Carlisle head coach Chris Beech deflected reports that teenage defensive prospect Jarrad Branthwaite is poised for a Premier League move after his side were thrashed 4-1 at Crewe.
Branthwaite was left out of the squad at Gresty Road but Beech said the 17-year-old was rested because of a thigh strain and he had no knowledge of any impending transfer.
“I don’t know anything about it,” he said. “He was here with us today and sat with the supporters, but he wasn’t available because of his thigh.”
Carlisle were reeling at the back as the promotion-chasers ran up a 4-0 interval lead with some outstanding finishing.
Daniel Powell helped himself to two goals for the second game running and Callum Ainley and Chuma Anene were also on the scoresheet, ensuring Alex kept the pressure on frontrunners Swindon and Exeter.
“Crewe have got a very good starting XI and players behind who can come in and take their opportunities,” added Beech. “The standard of their young players is so high and you can see today they are the best team in the league.
“But we have to be stronger on the left side of the pitch. For their second goal Powell ran behind our full-back and that is not acceptable.
“But I asked for character from my players in the second half and they showed it. We had about 12 chances and we should have scored more.”
While Branthwaite’s future is shrouded in doubt, Beech says the signing of young Wolves midfielder Elliot Watt on loan for the rest of the season can help sustain Carlisle’s recent improvement.
“He is in one of the best academies in the country and I want him to come in and be fresh and energised,” he said.
For Crewe, it was the fifth time they have scored four or more goals this season.
Ainley flung himself bravely on to the end of Paul Green’s cross for the opener and then set up Powell’s first, the first of three Crewe goals in a devastating eight-minute first-half spell.
Powell shrugged off Aaron Hayden and drove in his second before Carlisle keeper Adam Collin was picking the ball out of the net for a fourth time when Norwegian striker Chuma Anene found the top corner with a curling drive.
Carlisle improved markedly after the break and Jack Iredale reduced the arrears with a long-range strike.
Crewe boss Dave Artell said: “The first half was good and we are capable of that, but Carlisle changed things around in the second and we didn’t cope well with that.
“But we scored some great goals. We have worked hard on being better offensively although we have still got more to do and we could have scored more in the first half.
“We have got to be a bit more ruthless defensively but if we are scoring threes and fours then we are going to be difficult to stop.”