Carlisle United 2 Salford City 2: The defensive errors, yes. The substitutions, perhaps. The sense that Carlisle United have it in them to make each game of 2019/20 much more exasperating than needed, definitely.

Those chances, though. Honestly, those chances. As clear and as inviting as it is possible to receive when your life is built around forcing a ball of air through two posts.

Chances so good and so tantalising to have rendered the rest as afterthoughts, detail, dust. In a way it is absurd to begin an account of a four-goal match by discussing the misses, but these weren’t just any old chances.

They were old-fashioned sitters, all in the second half, and the reason United did not win Saturday’s game. First, Hallam Hope, presented with the ball on a salver by Nathan Thomas. Inexplicably he sidefooted wide of the gaping goal.

A few minutes later, Stefan Scougall burrowed forward without a Salford defender in the same time zone. Just the keeper to beat. He shot early, low past the visiting No1. Wide.

Lastly, Elias Sorensen. What a moment for the young Newcastle loanee, arriving at the back post to receive more silver service from Thomas. Yet even he had caught the virus. Instead of dispatching a winner, he clipped his volley the wrong side of the post.

However many games Carlisle win, lose or draw this campaign they will not have such a procession of blatant opportunities. You can laugh at the absurdity of it, but only if this habit doesn’t plant itself into the team’s psyche.

If this isn’t enough to win a game, what is? Thomas in particular may have entertained that thought on Saturday night. By the time the second half had opened up, Carlisle’s right-sided attacker had discovered a land of plenty in that part of Salford’s defence.

The visitors had as good as thrown their hands up as an evenly-matched attacking force. Thomas took on and zipped past his man umpteen times. Only by taking out an Amazon Prime account and arranging for the ball to be delivered to the net that same working day could he have done any more to guarantee victory.

Where does it leave United? Still without a league win since the opening day, still with defensive issues to resolve, still short of the stage when their better football – and there was a good deal, here – is rolling out the wins Steven Pressley believes it can.

Saturday’s first half, in sweltering heat, was a case of the good, the bad, the bad and the good, before that teasing second period. They were, going forward, more cohesive for the presence of Olufela Olomola, who dropped off the number nine position and linked smartly with their midfielders and wide attackers.

He shot wide from Scougall’s first positive dart, and, shortly afterwards, opened the scoring, finding space between Graham Alexander’s defenders to head a cross from Thomas (who else?) past Chris Neal.

This backed up Olomola’s useful back-to-goal work and hunger in general, yet Salford, whose fans were vocal all day, also had a certain intent. Joey Jones hit the bar amid an exchange of chances that saw Jake Beesley and Thomas go close, and midway through the half the visitors did enough with their movement and keenness to stretch the play and get right back into things.

This is where United’s flaws were on parade. The equaliser came via a deep ball into their left side, where Scott Wiseman frequently found space. He did well to keep the ball in and Mani Dieseruvwe headed his cross home, having escaped Byron Webster (United felt their defender was fouled).

The next goal came five minutes later and said equally little for Carlisle’s defensive command. Beesley somehow emerged from a scramble with a sight of goal and was fouled by Webster. Danny Whitehead beat Adam Collin from the spot and this meant United had conceded twice in the first half for a third consecutive game.

Not what was expected from such an experienced core of a new back four. At least, though, they ventured back up the pitch with bright ideas. Scougall, who has taken some criticism lately, was central to this and the Scot fashioned the equaliser without touching the ball.

His dummy, from a Mike Jones pass, opened the gate. Olomola did well to create space to shoot and nobody scented the rebound other than Scougall, who gobbled up Neal’s save and headed home.

This opportunism had bailed out the lesser stuff nearer base and the way the second half unfolded, it should have been the platform for victory. Although Dieseruvwe was a tricky presence up front, Salford’s best spell had now passed and Carlisle’s progressive football found repeated spaces.

Jack Bridge held and worked the ball well; Jones was the “pivot” Pressley wished for. Scougall remained bright with his running. Christie Elliott appeared more settled up and down the right. Thomas was relentless. Yet the goal wouldn’t come.

Other than the sitters, there were half-chances for Thomas, Nathaniel Knight-Percival and Hope again. Sorensen initially came on down the middle but moved to the left once Pressley sent on big Ryan Loft. United lost some of their zip for these changes and Salford, on the occasions they did emerge, punched out a couple of real chances.

One was made by Jones, who beat Knight-Percival and two others but Dieseruvwe put his pass over the bar. Another came when Tom Walker crossed invitingly for fellow sub Adam Rooney, but Collin saved superbly.

At least, when still seeking the winning groove, Carlisle did not walk down that other familiar road. They can thank their keeper for preventing a soul-destroying defeat. It should not, though, have been the slightest, tiniest risk.

United: Collin, Elliott, Iredale (Mellish 79), Webster, Knight-Percival, Jones, Bridge, Scougall, Hope (Loft 67), Thomas, Olomola (Sorensen 59). Not used: Gray, Carroll, McKirdy, Branthwaite.

Goals: Olomola 7, Scougall 43

Salford City: Neal, Wiseman, Touray, Piergianni, Pond, Maynard (Threlkeld 46), Whitehead (Walker 81), Smith (Rooney 60), J Jones, Beesley, Dieseruvwe. Not used: Letheren, D Jones, Gaffney, Doyle.

Goals: Dieseruvwe 28, Whitehead 33

Booked: Wiseman

Ref: Paul Marsden

Crowd: 4,806 (340 Salford fans)