Steven Pressley said he was “let down” by his players’ work-rate in Carlisle United’s defeat to Exeter.

United’s manager named certain individuals he felt did not work hard enough in the 3-1 defeat.

He also said his team in general did not do enough against League Two’s leaders.

Olufela Olomola’s third United goal was a slim consolation as Lee Martin, Aaron Martin and Nicky Law struck for the Grecians.

But for a series of Adam Collin saves it would have been a much heavier Brunton Park defeat.

Pressley stressed that it was the first time he had felt the need to criticise his players’ work-rate all season, having praised their endeavour in previous games.

He said: “The overall performance was disappointing for me. I’m talking about the work ethic of the team, because it’s something that I’ve been hugely complimentary about.

“You can talk a lot about different aspects, but if you strip the game back, first and foremost, the work ethic of the group has to give you a chance of winning the game.

“I’ve complimented players like Nathan Thomas for working hard, but he didn’t work hard enough [on Saturday]. Guys like Canice [Carroll], who got his opportunity, didn’t work hard enough.

“Jack Bridge, on aspects and details we work on in recovery, didn’t work hard enough.

“There’s a lot of things that weren’t right, but the fundamental part and something I pride my teams on, is their intense work rate, and I felt let down today by the group, and I’ve told them that.”

Lee Martin shot Exeter in front in the first half before Olomola levelled on the hour. But United quickly went behind again through Aaron Martin’s header before Law wrapped things up for Exeter in added time.

It left Carlisle 19th in the League Two table ahead of next weekend’s trip to winless Stevenage.

Asked if a perceived lack of effort worried him, Pressley said United’s previous games had been very different and so Saturday should be a one-off in this respect.

He said: “This is the ninth game, and for eight games they have worked tirelessly. Let’s look at this as an isolated incident, I hope.

“It’s not that I don’t think they applied themselves – they didn’t apply themselves at the level I expect.

“We need to understand the type of team we are. We’re an intense football team, that’s what I’ve built here, but that’s not how we played.

“We were much better in the second half, but still not at the levels I want from us. It was a disappointing afternoon.”

Exeter’s second goal was the latest time United have conceded from a set-piece this campaign.

It came just five minutes after Olomola had brought them back into the game.

Pressley said: “Again, it comes down to the fact players have responsibilities. We know the player, he had his responsibility, that was his man, and he allowed him to score with a header. Players have to do better in those moments.”

Some supporters booed as Carlisle fell to their second home defeat of the campaign in front of 4,167 fans.

Pressley, though, said he has faith in his squad to produce better displays consistently. “I wouldn’t be critical of them if I didn’t think they could produce it,” he said. “I’ve seen it in the opening eight games. [This game] wasn’t a reflection of what I take great pride in.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Exeter who are a very good side. Their manager has moulded a good squad together and they deserved their result, but I’m only looking at us and I think we can do much better than we did.

“We were always two or three yards away. It was a theme I’d talked about all week. It was in my presentation to the players – the game will be decided by the inches and the yards, and how much we want to go those extra yards and inches.

“We didn’t, and when you step off a good side like we did, you’ll be punished.”

Pressley also disagreed that his preferred system should be altered in the pursuit of better results.

He said: “We’ve built the formation on 4-3-3.

“Nathan Thomas is a wide player in a 4-3-3; Nathan Thomas cannot play wide in a 4-4-2. It takes a different type of wide player.

“[Harry] McKirdy can’t play wide in a 4-4-2. He’s a 4-3-3 player. We have brought in players that fit the system.

“It’s not the system, it’s how we play in the system, that’s the bottom line.”