Carlisle United need a change of luck but must also help themselves, reckons Nathan Thomas.

The forward insists the Blues’ position of 18th in League Two after 10 games does not reflect the ability in Steven Pressley’s side.

He says that “patience” needs to be shown as the Blues bid to improve on that, but there are also obvious areas where they must get better.

Set-pieces, for example: Pressley’s chief bugbear after Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Bradford. United have made a poor fist of dead-ball positions both defensively and in attack so far this season.

What is the answer? “I think, individually, everybody has got to be more aggressive with it,” says Thomas, who has often been the set-piece taker in the opposition half. “There has to be more of a willingness not to let the ball go into our net and more of a willingness to put the ball in the other net.

“It’s as simple as that at the minute. You have to want to get the better of the player you’re up against.”

United’s last game went against them for other reasons, such as the Jack Bridge red card which changed the shape of proceedings, and also the Blues’ failure to capitalise when the dismissal of home defender Ben Richards-Everton evened things up for the last half-hour.

It was, in the end, a fifth defeat from 10 in the league leaving Carlisle wedged in the bottom half of the table. United clearly feel they are doing some good things, however much or little supporters agree. When, though, will these turn into better results?

“It’s just patience, because things aren’t going to change overnight,” Thomas says. “Anybody who was [at Bradford] will say that we play some fantastic football and sometimes you’re just missing the rub of the green or a little bit of luck.

“There are times where you can scuff one and it goes in, or you get an own goal, and it’s often something along those lines that can turn a switch on.

“I just think we’ve ran out of a little bit of that kind of thing at the moment. The harder you work the more luck you get so we’ll keep working hard as a group and I’m sure our luck will change.”

Thomas believes, as he must, that United will duly climb the table.

“Without a shadow of a doubt we will,” he says. “It’s all about timing these runs of games at the right time.

“There’s no point going off really early and blowing up. You’re best off being consistently good and we’ve had some pretty good results of late.

“You can see that we’re disappointed because we came into [Bradford] with two wins, two draws and a loss, so we’re not happy that we haven’t carried that on.

“We think we should have won a lot more games than we have and it doesn’t take much for you to go on a run.

“The games come thick and fast at this level so if you go on a run of three, four or five wins it becomes the difference between second or third in the league and being 15th or 16th.

“I do think this league will be just as tight as it was last year, when even though we had the worst form going into the last day we still had the chance of reaching the play-offs.

“I think it’ll be similar this year – you’ll be able to chuck a blanket over all of the teams in the middle and it’s then all about putting runs together and picking up results when you can.”

United’s first job is to get into that middle pack before entertaining higher thoughts. Their defensive record is among the division’s poorest while they have only been deadly enough to win three league games.

Thomas has one league goal and one cup strike from 12 appearances since cutting short a loan at Gillingham to rejoin the Blues. Statistics put him high on the list of shots on goal in League Two and he concedes his conversion rate needs to improve.

“I feel great at the moment – my biggest issue has always been getting that run of games and I feel like I’ve had that at the minute. Obviously I’m disappointed with my goal return, and I do feel I should have had a few more, but I’m sure if we keep doing the right things the goals will come,” he says.

“It didn’t take me long to settle back in once I came back here. It was like I was never away to be honest. Everyone knows I really enjoyed my time here last season and it was probably the easiest decision I had to make when I got the chance to come back.

“I was happy with how I started the season in terms of the performances I was putting in but the last few games have been a bit quieter. They’ve been different types of games and I’ve been learning a different type of role, and there is a lot more defensive responsibility on me now.

“I’m working hard to get that right, but I feel really good and I’m sure there will be a lot more goals and assists to come.”

Thomas is key to Pressley’s attacking plans and will not want this to be another period of struggle after he was involved in Notts County’s woes in the first half of last season.

He appeared happier in a blue shirt from January to May and, when quickly finding that he was not settling at Gillingham in his initial summer loan from Sheffield United, the north east native was delighted to rejoin Pressley at Brunton Park.

“It’s great to play for a manager who has so much belief in you,” he says. “It made the decision to come back even easier, knowing I’d worked with him before and that we play a style of football I enjoy playing.

“It’s hard work, don’t get me wrong, and there’s a lot of leg work, but you get rewards for it because it means we create opportunities.

“I’m a lot better for it as an all-round player, and fitness-wise I’m a lot fitter than I was last season. It will only make me a better player all round and I’m really enjoying it.”

He, and we, will enjoy it more if Carlisle can put victories on the table. Bradford was the latest case of United finding a way to lose rather than win.

“When you put as much into a game as we did and come away with nothing, it is disappointing,” Thomas says. “We played with 10 men for a long time, but it felt like we didn’t really capitalise once they went down to 10 as well.

“We played some really good stuff at times, especially in the first 30 minutes. We know we need to be a lot stronger at one end and be a lot more ruthless at the other end.

“We felt really hard done by with the sending off, but the goals we conceded were still really soft. Once you concede two, you give yourself a mountain to climb, especially with 10 men.

“The goals we’re conceding are frustrating because we work so hard off the ball. In the middle third of the pitch we are really good, but games are decided by what you do at either end of the pitch.

“It isn’t only about the attack or defence, it’s all 11 of us who have to chip in and do our work. There are no teams who work as hard as us in training or on a Saturday, so we’ll keep doing that and look to iron out the mistakes.”

Whether or not Thomas is involved in tonight’s Trophy game against Wolves under-21s, he is likely to start against Oldham on Saturday, when United must put away a side in worse shape in the wrong half of League Two.

Claiming the initiative in that game would be a crucial step forward.

“When you concede then go a man down and a goal down it is hard,” Thomas says, reflecting further on Bradford. “We’re a group that is built off the foundation that we all work for each other so when that happens you don’t just have to do your own job, you’ve maybe got to do two or three roles at a time to help the team.

“It’s all about your character and mental strength to make sure you come through the other side.

“In the second half it looked like there was only one team who was going to score. It is really frustrating when it doesn’t drop for you. At the start of the season we were fantastic in the final third and creating a lot of chances, but we’ve changed the system a little bit and it doesn’t feel like we’re maybe creating as many chances.

“I think our biggest strength is when we turn the ball over and get on the counter-attack. We look really good when we do that, but it’s about knowing which pass to make at the right time or making the right run. That only comes from playing games with the lads in the formation.

“You can do a lot in training, but it’s in games on Saturdays where you have to make it happen.

“We know there isn’t much more that needs to click into place for us to be one of the better sides in this league. Some of the football we play at times is fantastic – one of [Bradford’s] players actually said that to me at the end of the game, and that’s a compliment to all the hard work we put in.

“It’s just about getting that performance for 90 minutes, not just in spells during games, but I’m sure it’s not far away.”