where the chief executive is an occasional poster at best, he also offered some of the unhappy group a further meeting at Brunton Park.

This at least gave the impression of being willing to hear complaints, and talk about them, rather than hide away.

There needs, though, to be more fronting up, more talking to United's lifeblood, and this is not merely the opinion of the fans or the media (who are not exactly besieged by Blues bigwigs eager to chat) but the manager himself.

Curle, speaking after Tuesday's 0-0 draw, when one of the season's smaller home crowds watched a competitive display from his team, said: "I had heard there was going to be a protest. I looked out of my window earlier in the evening and saw Nigel, the chairman and Steve Patt outside.

"That's something that needs to get done more. There's no point burying your head in the sand if you've got disgruntled supporters that want answers and want that communication.

"I know the chairman [was] out there from 6pm. If you want to talk to him, he's there to talk to, and that's something that needs to be embraced and harnessed by the football club.

"Since the day I've been here there's been a disgruntlement and an underlying current at the football club that needs addressing and communicating.

"Sometimes you're not always going to be able to please everybody all of the time. Sometimes people aren't going to get the answers they want. But what you can't afford to do is ignore it.

"Sometimes giving somebody bad news...you've [still] got to give them that news. That dialogue is something that's been missing from the football club."

One wonders how frustrated privately Curle may be by that "underlying current" which has made this promotion push not exactly the most harmonious, between terrace and club.

It was also not hard to recall, as the manager spoke, how he said something very similar at the end of last season, when the final game - a 5-0 win at Notts County - was soundtracked by fans singing "We want Nixon out" among other anti-board tunes.

After that match last May - watched by Clibbens, who was at the time being courted by United's owners - Curle had said: "We need to start talking, and be a football club that has good levels of communication from the very top down to the supporters who pay their money.

"We're not going to be able to keep everybody happy, but we need to have a plan, tell supporters what our plan is and why we think it's progressive and forward thinking.

"We need to be more communicative with our wider audience about what we are trying to do."

Events on Tuesday night might give the impression that little has changed or improved. The alternative view is that it was a minority chanting at Notts, and it was also a minority with their banners 10 months on, and the broader fanbase are fairly unmoved in their opinions on wider club business.

What is certainly undeniable, whatever your take, is that fans are not flocking to the club, which is surely the wish and aim. Tuesday's attendance was only 4,052, a total helped by 377 travelling Luton fans. Compared with past promotion efforts at United it does not reflect a widespread belief or communal hope.

It is said that Clibbens again reiterated to the fans he spoke to that United's owners are eager to be succeeded, eager for new money to affect control at the top of the club. This followed the extremely sour taste left by the 650-day "billionaire" saga, which even the chief exec has admitted was not handled well from the outset, and whose conclusion remains full of frustrations and grey areas.

Supporters have long memories, and do not enjoy being taken for fools. There are a good number now who feel the last two years, at least, have exposed a strange set of priorities at Brunton Park.

From Curle's perspective, there was at least a more united noise inside the ground once his team got stuck into a much better performance against Luton.

The encouraging cheers both at half-time and full-time were certainly not witnessed at the end of Saturday's collapse to Cambridge and, while this remains a period of modest form, Curle was at least heartened by what he heard.

"We needed the supporters to be with us," he said.

"We're going into the last 10 games of the season, and before [Tuesday] we started in fifth. I said to the players before the game, 10 games to go, fifth, still in touching distance of automatic - how many here would have taken that gladly at the beginning of the season? I think every one of us would have taken that to a man, to a Carlisle supporter, or an employee.

"Enjoy where we're at. There's lots of things at the minute that aren't going our way, but they will change, because we have got good players coming back [from injury]. Sometimes strange things happen in the run-in to the end of the season."

That last comment was revealing in itself about Carlisle's recent run. In the autumn, "strange things" in the run-in would have been seen as events that might knock United off their smooth course, instead of factors that could help them back into the race.

Alas, Portsmouth are now six points clear in third place, having won three on the spin without conceding. Promotion form, in other words - and with their remaining fixtures not looking the most brutal, it will take some effort to haul them back in.

Curle's squad has also been besieged by those injuries, leading to the urgent signings of trialists James Hooper and Joe Ward before Tuesday night. It is not the sort of emergency business Curle will have anticipated doing in this season's better months, but needs must.

He will hope the additions, and any returning bodies, can also get the focus back on the grass, rather than boardroom mysteries. Reflecting further on Tuesday's draw, Curle added: "I've told the changing room that's our starting point, our go-to performance for the last 10 games.

"I didn't enjoy Saturday. I can take getting beat, but there was something I didn't like about the level of performance and the response of some players afterwards. Waving hands around and gesticulating makes it seem as if they care. But I need to see graft, commitment, people flying into challenges, not looking to see who they're challenging against.

"Those mannerisms and body language I pick up on is massive to how I manage, and if I see something's not right, I tell people. I'm not the oracle, but there are things I look for. Tuesday showed we've got that fighting spirit back."