WHAT to make of Swindon Town’s 2-1 loss against Carlisle United in the far north – frustrating, disappointing, lacking that clinical edge?

In truth, it was a poor game, one that lacked real quality. Those experiencing their first taste of League Two football would not exactly be chomping at the bit to make a return away at Stevenage on Tuesday night.

You could compare the game to one of the more tactical games of chess you’re likely to experience.

Not through fear of conceding, neither team really committed bodies forward.

There was a sensation of wanting to control the game through both teams’ respective holding roles.

In turn, that led to a series of late interceptions which led to few meaningful chances on goal.

Remarkably for Town, though, Exeter City, Forest Green Rovers, Stevenage and Newport County all lost too – so only two points has been added to the deficit between Richie Wellens’ side and the play-off frame.

With a game in hand, not all is lost. However, holding the view that tomorrow’s game at Stevenage is a ‘must win’ isn’t far from the truth.

Defeat would more than likely see that gap stretch to nine points – Town really would be climbing a mountain then.

Wellens said seven wins from Town’s last 11 games is the minimum required. With fixtures against relegation-threatened sides – including Yeovil Town, Notts County and Cheltenham Town – making up the run-in, that’s not exactly impossible.

On Saturday, a laboured Carlisle were to take the lead through Hallam Hope’s deflected effort in the first half before Town levelled courtesy of Kyle Bennett’s wicked free-kick.

Town pressed in the second half, but were undone amid the home side’s momentary period of dominance.

Gary Liddle was left red-faced after having a header disallowed, but travelling fans were silenced by Callum O’Hare’s late strike which won the game.

Wellens named an unchanged XI following last week’s 3-0 win at home to Colchester United.

Town started the brighter side as neither team really threatened to open the scoring in the first 10 minutes.

Anthony Gerrard’s header from a corner with eight minutes played was the closest the hosts came to scoring, but he guided his effort over Lawrence Vigouroux’s crossbar.

Pressing work from Bennett, Theo Robinson and Kaiyne Woolery stood out as Town’s best attribute from the opening exchanges – Carlisle often restricted in their options when breaking the halfway line.

But that trend soon broke as Carlisle grabbed the game’s first goal with 14 minutes played.

Hope’s decision to go for goal and not pick Mark Cullen out on his left proved fruitful. Hope’s shot was wickedly deflected off Dion Conroy’s leg before nestling into Vigouroux’s bottom left corner.

In truth, Carlisle should have added to their lead at least once in the minutes that followed.

O’Hare and Cullen enjoyed a period of dominance over markers Bennett and Kyle Knoyle – which led to an inch-perfect cross towards Hope on the edge of the six-yard box.

Hope’s failed to shoot after hesitation, before Regan Slater’s effort from outside the area was directed well wide.

Town created their best chance of the first half with 25 minutes played as Bennett picked up a loose midfield ball before advancing forward.

Neglecting Robinson’s run, Bennett tried to recreate last week’s goal against Colchester. But it didn’t end quite as spectacularly, with Adam Collin comfortably gathering.

United were then forced into a change as Cullen departed the field with a groin injury – Nathan Thomas replacing.

Meanwhile, Wellens made a tactical switch as the more forward-thinking Keshi Anderson replaced Jak McCourt.

Wellens’ tweak saw Canice Carroll adopt the holding role, while Bennett momentarily moved over to the right – Anderson shadowed Robinson.

The change worked for Town, who equalised with six minutes remaining in the half through Bennett’s well-weighted free kick.

To the left of the D, Bennett placed a curling shot over the wall and beyond Collin’s right reach.

That was to be the last of Town’s chances of the half, although a late corner almost resulted in a shot on goal before referee Ben Toner called a free-kick.

Town started the second half much better than disjointed Carlisle.

Bennett’s inswinging corner was nodded down by Luke Woolfenden before Robinson couldn’t quite reach a dangerously loose ball.

Woolery then tried his luck from distance, as Carlisle relied largely on the efforts of Hope and Slater to move forward.

The home side’s lull stretched as the game passed its hour mark.

Woolery should’ve done better on two occasions as Carlisle counted themselves lucky not to be behind.

He first denied himself the chance to shoot from a tight angle before blasting the ball out for a throw-in from a favourable position – again at a tight angle.

The game’s earlier laboured nature returned after the hour mark passed and a series of poor midfield passes made for below-par viewing as quality began to drift from the action.

Anderson did at least cut inside two men with 67 minutes played before forcing Collin into a parrying save, which the hosts soon won a free-kick from after Woolery committed a foul.

Carlisle at last clicked into life with 20 minutes played. A corner was met by Tom Parkes, who headed the ball down towards Gerrard.

Gerrard’s reaching shot was guided wide of Vigouroux’s far-post, though.

The hosts were then denied a second goal from a free-kick as Liddle met an outswinging free-kick first to find the back of the net.

Liddle proceeded to slide on his knees in the direction of Carlisle’s far corner flag, before play was called back for offside.

Liddle’s embarrassment was saved, however, as O’Hare re-established the home side’s one-goal lead minutes later.

Granted time and space in the box, O’Hare comfortably slotted past Vigouroux’s far reach for what proved the winning goal.

Town then had justified shout for a penalty after a handball turned down in stoppage time – something that perhaps summed up a disappointing trip north.