Cheltenham Town were beaten for the first time in six matches as Jamie Devitt’s penalty 15 minutes from time was enough for Carlisle United to take all three points on Good Friday at the LCI Rail Stadium.
The Robins were the better team in the first half as Mo Eisa, chasing a club record breaking 21st goal of the season, was twice denied from close range by Cumbrians’ stopper Jack Bonham.
But despite having most of the chances, Cheltenham fell behind in the 74th minute when Devitt sent Scott Flinders the wrong way with a penalty after Taylor Moore’s foul inside the box.
The hosts were unable to find a response and fell to defeat on the day Gary Johnson took over as manager three years ago.
Johnson made two changes to the team that won at Crawley Town last weekend, as Joe Morrell and Jerell Sellars came in for Harry Pell and Jake Andrews.
Morrell returned to the side after missing the trip to the Checkatrade Stadium due to being on international duty with Wales Under-21’s, while Sellars was making his first start in ten matches.
Fresh from their five-star showing at Crawley, the Robins started with some neat passing in midfield and from an Ilias Chatzitheodoridis cross, Eisa controlled well but his shot deflected comfortably into the arms of Bonham.
Then came a massive chance for the hosts after 11 minutes, as more patient build-up play lead to Sellars beating his man and drilling a low cross into the six-yard-box, but Kevin Dawson tapped wide.
Dawson was then caught offside when hitting the post with a neat flick after Sellars found him again as Johnson’s side continued to press forward.
The confident Sellars, making his first start since the 1-1 home draw with Barnet in late January, then hit a low attempt that was held by Bonham in the 15th minute.
Morrell then drove through the midfield before unleashing Eisa, who forced the busy Bonham to turn his shot from a tight angle wide for a corner which Sellars then fired a wayward attempt high and wide from.
Keith Curle’s side then forced a corner at the Speedy Skips End which prompted a ping-pong situation that eventually ended up with another corner which was claimed well by Flinders.
Jamie Grimes and Will Boyle then both stretched but failed to get onto the end of a free-kick as Cheltenham tried to break the deadlock before the interval, Flinders then did well to parry a dangerous cross away at the other end.
While Carlisle were looking to bombard the home penalty box with crosses, the Robins were playing some good football on the ground but despite having the better chances, the scores remained level at half-time.
As the rain poured down on Whaddon Road, Cheltenham started the second period on the front foot and after a decent spell of possession Carl Winchester’s attempt deflected wide.
Grimes then headed off target from the resulting corner and Dawson’s volley was eventually gathered at the second attempt by Bonham just a couple of minutes later.
The pressure continued as Nigel Atangana struck a shot wide in the 50th minute with Johnson’s side well on top before Devitt’s long-range shot flew inches wide as the visitors threatened with a rare attack.
Morrell’s teasing free-kick was headed onto the roof of the net by Boyle as he bravely jumped to beat keeper Bonham before Eisa’s shot then blocked behind as the hosts continued to chase a first home win in four matches.
A Carlisle counter attack nearly resulted in the opener though, as Richie Bennett smashed over the bar from Devitt’s whipped cross.
Then, against the run, of play Moore brought the last man down inside the penalty box and the visitors were awarded a penalty which Devitt scored.
With their tails up, Bennett cut inside and placed a shot against the inside of the post as Carlisle came within inches of doubling their lead five minutes later.
Substitute Hallam Hope tested Flinders as Curle’s team threatened again but one goal was enough for the Cumbrians to extend their unbeaten run to eight matches and inflict defeat on Cheltenham.
ROBINS: Flinders (Gk), Grimes, Atangana, Dawson, Winchester, Boyle, Sellars (Graham 65), Eisa, Morrell, Moore (Pell 75), Chatzitheodoridis. Subs not used: Lovett (Gk), Cranston, Rodon, Onariase, Lloyd.
CARLISLE: Bonham (Gk), Joyce (Hope 64), Liddle, Parkes, Jones, Devitt (Lambe 90) Bennett, Ellis, Brown, Stockton (Nadesan 64), Hill. Subs not used: Gray (Gk), Grainger, O’Sullivan, Twardek.
REFREE: Nicholas Kinseley
ATTENDANCE: 3,107 (309 from Carlisle)