Carlisle Utd 1 Newport County 1: There was a bittersweet touch to the song - a Keith Curle favourite - that sent the manager on his way on this sunny, emotional day. "Dreams can come true," sang Gabrielle over the public address. Where Carlisle United are concerned, it was plainer than ever that the boss no longer agreed.

Curle, to the last, was respectful in his words and actions as his 207-game tenure passed into Brunton Park history. In his press conference the 54-year-old got in early with some notes of appreciation for those who had helped and supported him since he arrived in 2014.

It was also clear, though, why this relationship had run its course. Asked what could have altered his decision to leave, Curle talked about the cash available next season at a club keen to "cut its cloth accordingly". The expected budget would not help a man such as he to lead a push for automatic promotion.

The debate that has trailed the Curle era - how exactly to measure United's spending, and how well the boss has spent - will not be tempered by those remarks. Soon enough, though, it is going to be someone else's problem, or "challenge", as directors would prefer to describe it.

Here it was, then, in colder light, as 2017/18 bade its modest farewell with a 1-1 draw: a tiny sub-plot compared with the bigger issues right now. How United can be "reinvigorated" on significantly less money is one burning question. Who the right person is to do that, another.

How a fanbase can be persuaded to fall more deeply in love with the Blues, in greater numbers, another. There was a decent turnout here for Curle's final curtain, along with Santa-hat wearing travellers from Newport, but where United go financially, and in other overriding departments, will determine what 2018/19 looks like.

The question is what sort of hold on people's faith the club can expect to have. It needs to be not just a summer of change in the manager's office, and (wishful thinking) in ownership structure, but an attack on the old complaints dragging the place down. Even here, on home game 23 of 23, there were gripes about service in some of United's catering outlets.

Little things; big picture. Things Curle, who said he had been invited for "coffee" with people from other clubs, will soon be watching from afar. There was no victorious send-off in the end - appropriate, perhaps, for a season that flattered to deceive, and a manager who made United more competitive but finished a rung down from glory - but many of those in the ground were clearly sad to see him go.

In his own, idiosyncratic way, the 54-year-old has been a figure of stability on choppy waters. His biggest fans, who have loved his persona, feel he has been holding back the tide. That view can be properly examined by what happens next. In the immediate term it seems unusual and, to be frank, far from ideal that he is giving the club advice on which players to keep and who to discard, the day before he clears his own desk.

But here we are; Carlisle United in this transitional year. They finished 10th, an "overachievement" in Curle's opinion, and if that is the case no wonder people are concerned. The Blues need, somehow, to look higher than this: a dead-rubber finish against another side from the middle ground, entertaining at times, flat at others, everything over as a contest long before the end.

It began, once Curle had appeared from the tunnel seconds from kick-off, receiving applause from the ground, reasonably enough. An iffy start developed into better spells of play, Jamal Campbell-Ryce showing adhesive control and movement in attacking midfield, Richie Bennett having one early header saved and Gary Liddle in marauding mood at right-back.

Campbell-Ryce had a shot blocked, and Danny Grainger a cross intercepted, before United scored: Grainger's corner, and Mark Ellis beating Ben Tozer to bury a header.

Two players who still don't know whether they have a future with the Blues: it was an appropriate scoring combination. United remained on the front foot but also lacked punch at times, Liddle driving over the bar when cutting past Frank Nouble and Bennett denied when fed again by Campbell-Ryce.

If only the latter was a few years younger, you could imagine some in the crowd thinking, as he teased and evaded opponents. Newport, though, eventually gained some composure on the ball and from greater care in possession came a few half-chances.

One Jack Bonham punch almost led to disaster, then Mark O'Brien nodded a Robbie Willmott cross wide. Tozer's huge long throws gave United further concerns, and then, after a few lesser attempts, they levelled, Willmott cutting past blue bodies on the right and seeing his outside-of-the-foot cross nodded precisely home by Padraig Amond, who had escaped Liddle.

Newport's fans, in decent voice, were probably enjoying a final day of comfort, compared with last season's survival cliffhanger. There was not much dramatic tension even as Jamie Devitt, with some classy moments on the ball and a couple of set-pieces, tried to perk United up.

One free-kick, before the break, whistled over the bar. Another, with Tom Parkes on for Grainger, was curled high against the left-hand post in minute 47. United, you have to believe, will retain at least some positive quality as long as Devitt is performing with the same invention next campaign.

The remainder, from there, had its moments but never a great sense of meaning. Ashley Nadesan had an attempt blocked, Luke Joyce one saved, and Clint Hill looped a header against the bar, United seeming to suggest it had crossed the line on the way down.

No such luck. Hill, instead, had to content himself with a superb and faintly moving ovation as Curle replaced him with 15 minutes to go. It had the feel of a farewell gesture, as Hill hugged players and returned the crowd's affection. Whether the end of his Carlisle time, his outstanding playing career, both or neither, the 39-year-old deserved that salute.

Without him, we plodded on to the end. The Warwick Road End sparked up further songs in praise of Curle. Bennett was offside as he stabbed the ball into the net, and one final Bonham punch ricocheted goalwards, Parkes heading it clear, before the campaign was over and the goodbyes gathered.

Over the PA there was the Peter Andre song adapted for Carlisle's "mysterious" chief. The Gabrielle ditty, once United's walk-out song, then came on. Players' children scampered across the pitch in a mass kickabout, Curle and his squad taking their time walking around the ground, exchanging good wishes.

There was one final salute to the Paddock - not the Curle victory roar, but modest, hands-above-head applause, warmly returned - and then he was gone, reign over, time done; 2014 to 2018, gone in a flash.

After Brunton Park had emptied, a few seagulls dived down onto the pitch. The place was barren and quiet. Close-season had arrived abruptly, and suddenly we were thinking, wondering, worrying again, about what on earth might come next.

United: Bonham, Liddle, Grainger (Parkes 46), Ellis, Hill (Lambe 75), Joyce, Jones, Campbell-Ryce (O'Sullivan 61), Devitt, Bennett, Nadesan. Not used: T Miller, Brown, Stockton, Twardek

Goal: Ellis 14

Newport: Day, Reid, Butler, Demetriou, O'Brien (Collins 58), Tozer, Dolan, Willmott, Sheehan (Touray 78), Amond (Pipe 90), Nouble. Not used: Bittner, Jackson.

Goal: Amond 38

Booked: Willmott.

Ref: Mark Heywood

Crowd: 5,311 (270 Newport fans)