Stevenage dominated large parts of today’s game at Carlisle United but failed to take their chances as the hosts ran out 1-0 winners at Brunton Park.
A Jabo Ibehre header on 58 minutes was the difference between the sides but was one of few chances for the Cumbrians who were otherwise hassled and hurried into numerous mistakes by a well organised Boro, who struck the bar in the first half and just couldn’t take one of numerous opportunities to score.
Darren Sarll made just the one change from last weekend’s win against Cambridge with Dean Parrett returning from injury to start, replacing Tom Conlon who dropped to the bench. There was also a welcome return among the subs for Adam Marriott after injury.
Stevenage came out applying the early pressure at Brunton Park and nearly broke the deadlock after just two minutes. Good pressure by Harrison forced ‘keeper Mark Gillespie into a poor kick, with his clearance falling straight to Tom Pett out wide. He fed Harrison inside the box but the striker’s first time shot was somehow parried behind by Gillespie.
Boro’s game plan was then dealt a blow on seven minutes when Charlie Lee hobbled off injured. The midfielder - so impressive in recent games - was caught with an unseen late challenge moments before and despite initially continuing was soon replaced by Keith Keane.
The visitors continued to enjoy the best of the opening 15 minutes with much of the play in the Carlisle half, although the home defence was just about coping with Boro’s pressure.
Eventually the hosts managed to carve out some decent opportunities for themselves but Luke Joyce failed to clear the Boro wall with a free-kick and another cross was cut out by the first man, much to the frustration of the home faithful.
Tom Pett was looking a lively outlet out wide and the winger went close to running clear in the box after a driving run but was thwarted by the final defender. Moments later he nearly turned provider, swinging in a cross which neither Parrett or Hedges could quite reach.
On 27 minutes Stevenage were thwarted by the woodwork as they continued to press forward. Byron Harrison showed good control inside the Carlisle half and played in Parrett whose shot deflected up over the ‘keeper but cannoned off the bar.
Sub Keith Keane saw yellow just past the half hour for committing one small infringement too many but was minutes later the victim of a crude late challenge, which had the referee spotted he would surely have taken further action.
Stevenage maintained their attacking momentum throughout the rest of the half, forcing Carlisle into some poor decisions on the ball and provoking some notable frustrated cries from the home supporters.
Tonge had an effort from outside the box which Harrison just failed to spin and divert goalwards, with Luke Wilkinson nodding tamely wide from a corner in injury time as the two teams went in level.
Carlisle made two changes at the break but it was Stevenage who had the first chance of the second half less than a minute in. Harrison latched onto a long bouncing ball inside the box and tried to loft the ball home but it landed on the roof of the net.
Dean Parrett went close from a long-range free-kick before Carlisle dealt a timely reminder that they were very much in this game, creating too good chances. Jason Kennedy twisted and turned on the edge of the box before curling wide of the far post, before Hallam Hope cut inside but blazed over.
On 58 minutes and despite being second-best for much of the game, Carlisle took the lead. A long throw from Joyce was initially cleared by Boro but they failed to deal with McQueen’s ball back in and Jabo Ibehre headed home from six yards.
The hosts enjoyed their best period of the game in the first part of the second period but soon enough Boro were back on the attack, pushing forward where possible.
Pett was causing havoc on the right flank and it was from his deliveries that Boro really should have equalised. With 20 minutes remaining good footwork by the winger in the right corner saw him swing a deep left-footed cross over. Coming in from the left, Ryan Hedges tried to shift his feet quickly and made a decent connection, but his low shot thundered wide of the far post.
Two minutes later, from a quick free-kick Tonge found Pett who in turn swung in perfect cross for Luke Wilkinson, who somehow headed wide from yards out.
Aaron O’Connor and Adam Marriott both came on for the closing stages and with nine minutes left O’Connor thought he’d levelled with a neat swivel and shot inside the box, but there was Gillespie with a diving save.
As time ticked on, so the Carlisle defence dropped deeper and deeper, inviting Boro onto them. In four minutes of injury time Ogilvie saw a shot blocked with Gillespie stranded, Carlisle headed over their own bar with Marriott lurking and Keane headed over.
It just wasn’t to be this afternoon as Carlisle ran out narrow winners, though they’ll know they’ve been in a game against an energetic and organised Stevenage outfit.
Next up is Exeter City at home next Saturday. Tickets for this game can be purchased at www.borotickets.co.uk.
Carlisle United: Gillespie, Joyce (Gilliead 46), Raynes, Atkinson (Gillesphey 46), Kennedy, Wyke, Ibehre, Comley, Hope (Asamoah 81), Ellis, McQueen
Subs not used: Hanford, Hery, Gilliead, Rigg, Thompson
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, Franks, Wilkinson, Ogilvie, Lee (Keane 7), Tonge, Parrett, Pett, Harrison (O’Connor 76), Hedges (Marriott 81)
Subs not used: Day, Johnson, Conlon, Cox
Referee: Eddie Ilderton
Attendance: 4,780 (118 away)