Steven Pressley has warned Nathan Thomas that he might not walk straight back into the Carlisle United team.

The forward missed last weekend’s defeat at Newport through illness.

And whether or not he is deemed fit enough to return against Crewe on Saturday, manager Pressley suggested a starting place may not be a foregone conclusion.

Carlisle’s boss was delighted with his players’ display despite their defeat in Wales.

Asked about Thomas’ return, he said: “I think sometimes, when you come out of the team and players perform as they did [at Newport], you have to be patient.

“I was really pleased with them.”

Thomas has started 11 of United’s 12 league games so far, along with two of their cup outings.

The 25-year-old has been a major part of Carlisle’s attacking set-up but Pressley switched to a 3-5-2 system in Wales.

That saw Hallam Hope recalled in a front two alongside Olufela Olomola, with Jack Bridge returning from suspension in a three-man central midfield.

Pressley recently challenged Sheffield United loan man Thomas to “work harder” after claiming his “physical data” was not at the level required in Carlisle’s last home game against Oldham.

How Thomas fits into a different system from Carlisle’s initial 4-3-3 remains to be seen.

Pressley, though, feels switching to three at the back has benefited his side recently and could be the best way forward for the players at his disposal.

He said: “The back three, it’s probably most suited to us,” he said. “We can play 3-4-3 [or] 3-5-2.

“I feel that with the likes of Byron [Webster], since we’ve gone into that, his performances have been exceptional. Nat [Knight-Percival] looks really comfortable, our two wing-backs have grown into that.

“In a lot of ways it’s helped us.

“Certain games will ask different questions but I think the type of battle we were going to be faced with at Newport, the second balls, all those aspects, it suited us.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t be flexible, I’ll always look at games and think of how we can win them.”

Pressley believes his side will have a good chance of beating high-flying Crewe if they play with the same intensity they showed in south Wales.

The Blues manager said: “If we play like that every week, trust me, we’ll be a very good team. That’s the most encouraged I’ve been after any game.”

Pressley also reserved praise for midfielder Mo Sagaf, who is hoping to keep his place in the centre against the Railwaymen.

The ex-Braintree man held onto his position despite the return of Jack Bridge from suspension.

Pressley said: “He [Sagaf] certainly proved me right. I thought his performance was amazing.

“He’s getting fitter all the time. When he first came in, after 70-75 minutes I could see him fatiguing, but he’s getting better and better all the time. I’m really chuffed with the way he’s developing.”