Match report: Carlisle 1 Sheffield United 0

Carlisle go 1-0 up against United
Carlisle go 1-0 up against United

From chairman who communicate with aliens to the goal-scoring exploits of Jimmy Glass, Brunton Park is known for its tales of the unexpected.

Unfortunately for Sheffield United, the story of this match was depressingly predictable and mundane.

The visitors travelled north searching for a first win since August and only a second goal in five games. They departed having held a no-holds-barred dressing room inquest into the reasons which saw them fail on both fronts.

“We’ve got to clear the air,” Tony McMahon, the former Middlesbrough full-back, said. “We’ve got to get to the bottom of why we are losing because it’s killing everyone.

“Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t softly-spoken voices in there. It wasn’t all kisses and cuddles but it was constructive and it needed doing because we’ve got to put things right. I can’t stand losing. At anything. I don’t even let my son win at anything when we are playing at home.”

Worryingly for United, the latest setback of what has proven a tortuous start to the new campaign came against opponents wrestling with similar difficulties themselves.

McMahon’s assertion that “on paper probably none” of Carlisle’s players would command a place in David Weir’s starting 11 is difficult to dispute.

But, their obvious lack of a prolific centre-forward apart, it only served to highlight the fact that, at present, United are a team failing to equal the sum of their parts.

“The quality is there without a shadow of a doubt,” McMahon said. “The quality is there right the way through the team and everyone here has bought into the gaffer’s methods and what he is trying to get us to do.

“That’s a fact, but it’s also a fact that we know we aren’t creating enough and we’re not ruthless enough either.

“So we’ve got to sort that out. I’m not worried because I know what this team is capable of doing and I know what qualities the lads here have got.

“But we’ve got to sort it out too, which is why it was a good thing for everyone to speak their minds.”

Weir cut a disconsolate figure after watching Matty Robson’s second-half effort condemn his side to its fourth defeat in five outings.

However, despite his demeanour, the former Scotland international pledged not to abandon the passing principles which helped him secure the managerial position at Bramall Lane.

United, as their presence in their third tier of English football confirms, have spent too many years going around in circles, making knee-jerk reactions and lurching from one tactical philosophy to the next.

Nevertheless, having acknowledged that words such as “anger, frustration and bitter disappointment”, are fast becoming part of his vernacular, Weir conceded changes must be made.

“We’ve got to question ourselves and individuals and each other,” Weir said. “We’ve got to be open and frank with each other.

“That’s what I want and it’s always been my way. In situations like this you question everything.

“That’s what we’ve done in there and time will tell how it pans out.

“What I do know is that getting beaten is horrible. It leaves a nasty feeling in the pit of your stomach and the only way to get rid of it is to start winning again.

“We’re not scoring goals but we are conceding them so, quite clearly, we’ve got to come up with a formula to make sure that is no longer the case.”

United’s lack of cutting edge is not a problem of Weir’s own making. Indeed, their striker search began long before his appointment three months ago.

Nevertheless, it is one the 43-year-old must solve.

The methods and ideas he is attempting to instil are both well-meaning and necessary. But the absence of a clinical finisher is preventing them from delivering results.

“It’s not in my nature to panic,” Weir continued. “We don’t just want to bring ‘anybody’ in. They’ve got to be right.

“Doing otherwise isn’t my way or the right way to operate.

“It’s something we are looking at but, at the same time, we’ve also got to improve what we are doing ourselves.

“I don’t want us just to view bringing in someone on loan as a simple cure or quick fix.”

Maybe not. But recruiting someone capable of provding his attack with a focal point would ensure the good work of technicians such as Jose Baxter and Florent Cuvelier does not keep going to waste.

One passage of play, soon after Robson had pounced from close range, illustrated perfectly the biggest single factor behind United’s predicament towards the foot of the embryonic table.

Baxter, whose combination of industry and invention saw him emerge as the United player most likely to prise apart Carlisle’s defence, embellished a flowing move instigated by Lyle Taylor with a perfectly-angled pass which sent Callum McFadzean scampering down the flank.

The youngster’s low pass, which flashed across the six-yard box, simply begged to be touched home.

But Darryl Westlake, a defender turned midfielder, could not connect and a golden opportunity to restore parity was spurned.

United captain Michael Doyle blazed over the crossbar after seizing upon another McFadzean delivery, McMahon went close with a curling effort while Cuvelier shot straight at Mark Gillespie during the closing stages.

Graham Kavanagh, placed in caretaker charge following Greg Abbott’s dismissal five days earlier, welcomed a result which will go some way towards helping him secure the position on a permanent basis despite interest from the likes of Paul Simpson and Weir’s predecessor, Danny Wilson.

“I’m interested in the job and I’ve applied for the job,” Kavanagh, having orchestrated Carlisle’s first win in the competition this term, said. “So hopefully we’re at the start of something but I’ll have to wait and see.

“I told the lads beforehand that, if they show the same type of application they produce from Monday to Friday, then everything will be okay and thankfully it was.”