Slowly but surely we are finding out a bit more about this Carlisle United team and the game against Salford highlighted plenty of the strengths and weaknesses in this new side.

Any time you rip a team up and build a new one, as Carlisle did this summer, it is going to need some patience and perseverance.

There can be surprises, and times when pre-season doesn’t compare with the serious stuff. Players who looked good in July can find League Two tougher, while others who you thought might struggle appear to take things in their stride.

I said before Saturday’s game that just because the visitors were coming up with a big reputation, it still takes time for a team on their journey to adapt.

Instead of making wholesale changes in the summer, it was only fair that they kept faith with many of the players who have got them up. This can also make it a big challenge for those who were playing in the National League last season.

It was an opportunity for Carlisle, who I felt played a lot better than in previous games. They were the better team, and though Salford had a little spell after United’s opener, Steven Pressley’s team regrouped again and looked the team who would go on and win it.

Everyone has talked about the chances in the second half and it’s hard to ignore the subject. On another day they are scored and we are reflecting on a good win.

Hallam Hope’s was a great opportunity. Harry Kane had one similar for Spurs against Newcastle on Sunday and when the ball comes across your body like that, it is sometimes more difficult than it looks.

He should still have scored, though. With Stefan Scougall’s, some people said he should have squared it to Hope, but I have no problem with how the midfielder went for goal.

With the technique he has, he will have trusted his ability to pass it round the goalkeeper. Unfortunately it was about the only pass in the game that was off the mark.

Then Elias Sorensen’s. He will have gone home thinking about that one. He got a good contact on Nathan Thomas’s cross, and whether it was the defender missing it at the last second that put him off, who knows – but yes, that should also have been the winner.

It resulted from great play from Thomas once again and there isn’t much more to be said about his ability to make those sort of things happen. I am so pleased United managed to get him on loan – he is the magic man you go to in order to produce something, even if he is having a quiet game.

Overall at least Carlisle can say they stopped the little rot that had developed with three straight league defeats. Supporters and the manager saw a lot more from the team to encourage them, although it is clear they need to tighten up defensively.

The two centre-halves are coming in for some stick but Pressley, when asked about this, echoed what I said on the radio. Byron Webster and Nathaniel Knight-Percival are 32 years old, have been there and done it, and don’t need to be told about these things in the dressing room.

They are experienced enough to know exactly what is expected of them.

I thought the second half was better in how Carlisle defended: they concentrated on the basics, didn’t play out too much from the back and made sure lines were cleared.

The next league game, at Scunthorpe, might suit them defensively: it is a tight ground, with few open spaces in behind, and everything will be down the throats of Webster and Knight-Percival. They should be able to deal with that.

As players get older, we all lose a bit of pace, but you learn to use your nouse a bit more. When this happened to me as a midfielder I found that tight pitches were sometimes more to my liking.

Also, if you are not quite at it one day, going away from home to a tight ground can also benefit you. It brings you into a battle rather than finding the opposition stretching you over a bigger pitch. I wonder if this might also see Pressley go for a bit more physicality and aggression in his midfield at Scunthorpe.

Before then, it is the Carabao Cup second round at Rochdale and while many were disappointed with the draw after that great win at Barnsley, now you can look at tonight’s tie as a good chance for Carlisle to get through.

With all due respect to Rochdale, who have some excellent players in League One, they are inconsistent and if Carlisle are at it, it might just be another of those nights when it comes off, and then the chance of a big third round draw will be on offer.

The game itself is another free hit in some ways and maybe another opportunity for Pressley to look at certain things with Saturday in mind: a chance, for instance, to get some minutes into the likes of Canice Carroll, who is back from suspension, and Sorensen.

At the same time, he wants that analyst he has been promised if United progress to a money-spinning tie, so it could just as easily be full steam ahead!

Wherever else that sort of money would go – and you can see it going to other areas than just the team this season – it would still be great for morale. That big draw always lifts supporters and let’s hope that’s what we are talking about in due course.


Hallam Hope made his first start of the season on Saturday at a time when his future is still the subject of speculation.

He is probably not yet as fit as he needs to be, because of his pre-season injury, although he is a naturally fit lad and that will come.

So will that sharpness and touch which wasn’t quite there against Salford. Again, that can only come with games.

As for the transfer situation, it doesn’t surprise me that some clubs are sniffing, given Hope’s recent statistics.

I don’t know what his options are right now but he will be aware of them, and he has made it apparent to Carlisle that if certain teams come calling, and the right bid came in, he would like to leave.

If that didn’t happen, I don’t think he is one of those players who would sit and sulk. I feel he would get on with it.

He still has a year here and if he has another season like his last, there would still be plenty of takers in the summer. He is still young enough to have those possibilities in front of him.

Playing under that cloud of speculation can be a challenge for player and team.

In some ways it can depend on where the interest is coming from. League Two to League One might not entail a big jump in wages and that’s why you see some players knocking moves back and settling.

Moving up to the Championship is another matter and I remember when Michael Bridges was wanted by Hull not long into our League One season in 2006/7.

The difference in wages was going to be measured in thousands rather than hundreds per week and it was inevitable that Bridgey wanted to make that move.

When things don’t come off like that you can see players getting agitated but, as I say, I’m sure Hope will go about things in the right manner either way.