Assistant boss Gavin Skelton felt Carlisle United’s first pre-season friendly was a positive exercise as the Blues faced Fleetwood.
A host of new signings and fit-again midfielder Callum Guy were among the players to feature as United lost 4-2 to the League One side.
Midfielder Guy’s return to action was a particularly a welcome step forward for a “talented player”, Skelton said.
The midfielder played the first hour of the game on the Fylde coast.
Guy is back to fitness after a knee injury suffered against Cheltenham curtailed his 2019/20 United campaign in February just three games after his move from Blackpool.
Skelton says he is looking forward to seeing the 23-year-old build on his first appearance since then.
“It’s good to see him back,” the coach said.
“He’s been out even longer than the others and was a bit slower with the fitness programmes we gave the players during the lockdown [because of the injury].
“He’s a very talented footballer. The more minutes we can get into him, the sharper he can get and the more impact he’ll have on the pitch.”
Chris Beech’s No2 said he was pleased with yesterday’s workout against a strong League One outfit.
It saw seven of United’s eight summer signings involved along with a number of first-year pros and youth players.
George Tanner, Rod McDonald, Gavin Reilly, Joshua Kayode, Magnus Norman, Joe Riley and Danny Devine were all involved, as Jack Armer – along with Omari Patrick and Aaron Hayden – trained rather than played as they nursed minor injury niggles.
Skelton said: “It was an excellent workout.
“We’ve got a lot of new players and we haven’t had a game as a club for quite a few months, and in your first game you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get.
“I thought the majority of it was excellent. We haven’t been back long in training, but the standards and fitness levels were really good and something people can take a lot from.”
Skelton was particularly pleased with how Carlisle started the game, with Lewis Alessandra scoring early on, Jon Mellish adding another before half-time.
“The work we’ve been doing is built on how we press, the tempo and speed of everything,” he said. “Especially in the first 15-25 minutes you could see that the players have bought into what’s required.
“The first goal was a really clinical finish. I think his [Alessandra’s] performances last year were excellent; all that was lacking were more goals, which he probably deserved. Hopefully he can build on being on the scoresheet.
“Jon Mellish went into midfield last year and again, all that was lacking was that goal. Hopefully he can build on that [here] too. He provided a lot of energy in midfield.”
Skelton said the execution of United’s two goals was also pleasing.
“They were really good finishes, clinical into the bottom corner,” he said.
“We’ve been speaking in training about hitting them low. Not the shots that go in the top bin – they look great but give the keeper a chance. The build-up was impressive too in the way JJ [Kayode] worked. Opportunities aren’t always created by 100 passes; it’s often by forcing other teams into mistakes. If they’re not set, and you’re clinical, you’ll score goals.
“We know we’re a long way off where we need to be but there were good small steps. It’s the first game, and pleasing, but there is lots to work on.
“It’s been unprecedented times and that also relates to pre-season. They’ve had a lot of time off so they need to get minutes into their legs. You can train as much as you want but there’s nothing like games.
“Players look after themselves a lot better than they used to. They’ve had programmes and they haven’t really had a break, haven’t been on holiday. In lockdown it’s given them something to focus on. Their fitness is excellent. The football-fitness side will come.”
United have not yet commented individually on the trialists who featured in the game, Joe Fryer playing in goal and Junior Mondal understood to be the outfield player involved.
Skelton, speaking generally about the trialists, said: “I thought they’ve acquitted themselves well in training too. They did well and it’s something I’m sure discussions will take place about.”
The pair are set to continue with Beech’s squad as they prepare for their next friendly at Workington Reds on Saturday, which is also behind closed doors.
Skelton said it was good to have games to look forward to at last.
“It’s exciting, everyone’s missed it,” he said. “There’s nothing like that competitive edge for us, the players, and excitement for supporters. You miss that adrenaline rush.
“If we can start as well as we did in the first 15-20 minutes [at Fleetwood] we can have some really good times this year.”