Carlisle manager Steven Pressley hailed “a fantastic result” after his pre-season overhaul paid early dividends with a 2-1 win over Crawley.
Just three of the side that started the game were with the Cumbrians last season, and Pressley admitted: “We were not at our most fluid, but there’s an incredible mentality in the team and they dug deep and showed a really good work ethic.
“We didn’t get as hard a press as I would have liked, but the effort was terrific and not one player disappointed.
“This is a brilliant group of players and there’s a really good unity and spirit within the team.
“It’s an important first step. We have worked hard and got the right players in, but I need one more striker and we are looking at a Championship player.”
Gabriele Cioffe was left shaking his head at Crawley’s defeat.
The Reds’ head coach said: “There were a lot of positive things in a good performance. The man of the match was the Carlisle goalkeeper who made two or three brilliant saves.
“We were on top for a large part of the first half and all the second half. We were completely in control of the game after half-time.”
Crawley should have been a goal ahead inside the first five minutes when a rebound fell to Panutche Camera but he screwed a close-range finish across the face of goal and wide.
Cioffe said: “We had an early chance, an open goal. We have to be ruthless but that’s football, it happens.”
Despite the first-day reverse, Cioffe remained optimistic for the months that lie ahead, adding: “There is more good to come.”
Carlisle took a sixth-minute lead through former Aston Villa forward Harry McKirdy after Glenn Morris had saved a Nathan Thomas shot.
Bez Lubala brought Crawley back into the game in the 16th minute, shaking off Christie Elliott and firing a low shot through the legs of goalkeeper Adam Collin.
But Thomas was a constant source of danger down the Carlisle right and it was another of his powerful, bending strikes that was finished off by Stefan Scougall to win the game.
Lewis Young was given a straight red for violent conduct in stoppage time.