United kicked off the 2020/21 season with a home game against Fleetwood Town as the teams played the first of three round-robin fixtures in Group A of the EFL Trophy competition.
Manager Chris Beech had keeper Magnus Norman and midfielder Brennan Dickinson sidelined with medium-term knee and hamstring injuries respectively, and other pre-season niggles meant that second-year youth player Lewis Bell was drafted up to the bench.
A further complication was added to the mix for team selection with Callum Guy serving out his one-match suspension following the sending off he suffered in last season's Trophy home fixture for Blackpool against Scunthorpe - back in November last year.
The match was the first ever competitive encounter played behind closed doors for Carlisle, with it being just under six months since the Covid-19 outbreak had caused a complete shut down of the professional game.
Seven of the 11 Blues starters were making their debut, with just Alessandra, Anderton, Hayden and Mellish the recognisable names from the last campaign.
Good work between Riley and Tanner saw them open up a gap on the right flank early in the piece. The cross from the right back was met by Toure but his touch was just in front of Alessandra.
Fleetwood responded with a long ball forward which Saunders raced after. His delivery was plucked out of the air by Farman when it angled for the back stick. A delivery from Burns followed, but Tanner kept his eye on it and he stuck a boot out to volley it behind to safety.
The outswinging corner was aimed at a mass of bodies on the penalty spot but James Hill couldn't keep his header down and it sailed over the target.
It was a game played at a good pace and United were next to have a go when the ball was eventually worked to Devine. His powerful effort hit a defender and skipped away for a corner.
The Cod Army went close on the quarter hour when Morris let fly from distance. Farman saw it late, and his parry invited Camps to sprint forward. The big stopper made amends as he spread himself to deflect a clipped shot towards the corner flag.
United broke at pace from the set piece, and Toure used strength to get to the edge of the box as he went on a 40-yard run. His effort was palmed away by Coleman, and the keeper recovered just in time to divert a dipping stinger from Reilly over the bar.
Carlisle continued to work hard and Riley was next to test the defence when he held his position as Alessandra fed it back his way. The 20-yard rasper was goal bound until Whelan got in the way.
Back at the other end and a deep free kick was met by Saunders as he jumped to volley the dipper. Farman completed a superb, instinctive save when he somehow got a hand to it before it could bulge the roof of the net.
It was a good spell for the away side and Harvey Saunders dragged one wide as he found unexpected time inside the box. Andrew then fizzed over from distance when he had other options.
Good pressing from the Blues kept the visiting team on their toes and possession was overturned on 35 minutes when the hosts hunted in packs. Anderton had pulled wide, and his thunderbolt had to be touched behind by Coleman as it threatened to spin into his nets.
Riley ripped the resulting corner at Hayden, and both he and Reilly appeared to get a touch, but it was debut boy Gime Toure who led the celebrations as he got the final decisive clip as the ball made its way over the line.
But the Cod Army were back on terms on the stroke of half time when a slick move down the left brought a low cross from Andrew as he pulled off his man. Callum Camps was there to poke it into the bottom corner and level the scores as he arrived late in the penalty box.
Midfielder Dean Furman replaced Danny Devine for the start of the second period, having signed a season-long deal last week, and his first contribution was a beauty of a free kick which found Alessandra on the sprint. A glanced header was a whisker away as the offside flag went up.
A Joe Riley free kick from 25-yards angled just over target in what was a decent home spell, but Gavin Reilly was alert from the goal kick as Coleman and Burns got crossed wires. The lively forward nicked the ball but the Fleetwood keeper raced off his line to close the angles.
Toure showed another flash of his trickery moments later as he mesmerised two by the bye line, and a whipped delivery was begging to be finished off, but it was just too far in front of Reilly and Alessandra.
United were enjoying themselves as they sprayed the passes around, with Furman right at the heart of it, and more determination from Toure saw him win another 50:50 before he released Alessandra into space. He was at an angle, and he was disappointed to see his shot thunder into the side netting.
Fleetwood were ahead against the run of play just before the hour when it looked to everybody apart from the officials that Farman had been blocked off as he tried to throw a punch at a corner.
Harvey Saunders ignored the appeals and his diving header zipped into the bottom corner as he met it just before it bounced on the surface, close to the back stick.
A goal saving tackle from Hayden on Morris was an excellent piece of defending as the away side picked a path through a tight defence, but Saunders made no mistake on 68 minutes when he rose gracefully to glance a whisked cross past the despairing dive from Farman.
United looked to get back into it and a Riley free kick from the left flank was only half cleared. Furman put his boot through a volley but it spun off his laces and Coleman watched as it bobbled wide.
Saunders almost claimed his hat-trick when he lurked and waited for another deep corner. He was taken by surprise as it fell at his feet and his rushed effort could only find the side of the net.
Toure was a matter of millimetres away from notching his second of the night when he put his head down and carried the ball into the box. A crunching thump hit an outstretched leg and Coleman was relieved to see it curl over and behind into the Warwick.
The game tightened up through the closing stages but disaster struck for the hosts in the 90th minute when Gime Toure was shown a straight red card after Burns fell to the floor directly in front of the assistant referee.
Carlisle United - Toure (36)
Fleetwood Town - Camps (44), Saunders (56, 68)
Carlisle United - Toure (90)
Carlisle United - Farman, Tanner, Hayden, McDonald, Anderton (c), Riley, Mellish, Devine (Furman 46), Alessandra, Reilly, Toure. Subs - Dewhurst (gk), Hunt, Charters, Birch, Armstrong, Bell.
Fleetwood Town - Coleman, Andrew, Whelan (Matete 70), Burns, Camps (Johnston 76), Morris, Coutts (c), Saunders, Garner (Evans 70), Holgate, Hill. Subs - Cairns (gk), Baggley, Rydel, Morris.
Referee - Benjamin Speedie
Assistant Referee 1 - Matthew Parry
Assistant Referee 2 - Gareth Mellor
Fourth Official - Adam Herczeg
Attendance - behind closed doors