Steve Arnold sent off after 13 minutes in 2-1 defeat

Carlisle United 2 Stevenage FC 1

npower League 1

GARY Smith was left scratching his head after this result saw his side drop back into the bottom half of the table.

Smith said he was disappointed that an offside decision was not given in the build up to the first goal on nine minutes, with a flagging linesman overruled by the referee after Rory Loy had headed in from Andy Welsh’s cross.

The Boro manager also believed goalkeeper Steve Arnold should not have been sent off four minutes later for a foul on Loy, before Lee Miller fired home from the spot to double his side’s advantage.

Marcus Haber’s neat header on 22 minutes then looked as though it would set Boro on the road to an unlikely comeback, but it was not to be and with the home side hitting the woodwork three times and having two efforts cleared off the line it was a deserved win for Carlisle.

Stevenage had gone into the game looking to make it back-to-back wins for the first time since October 23, and Smith had opted for Luke Freeman on the left of midfield, Anthony Grant in the middle and Haber up front in place of Lucas Akins, Greg Tansey and Sam Hoskins, all of whom started on the bench.

Yet it was Carlisle that started the stronger, and the hosts put in three or four decent crosses to test the heading ability of centre-backs Mark Roberts and Ben Chorley before the opening goal came.

When it arrived it was a terrific header from Loy, but after the linesman had originally put up his flag for offside the referee ruled that the ball had taken a touch off a Stevenage player on its way through to Welsh.

Boro were frustrated, but they did not have long to dwell on that decision because four minutes later Roy was put through only to be bundled over by Arnold.

Smith said afterwards that a yellow card should have sufficed as the ball was heading out of play, but the keeper was shown red with Chris Day, coming on for Steve Beleck, diving the wrong way for Miller’s penalty.

Boro soon pulled a goal back, and the move started with Chorley’s pass out to David Gray on the right with the full-back picking out Haber whose smart header dropped inside the far post past Mark Gillespie.

It took the hosts seven minutes to have another crack at goal, and what a crack it was – Jon Paul McGovern hitting a thunderous shot onto Day’s bar from the edge of the box.

Luke Freeman had been on the periphery of the game for much of the first half, but just five minutes into the second he forced Gillespie into a save by flicking the ball up and sending an overhead kick towards goal.

There was also a stunning free-kick from Carlisle’s David Symington who hit the crossbar, with Day beaten.

In the last five minutes the hosts had four chances to extend their lead all within 10 seconds of each other.

A corner was whipped in and shots on target resulted in both James Dunne and Gray making goalline clearances before Day saved well from Miller and Symington hit the post after the ball had been cleared to him 25 yards out.

It was a late flourish, but Carlisle were unable to add to their tally before the whistle.

For Boro a trip to Brentford awaits on Tuesday as Smith’s men look to bounce back following a tough afternoon in Cumbria.

Carlisle United (4-4-2): Gillespie 6, Simek 6, Robson 6, Livesey 6, O’Hanlon 7, McGovern 7, Loy 7, Thirwell 6 (Noble 79), Berrett 6, Welsh 6 (Symington 75), Miller 7. Subs: Collin, Murphy, Cadamateri, Beck, Symington.

Stevenage (4-4-2): Arnold, Gray 6, Comminges 6, Roberts 6, Chorley 7, Freeman 6, Morais 5 (Hoskins 78), Dunne 6, Grant 5, Beleck (Day 13, 6), Haber 7 (Akins 68, 5). Subs: Charles, N’Gala, Tansey, Shroot.

Att: 3,944 (76)