Steven Pressley says he hopes Aaron Hayden and Canice Carroll can now make the most of their Carlisle United careers after coming through difficult spells with the Cumbrians.

Both played key roles in last night’s 2-1 win against Blackpool in the Trophy.

Midfielder Carroll scored United’s late winner while Hayden gave a solid defensive performance on his full debut.

Manager Pressley said the pair had shown better signs recently after previously struggling to impress.

Brentford loanee Carroll had a hand in United’s first goal and then almost set up Nathan Thomas to score before finding the net himself with a fine 25-yard strike.

Pressley said: “I’m pleased for him. He’s had to come through a difficult period, I had a really good conversation with him on Friday, and hopefully we’ll start seeing more of that type of performance from him.

“I said I wanted him to make this loan deal a success. When every player comes in, I want them to be a success. I’ve brought them in for that reason.

“I’ve told him, you have to fight through difficult periods, you have to handle these, this is football, this is life, this is what you have to do, and he’s shown the right attitude and response.

“There were one or two moments when he was a wee bit untidy but I thought he gave probably his most assured performance. He was aggressive, tough in the tackle, his first pass for the opening goal was a terrific pass – he had three or four of them in the game.

“His finish is sensational – it’s one of these ones you catch perfectly and it’s really difficult for the goalkeeper, it dips, it moves, a terrific finish.”

At the other end, ex-Wolves defender Hayden helped United prevail against Pool’s League One strikers including Nathan Delfouneso and Armand Gnanduillet.

Pressley said of the summer trialist signing: “If you’d seen the place where Aaron Hayden was, about four weeks ago, he was in a bad place and I had a long conversation with him.

“We’ve worked and worked with him and I think he was terrific [in this game].

“He’s making real strides, he gave a really assured and commanding performance.

“I get a real kick from all of those things because, I’m telling you, we’ve got great boys in this dressing room.”

United’s victory in front of Brunton Park’s sixth-lowest crowd of 911 saw them keep their hopes alive in the controversial competition.

Third in northern group G, victory at Morecambe in next month’s final group game would see Pressley’s side progress, with the current top two, Blackpool and Wolves under-21s, still to face each other.

That game is on November 5 but Carlisle’s trip to the Globe Arena comes a week later.

“I’ve made no secret that this tournament is one that I want to bed in some of our younger players and give them experience, give them opportunity,” Pressley added. “But I’ve also never hidden the fact that I want to win the games. We’ve given ourselves a chance now and I want to progress.”

After Ryan Loft and Carroll scored to overturn Calum MacDonald’s Blackpool opener, Pressley said more of his fringe players had staked a claim than in previous outings.

He said: “Looking at Sunderland and Hartlepool [reserve friendlies this season] you were thinking, ‘there’s not a lot behind this’.

“But we’ve been working and working and working with these players. They also have a far better understanding of the system, and the principles of our play, and I think they’ve improved from game to game.

“The Wolverhampton [under-21s] performance [in the Trophy], although we lost, was a big improvement in many of them, then the Rangers [friendly] performance – again another improvement.

“This game saw a really, really good improvement. Especially going a goal down to a really strong team, they showed good character, they came back from it and I’m really proud of them all.”

Pressley felt Newcastle loan striker Elias Sorensen worked tirelessly for the cause and had an “exceptional” second half.

He said: “In football, it’s amazing – the harder you work the better you perform, that’s the bottom line. That’s one of the things he’s truly added to his game, his out-of-possession work.

“We’ve worked a lot on that with him, the understanding of his role and responsibility without the ball. And he’s doing it to great effect. As the game grew he got stronger and stronger. I was really pleased with his efforts.

“As a group, there wasn’t a failure. They were excellent, intense, we pressured the game well, and let’s not be kidded here, that was a good Blackpool team with a lot of experienced first-team players. For our group to win tonight I think it’s a really positive result.

“I thought to a man they were excellent. Jarrad [Branthwaite], for a 17-year-old playing against some physical players, did really, really well and is improving all the time.

“With Stefan Scougall, the truth is he’s an amazing boy, I keep saying this about him, I absolutely love him to bits. The intention was to only play him for 60 minutes, but because of circumstance, injuries, I had to keep him on longer. He got a little bit of cramp towards the end of the game but he just never lets you down.”

Pressley was also pleased with Louis Gray’s response after his error enabled Blackpool to open the scoring.

MacDonald’s low delivery from the left slipped through the keeper’s grasp but Gray later made some good saves.

Pressley said: “His handling was good after that. He’ll be disappointed but he’s young, learning, hasn’t had a lot of games but the important thing is for a goalkeeper, when you’ve made a mistake it’s the reaction to a mistake – how you respond for the rest of the game, and he responded very well.

“He was very confident after that, so he showed good character and that’s an important part of things.

“We have a group here and everybody’s got a contribution to make. It’s frustrating when you’re not in the team. But you’ve got to show me you should be playing. Many of the players did that.”