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Stalemate adds to the pressure on boss Curle; STEVENAGE 0 CARLISLE UTD 0.

CARLISLE manager Keith Curle insists a place in the play-off places is still up for grabs, but the mantra is becoming harder to believe for a fanbase which has largely been served mediocre football through what has been a difficult first half of the season. The Cumbrians have misfired on too many occasions for anyone's liking - and this disappointing showing against another side struggling for form extended the gap to what would be deemed as a successful campaign to a worrying seven points.

Games are running out and a complete lack of January transfer window activity thus far suggests there is not much room for manoeuvre within a squad crying out for the addition of at least one fresh face. The return of experienced defender Clint Hill provided a welcome boost, as he left his father's side in hospital in Spain, and he played a useful part in what was a largely uninspiring goalless draw.

Pressure is mounting on Curle as the below-par performances stack up, with some fans now openly calling for change. With his current contract up in June and no sign of any meaningful talks to change that in his favour, it could be the inconsistency in results could signal the end of his tenure at Brunton Park.

Carlisle saw plenty of the ball but it was Stevenage who twice went close shortly after kick-off as they pressed high up the pitch.

A slick move released Pett as he pushed forward at pace and Bonham was worried until his cross from wide bobbled past the upright.

The same player was a whisker away from opening the scoring when he moved into space as Kennedy took charge of a short and quicklytaken corner.

His header looked to be perfect until it skipped off the slick surface and shaved the outside of his upright.

High balls were a good outlet for the Cumbrians and that very approach earned them a free-kick as Bennett was held by Wilmot.

Devitt placed the ball and was disappointed to see a well-struck effort bend just past the post.

Set pieces started to take centre stage for both sides and a good corner from Pett was headed high by Hill as Henry challenged.

The ball looped nicely for Kennedy to strike but Bonham showed good hands as he dropped low to grab it on the line.

Having withstood tame home pressure, the Blues should have taken the lead when Cosgrove controlled the ball expertly, then laid it off to Devitt as he spun away to receive the return pass.

With just King to beat he went for the chip, scuffed his shot and left it easy for the stopper to handle.

Things tightened up considerably as the players played the weather-affected surface as much as each other, but Carlisle went close again when Cosgrove was bundled over in time added on for the half.

Grainger's 35-yard free-kick took King by surprise but the goalkeeper reacted well to go full length to parry it away.

After the break, a scuffed shot from Brown at one end and a race between Godden and Bonham at the other were the only incidents of note.

Stevenage should have turned the screw when Godden found space on the left flank. He had two in support but his cross dissected them both as he lost his bearings with a wayward touch.

Substitute Hallam Hope almost made an immediate impact as his first touch was to run on to a through ball from Joyce. He went for the bottom corner - but King was equal to it with a firm parry.

CARLISLE RATINGS JACK BONHAM............... . 7 Very confident and showed safe hands under pressure JAMES BROWN............... . 7 Was given licence to get forward and worked the line well GARY LIDDLE.................. . 7 Kept it simple and rarely looked troubled CLINT HILL ............ . 7 A welcome return for the experienced centre-back TOM PARKES .......... . 6 Recovered well from a run of early errors DANNY GRAINGER......... . 7 Did the defensive stuff and was a threat at the other end LUKE JOYCE ........... . 6 Nothing spectacular but did his work thoroughly MIKE JONES.................... . 7 Clean and crisp tackling set a useful tone JAMIE DEVITT................. . 6 Drifted in and out but played his part RICHIE BENNETT ....... . 6 Some good touches but frustrating in possession SAM COSGROVE............. . 7 Missed a great opening but never gave up Subs - Bacon, Hope (Bennett 67), Nabi, Ellis, O'Sullivan, Lambe (Cosgrove 76), S Miller.

Stevenage - T King, Smith, Martin (Vancooten 43), J King, Kennedy (Samuel 73), Pett, Newton (Franks 90), Godden, Henry, McKee, Wilmot. Subs: Fryer, Wilkinson, Conlon, Wade-Slater. Bookings: Stevenage - Kennedy (31); Carlisle United - Bennett (24).

Att:: 2,476. Ref: Charles Breakspear.

CAPTION(S):

Louis Reed (second right) celebrates Chesterfield's first goal in their 2-1 win over Yeovil in a League Two match at Huish Park yesterday
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Sun (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2018
Words:802
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