Stevenage fell to a disappointing 3-0 defeat at Carlisle this afternoon in Sky Bet League 2.
Despite an encouraging opening 10 minutes for the visitors, the recently resurgent Cumbrians proved too much for Boro to handle at Brunton Park with first half goals from Brad Potts and Steven Rigg giving the hosts a good start, before a late Mark Beck effort completed the win.
Graham Westley made just the one change to his starting XI with Roarie Deacon coming in for Jon Ashton, who dropped to the bench. Darius Charles shuffled along to partner Dean Wells at centre-back, Charlie Lee dropped to left-back and Roarie Deacon supported Chris Beardsley up top.
The most eye-catching news – amongst the media anyway – was the presence on the subs bench of 55-year old goalkeeping coach Dave Beasant, providing cover for Chris Day.
Good early pressure from Stevenage saw a bright opening 10 minutes and the creation of several decent chances on goal. Charlie Lee hooked wide within 90 seconds after Whelpdale had headed on an early free-kick on, before the winger then headed over himself after Pett had outfoxed a couple of defenders on the left and whipped in a cross.
Bond fired wide from the edge of the box on 10 minutes as Boro kept up their early momentum before Potts headed over a minute later in Carlisle’s first sight of goal.
However for all of Stevenage’s early promise it was Carlisle who opened the scoring just past the quarter-hour mark. The goal was similar in build-up to Luton’s winner the week before, with the ball being worked out to Potts on the right of the box. He cut inside Lee before finding the bottom corner with a low effort to put the hosts 1-0 up.
Not for the first time this season Graham Westley’s men were behind, but their initial response was good. On 19 minutes Deacon ran diagonally into the box from the right but dragged his shot wide of the near post, with Pett then replicating the same run minutes later but firing straight at Dan Hanford.
However the hosts extended their lead on 28 minutes. Hayden White’s loose touch in midfield invited both Lee and Whelpdale to go for the same ball, but with White recovering to nudge the ball through to a totally free Pott, it was simple for him to advance on goal and square the ball across for Rigg to double the advantage.
Westley responded with a tactical change on the half-hour, replacing Whelpdale, who had been carrying a knock, with young Ryan Johnson. The defender went straight to left-back, allowing Lee to push further forward.
The Cumbrians though were rampant and their performance – as the manager had indicated in his pre-match press – was defying their early-season league form. Day had to be alert to clear one dangerous ball foward with left-winger Patrick Brough collecting a cross-field pass and firing a cross-cum-shot narrowly wide.
Boro responded and were soon pushing forward once more. Lee headed over and Parrett fired wide in quick succession as the visitors looked to halve the deficit in the closing minutes before the break. Carlisle stood firm, however, and took what looked a comfortable 2-0 lead into half-time.
The hosts came out looking to inflict further damage and when Rigg saw his shot from the edge of the box deflect and wrong-foot Day it looked like 3-0, only for the ball to fortunately roll the right side of his post from a Boro perspective.
Stevenage tried in vain to push forward but too often Beardsley found himself crowded out with the Carlisle defence on top and able to repel anything thrown at them.
On the hour a short corner from the Cumbrians saw the ball swung dangerously into the box. Wells went up for the header but the ball skimmed off his head and bounced back off the corner of post and bar in a let-off for Stevenage.
Jon Ashton replaced Beardsley with 25 minutes left, with Charles moving up top. Lee immediately won Boro a rare corner but having received the ball short and raced into the area, Deacon rushed his shot which sliced out for a throw on the far side.
With 20 minutes later Boro decided to play Carlisle at their own game, pinging a long diagonal ball across the pitch and forcing a mistake from White which handed Stevenage a corner. Parrett’s initial delivery was headed behind again and Lee’s second found Bond on the edge of the area, whose fierce shot was palmed behind by Hanford. Whilst Pett also fired over moments later these were positive signs for the visitors as they looked to get back into the game.
At the other end the impressive Rigg beat Day with a header from close range but saw the ball bounce wide, as Carlisle gave their visitors a timely reminder of their attacking potential, with White going close with a bending effort shortly afterwards.
With 12 minutes remaining Boro were handed a chance when Lee was taken out centrally on the edge of the ‘D’. Up-stepped Deacon but his effort had too much height and sailed harmlessly over Hanford’s bar.
Charles blasted wide and Elliott forced Day to tip over with a fierce effort of his own as both teams traded chances late on. With Stevenage pushing forward it left them susceptible to the counter, something Carlisle nearly exploited on a couple of occasions with teasing balls behind Boro’s back-line. Most were mopped up with ease until a late third completed a thoroughly miserable day at the office.
Again it was Hayden White involved, advancing down the right and providing the perfect teasing cross for Beck to seal the three points with a third from close range, leaving Boro with plenty to ponder on the long journey back to Hertfordshire.
Carlisle: Hanford, White, Archibald-Henville, Thirlwell, Grainger, Dicker, Potts (Symington 86), Brough (Robson 70), Dempsey, Beck, Rigg (Elliott 75)
Subs not used: Caig, Sweeney, Gillies, O’Hanlon
Stevenage: Day, Henry, Wells, Charles, Lee, Pett, Parrett, Bond (Calcutt 82), Whelpdale (Johnson 30), Deacon, Beardsley (Ashton 65)
Subs not used: D.Beasant, Richens, Dembele, Conlon
Attendance: 4,011 (68 away)