Carlisle Utd 2 Crewe Alexandra 4: It was after 13 minutes and 24 seconds of talking that Steven Pressley reached for the volume control. The + button was pressed quickly until he was no longer speaking, but shouting.


The planet can wait. What do Carlisle United need? Not just fight, but control. A sense of confidence that everyone can share. A positive pattern which all can see.

Above all, results; certainly more than one win in a row, and unquestionably better in general. A little later in his press conference – perhaps the least enjoyable of his tenure – Pressley came to the conclusion that renders the rest noise.

Talking, he said, won’t turn the minds of those supporters now against him (a growing group, judging by Saturday). Performances and victories will. This truth was voiced with the same tone, but at a more regular volume.

It was one message, at least, which nobody could dispute. Carlisle are 20th after 13 games, increasingly set for a campaign of struggle and with the manager’s future now part of mainstream supporter discussion, rather than the reserve of pessimists.

Pressley said he would work, and believe, and not “waver”. Hence the raised voice. His words came after his team had shown none of this defiance in conceding four goals, shabbily, to Crewe.

One must lead to the other, somehow, or this campaign will go down even darker roads. Carlisle are seven points above the solitary relegation place but the way they protected their net here saw worries from earlier in the campaign quickly return.

The supposed extra security of a third centre-half was not present. There were gifts offered in midfield. A nimble side like Crewe were happy to accept them and, after Carlisle staged an unexpected fightback in the second half, they crumbled again at the slightest touch, like a cheap meringue.

The away team duly moved to the top of League Two. Crewe are indeed a useful side this season and will pick off anyone who cannot get a grip on their movement and ball-circulation. Carlisle’s realistic task in their current, limited guise is to beat more of their division’s lesser men, since they clearly cannot lay a glove on the best.

The public mood is not good as they continue along this path. Some in the Warwick Road End did not share Pressley’s desire for patience as they chanted for his removal, while it may not take much for those in the hierarchy to cop more criticism too.

On the green grass, above all, it obviously needs to be better. David Artell has developed Crewe from an unconvincing mid-table set into a side on their toes, attuned to their style. Carlisle in comparison looked lost in a dismal first half, their two-goal deficit by 27 minutes a stark reflection.

First, the old set-piece flaw returned with bells on, as Byron Webster’s paltry interception to Tommy Lowery’s free-kick fell to Nicky Hunt. The delivery from the right had already caught United on their heels and it got little better from there.

Pressley pointed out afterwards that Crewe did not carve his side open regularly. The alarming thing is they did not need to. Carlisle were offering little in the way of pressing, passing and penetration, then Jack Bridge attempted a flicked pass: a travesty of idea and execution. Crewe raced away, Daniel Powell was fed in the channel and he finished crisply across Adam Collin.

While Crewe’s fans remained vocal, their drum beat incessant, boos from the home support scattered across Brunton Park. Other than a Jack Iredale run and a Hallam Hope shot, Carlisle had by this stage fashioned nothing. Iredale denied Powell a Crewe third and Nathaniel Knight-Percival limped through some of the half before going off at the interval. By that point, a fan of “56 years” had leaned over to the media section, livid, urging us to “get them told” – them being the Blues’ rulers, presumably.

Those in the directors’ seats must surely have seen for themselves how mediocre their side looked compared to Crewe, for whom Ryan Wintle was stepping in impressively from deep midfield as team-mates further forward gave lessons in movement and thought.

Then, that time-honoured United feature: false hope. With Stefan Scougall on for Bridge, their pressing got busier and, from nowhere, two goals were shaken out of the vending machine. Scougall was involved in the first, breaking the lines to feed Iredale whose cross found the sliding Hope. Iredale then crafted the second, Christie Elliott meeting his delivery on the half-volley to score his first Blues goal.

The latter goal spoke of a change in events, as it had arisen from a hasty, airborne Crewe clearance which enabled Carlisle to keep something alive. The visitors had lost their poise, Mo Sagaf was driving into challenges and United had a breakout win in their sights.

Or they would have, had this been a jigsaw box with all its pieces. On 78 minutes, a free-kick was fed to Perry Ng on the Crewe right. United sat off and were once more caught behind events when sub James Jones crossed beyond Webster. The poaching Chris Porter did as experienced No9s will.

It was deflating and also had the whiff of predictability. United were now done, and there was little Harry McKirdy could do from the bench to alter proceedings. Eventually Ng had another crossing chance and Gethin Jones was pursued by yellow shirts as he turned it into his own net.

Many then got up and left, while some who stayed told Pressley what they felt. There was plenty indeed to shout about – just not in the right way.

United: Collin, G Jones, Webster, Knight-Percival (Mellish 46), Iredale, Elliott, M Jones, Sagaf (McKirdy 80), Bridge (Scougall 52), Olomola, Hope. Not used: Gray, Branthwaite, Loft, Sorensen.

Goals: Hope 59, Elliott 63

Crewe: Richards, Ng, Pickering, Nolan, Hunt, Wintle, Lowery, Green (J Jones 70), Powell (Dale 89), Kirk, Porter. Not used: Booth, Ainley, Finney, Anene, Johnson.

Goals: Hunt 7, Powell 27, Porter 78, G Jones 85og

Booked: Nolan

Ref: Darren England

Crowd: 4,521 (465 Crewe fans)