If there is the smalliest, tiniest, most microscopic atom of good news within Nicky Adams' sad absence for the rest of the season, it is that his injury happened in mid-November, not late January.

In other words, by the time the transfer window opens, Carlisle United will have had more than six weeks to plan and prepare.

It is time they must use to the maximum if this campaign, which has improved over recent weeks, is to be upgraded into something even more promising.

Come 2018, they cannot pretend the unavailability of their star winger is an event they didn't see coming. It isn't Charlie Wyke being spirited away to Bradford with a few hours of the window left.

It is beyond doubt a deeply unlucky situation. Given Adams' quality, it would harm any side in League Two. As Keith Curle has said, there is no easy way to replace a man with the 31-year-old's particular qualities.

It is not as if the Blues, in the lower play-off area of fourth tier spenders, can simply go out and find another player guaranteed to top the assists chart and unlock tight games as Adams did throughout last season.

But the timing of it ought not to leave United scrambling in the final hours before February. There ought to be a strategy that at least delivers better results than their last two Januarys, neither of which have resulted in United either improving or holding their position.

In both cases, their form has got worse after the turn of the year. Recent results, Luton aside, have suggested this season may have a different pattern but still, a good winter window can have a far-reaching effect.

The moment Adams' medical results came in is the moment those considerations will surely have begun.

There are enough warnings from the past, when United suffered as a result of being caught on the hop by mid-season injuries or departures, or simply of not responding well enough.

The events of 1997/8 lead to all sorts of questions about the onset of Carlisle's decline under Michael Knighton but the bald facts are that they sold Matt Jansen and Rory Delap for big money a month into the new year and did not replace them with anything like enough intent or quality.

Yes, they converted the loan of the impressive Nick Wright into a permanent deal, but he was already there. He was not an upgrade or a replacement.

Losing those stars was not an out-of-the-blue development, since Jansen in particular had been hawked around some of the country's biggest clubs for several weeks. It appeared more emphasis was placed on maximising his sale than on making sure that however much revenue came in was reinvested in the best possible way, and quickly.

Whatever the motivations involved, United's relegation that campaign was an object lesson in how not to make the most of a regrettable absence.

That concerns sales. When it comes to injuries, some have come at even worse times than Adams'. There is debate over how hard United were hit by Joe Garner's knee injury at Crewe in February 2008, given results remained strong for a period afterwards.

But a closing run of one win from eight, costing them automatic League One promotion, was a clear enough sign of what they were missing in the crunch games.

Whether they could, or should, have replaced Garner after he buckled in Cheshire - it may simply have been too late to act effectively, as it was when Lee Miller went down in the spring of 2012 - the fact is they didn't, and were undeniably weaker in the long run.

A key man leaving the fray for one reason or another is a fact of life in the lower leagues. In 2009/10, Greg Abbott made an inspired gamble on the wandering Vincent Pericard, but replacing the Frenchman when he decided to bolt for Swindon in January proved a trial.

Doing so from within turned out to be impossible, and it was not until late in the campaign, when Jason Price made brief impact as a replacement target man, that Carlisle made some sort of meaningful recovery.

Whether United could have handled last January better is another unknown. It is not as if Wyke's loss was sprung upon the club at the eleventh hour, yet the fact it was completed so late in the day still left Curle with reduced time to act.

As short-term substitutes, Jamie Proctor was a qualified success, George Waring much less so, but as they exited the window who knows what shape Carlisle could have been in had they been able to consider their next moves a little longer?

Curle has himself made this point, that the timing of Wyke's departure caught them uncomfortably short, so at least he has that additional thinking time when it comes to the second half of the season without Adams.

There are certainly options in the building. The fit-again John O'Sullivan is eager for his chance, as is the currently out of favour Jamie Devitt, while the Luton game was another reminder that Curle is often happy to seek tactical alternatives from within his squad that few others had considered, even though this particular one - calling up two extra defenders but leaving out James Brown - did not work.

At the same time, it would be a surprise if a search was not also on for outside help, with the next few months in mind.

It could even, as the first January window since their "loan facility" was offered, be an opportunity for Edinburgh Woollen Mill to demonstrate proactive intent, rather than remain the safety net they have been since March.

Given that Curle has highlighted the potential importance of FA Cup prize money from next weekend's Gillingham trip, though, that prospect seems uncertain.

The challenge is clear either way. Carlisle must find ways to bolster, not weaken, a potential play-off challenge as they head into winter. That means doing everything in their power to negotiate serious setbacks.

There's only one Nicky Adams - we all know that. But it would be a sin not to try and fill those skilful shoes.