Confident Sheffield United made it ten wins in a row as their surge into the top half of the table went hand in hand with their impressive march into the FA Cup semi-finals under new manager Nigel Clough.
A run of four games without a win is the last thing Carlisle United needed at this crucial stage of the season and Saturday’s visit of Stevenage, one of just five teams who currently sit below the Cumbrians, has taken on added importance for Graham Kavanagh and his side as they find themselves embroiled in a tough relegation battle.
The home side dominated the early action and they laid a marker down with just 24 seconds on the clock when Murphy beat two to angle his way into the box. Black Cats loanee Jordan Pickford did well to make a block with his feet.
The hosts looked a confident outfit and a direct pass from Doyle caused a brief moment of panic for debut defender Reece Brown as he stretched to cut it out. It sliced off the top of his boot and into the safety of Pickford’s waiting arms.
Carlisle had brief moments and David Amoo did well to break clear as he found space on the right. Miller was just an inch away from turning the whipped cross on to the target.
It was Sheffield who controlled much of the midfield play and they thought they’d grabbed the lead when Scougall tussled for the ball in midfield. It broke kindly and a quick exchange with Baxter left him one on one with Pickford. The alert keeper earned himself a round of applause as he stood his ground to complete an excellent save. The Cumbrians finally wilted on 28 minutes as the Blades sliced through a static back line courtesy of a powerful through ball from Coady. Baxter showed a beautiful touch to bring it under his control and he had time to spin, move it and clip it into the back of the net via the base of the upright.
Carlisle looked for a response in the lead up to half-time and a shot from Potts from distance needed a firm catch from Howard as it threatened to creep in. And a hurried throw from the stopper put his side back under pressure as Berrett stole possession back. Amoo took over and he had Miller and Byrne screaming for the cut back until the keeper dropped low to tip the ball away.
The pace of the game slowed after the break but Murphy went close to doubling the lead when he beat the offside trap to control a lobbed ball over the back line. It got stuck under his feet and that allowed Pickford time to readjust to make another stunning block.
The Cumbrians came into their own with 15 minutes left to play and Symington and Potts were unlucky to see powerful efforts deflect either side of the target as the Blades back line started to creak. And David Amoo went even closer with a downward header from a Berrett corner which had to be hooked off the line.
Sheffield looked happy to hold on to what they had as they made it over 400 minutes since they last conceded at Bramall Lane and it was a disconsolate Carlisle outfit who trudged from the field with nothing to show, yet again, from another spirited display.
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Howard, Harris, Maguire, Flynn (Freeman 86), Doyle, Baxter (Porter 69), Collins, Coady, Scougall (McGinn 69), Davies, Murphy. Subs (not used): Hill, Miller, Paynter, Long.
Goals: Baxter (28).
CARLISLE UNITED: Pickford, Pearson, Chimbonda, Brown, Chantler (Brough 90), Noble (Symington 63), Potts, Berrett, Amoo, Byrne (Novo 72), Miller. Subs (not used): Fleming, Redmond, Guy, Meppen-Walter.
Att: 15,437 Ref: Mr Carl Boyeson