Experienced defender Paul Huntington got his first 20 minutes as a Carlisle player at Stevenage on Saturday and he immediately demonstrated the qualities he was brought into the squad for with a series of blocks, headers and challenges that kept the Boro front line at bay as the visitors chipped away at trying to find an equaliser.
“We know what he is as a player,” manager Paul Simpson said. “It’s the other bits people don’t see, the talking and organising, the pulling people around.
“He’s switched a ball to the right-hand side, so he’s got the ability of a player who’s played at a higher level for many years.
“We’ve been working to get him fit, he’s worked really hard to get fit. We have another week’s training for him and we’ll assess whether he’s fit to come into it next weekend.
“Hopefully we can just keep building him up. I’ve said it all along, for him and all of them, it’s not a case of peaking in August, it’s about making sure we have a good level of performance throughout.
“We’ve had a very good level of performance for the games leading up to Saturday, but for half of that one our level of performance hasn’t been right.”
“Like I say, we know what Paul is and it would have been really nice if he was fully fit to start,” he added. “He would have been the ideal player to go in to deal with their aerial balls, but he wasn’t quite ready.
“In an ideal world I would have liked to not have to put him on, or for 15 minutes in a winning game, but I thought he came on and did really well.
“We asked him at half-time if he could come on and do 20 or 30 mins and he said yeah. That’s given us something to build on. We’ve got another week now to work with him and we’ll see how he is come the end of the week.”
Speaking more about what he brings to the mix, he told us: “He only had those 20 minutes but he’s shown us the leadership qualities with his talking and organisation.
“He got some strong challenges in and he won headers, and the first thing he did was get a block in. He’ll be a good addition. That’s why I wanted him at the club in the first place.
“We’ll manage him and he’ll manage himself, and I think he’s one who the fans will really enjoy watching.”
Also on for his debut was Duncan Idehen, who came on late in the day when the formation was reshuffled.
“He looked like he knows what he’s doing and he’s one who is fit enough,” the gaffer told us. “He’s had his pre-season with Bristol City, he’s ready, and him not being involved was more about picking the team I thought would be right.
“Maybe I need to look at that and maybe, after I review it, I might feel I got that one wrong. I accept that I’ll make mistakes, I just don’t want to make too many.
“The good thing is that Duncan knows this level and how to play. He’s a level-headed lad, and he battled during the time he was on.
“He’ll get better, he’s a really good lad, really keen to learn. This is what he’s come for, to play first-team football and hopefully develop. We’ll see how he goes.
“It’s been difficult for him because he literally came in on Thursday, he’s settled in well, and he seems to have a real desire to do a job for us. He’s here to give us cover on the left flank, so let’s see how he goes.”
And making his first league start, following on from his appearance in the Carabao Cup against Shrewsbury, was midfielder Jayden Harris.
“He got the nod because I wanted energy and legs in there,” he said. “I also thought it gave us another big unit to be able to deal with their set plays.
“I thought he did well. He wanted to get forward but he tired at the end, and that’s why I changed it. We went for a 4-4-2, but I thought he did very well for a first game, he’s definitely got something to build on.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Paul Simpson on iFollow United now.
Click HERE to see a clip from this interview on our YouTube channel. Follow the same link for more FREE content right from the heart of the club.