One assessment from a Carlisle fan at half-time – ‘Stanley look a capable team but lack a cutting edge.’
Those are not the words Paul Cook wants to hear as he looks to bring his attacking brand of football to the Crown Ground.
He is striving to find the personnel to do that and there were certainly signs in the second half against last season’s League One play-off challengers that his young Stanley squad will entertain.
But the goals are a problem and Cook was striving to rectify it this week.
Aidan Chippendale came closest while former Cumbrian Luke Joyce forced a good save out of Adam Collin but, in a Capital One Cup clash of few chances for either side, the Reds crashed out.
They battled hard, held firm for most of the time, they were enthusiastic and keen – but ultimately they trooped off gutted.
"I thought the lads have been terrific, I do not like praising us when we get beat and there were a few flaws such as the finishing," said Cook. "It’s a bitter pill to swallow getting beat in the cup and it was a tough game but we adequately held our own.
"Carlisle finished eighth in League One and in the second half we controlled the tempo and were dominant in possession but we have a habit that we need to get out of, such as conceding goals like on Saturday.
"We will certainly work hard in training and by the time we get to a certain part of the season it will all be clicking together."
There were four players making their Stanley debuts in Chippendale, George Miller, Luke Clark and loan man Karl Sheppard and all acquitted themselves well, although Reading striker Sheppard didn’t get the best of service so the Reds could see his shooting skills.
"We have put a new squad together and I cannot sing my lads’ praises high enough," continued Cook.
"Sometimes you can only do your best and we gave it our best but we fell short. However we will be back."
The big worry for Cook, along with the lack of goals, was defender Toto Nsiala who picked up a yellow – and was lucky to escape without being shown a red card with the Stanley boss having to sub him in the second half to ensure they kept 11 men on the pitch.
"I was going to leaveToto out," admitted Cook.
"Toto had been told and Dean Winnard was going to play alongside Peter Murphy but Dean got a hamstring injury.
"I think you saw the best and worst of Toto on Saturday – at times he was magnificent but unfortunately he has got that little fuse in his head that we need to work on.
"When he is playing well, he is as good as any centre half in this league but when the red mist comes down he could lose it quickly, and that’s why we took him off."
It was good, competitive football on a perfect pitch at a sunny Brunton Park.
This is Cook’s first season in charge but Carlisle was never going to be the most glamorous or easiest of clashes.
Right back Craig Lindfield did well to keep lively winger Matt Robson quiet at stages while Murphy and Nsiala halted striker Lee Miller.
But the home side were swift in their breaks with keeper Ian Dunbavin denying Robson and James Berrett while Adam Collin jumped high at the other end to stop Joyce’s effort heading for the top corner.
Carlisle got the only goal of the game six minutes before the interval when a break down the left ended with Robson in space in the area and he gave Dunbavin no chance.
With Carisle having the better of the first half, Cook’s team talk was important and it certainly sprung Chippendale into life with George Miller pushing further forward.
Chippendale streaked down left and had a go but his shot went narrowly wide with the keeper beaten just after the restart.
The wideman got himself into another good position but this time Collin one-handedly turned his effort around the post
Minutes later a Chippendale free kick was punched by Collin – and the Reds were certainly battling back but they couldn’t find the all-important equaliser.
Cook had made changes to the attack – bringing on Will Hatfield and new signing Adam Dawson, who had signed on loan from Wigan the day before.
But one substitution was forced on him following Nsiala and Lee Miller being involved in a flare-up which saw them both enter the book.
Then, on 75 minutes, Nsiala slid in to bring Robson down and it was hold-your-breath time but Nsiala escaped – and Cook brought him off soon after for Tom Eckersley.
Robson could have wrapped it up running though but Dunbavin saved well while sub David Symington had two late chances to make it a more flattering scoreline but the Reds defence held firm while unable to capitalise at the other end.
"We have got beat, we have to accept that but we will learn and move on," said Cook, who was also talking about new attacking options after the game – to bring his goals and entertainment to the Crown Ground.