Carlisle boss Chris Beech insisted climbing to the League Two summit means “absolutely nothing” at the halfway stage of the season after the Cumbrians went top with a 2-0 win at Walsall.
The visitors took full advantage of call-offs for promotion rivals Newport and Forest Green to leapfrog the pair into pole position with goals from Omari Patrick and Josh Kayode.
Carlisle barely allowed the Saddlers a sight of goal as they registered an eighth clean sheet of the season but Beech says the hard work begins now for his side.
“It’s satisfying because we’ve worked very hard to be in this position but at the same time it means absolutely nothing,” he said.
“There’s two things it means – one, it’s a long time to try to stay there and two, there’s only one way from that point.
“But I just stick to simple things. We’ve got to protect our goal, play some bits in the middle and we’ve got to create goalscoring chances.
“Our players have to continue to do that and to believe and understand our strengths and attributes. If they do that over a long period, then I’m interested in the league table.”
Teenage midfielder Taylor Charters, 19, was hugely impressive on his first league start and he ended a classy Carlisle move by teeing up Patrick to lash United’s opener into the top corner after 26 minutes.
Kayode was denied by Liam Roberts before the break but the Walsall stopper almost gift-wrapped a second-half goal to Charters by dropping a free-kick, only for Dan Scarr to block on the line.
However, on-loan Rotherham striker Kayode sealed the points 12 minutes from time, scuffing Joe Riley’s low cross past a partially-unsighted Roberts from 12 yards.
“I’m very proud of the players, I keep saying it,” added Beech. “I was really pleased today, I just felt as though we should have scored one or two more in the first half.
“Eight clean sheets is good – if you are going to do anything strong you’ve got to try to keep your goals conceded down to one goal per game for the season.
“We’ve got the most expected goals to chances in the division but the biggest stat that matters is winning and we won.”
Walsall, meanwhile, slipped four points and four places outside the play-offs after a third straight defeat without influential midfielder Rory Holden.
Boss Darrell Clarke revealed Holden is likely to be out until the summer after knee surgery and the Saddlers struggled in attack, with Wes McDonald’s shot straight at Paul Farman their only notable effort.
Clarke said: “It was a shocking day to start the calendar year and it’s been a bad seven days – we lose three games off the back of winning four and we lose our best player for the rest of the season.
“The performance today wasn’t good enough, we were miles off it, the best team won and we were second best out there.
“We looked a mixture of players who needed a bit of a breather and players lacking a little bit of match fitness and now we’ve got to reset and re-evaluate.
“We’ve got make sure we use these two weeks off really well. This team is capable of going on winning runs but it’s capable of going on losing runs.
“We are going to have potentially look at the free loan market because Rory is going to be a big miss for us.
“There are 24 games to go and plenty of points to play for but we have to come out a new team in that two-week period after this shocking seven days.
“Confidence is big in football, the players were bouncing eight days ago then seven days later they are lower than a snake’s belly.
“But the league is going to have so many twists and turns to it. We want to be in those twists and turns though and getting ourselves towards that top seven.”
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