Carlisle United 3 Mansfield Town 2: In the coming days and weeks, one expects there will be plenty of changes at Carlisle United. But Blues fans will be hoping that one thing, perhaps most important of all, doesn’t change - and their side keeps winning.

A dramatic few days with manager John Sheridan having resigned on Friday, top-scorer Ashley Nadesan set to return to parent club Fleetwood today and Anthony Gerrard’s contract situation still in the air could, potentially, have overshadowed the Blues’ current run of form slightly.

But it’s on the pitch where results matter the most and, having now won six straight matches - their best run in more than a decade - United are up to fifth in the League Two table.

And they have shown they are capable of competing with those in the higher echelons of the league, too, after they earned a 3-2 home win to end Mansfield’s 17-game unbeaten run.

With caretaker managers Tommy Wright and Paul Murray in charge at Brunton Park, the Blues led 2-0 at half-time through goals from Jack Sowerby and Hallam Hope.

During the half-time interval, the Stags were dealt another blow with Neal Bishop sent off after an altercation with United captain Danny Grainger in the tunnel.

But it was the visitors who struck first in the second period, only for Hope to score his second to almost instantly restore the Cumbrians’ two-goal advantage.

Mansfield’s top-scorer Tyler Walker, who had scored the only goal of the game when the teams met in September at the One Call Stadium, again cut the deficit to one goal, three minutes from time. But the visitors could not find a leveller.

Perhaps understandably, United got off to a nervy start as Macaulay Gillesphey gave away a soft free-kick inside the first two minutes. Former Chelsea youngster Jacob Mellis took the set-piece, which struck the wall before the Carlisle defence cleared the danger.

Fleetwood loan man Sowerby is another whose future at Carlisle is still yet to be resolved, with the 23-year-old due back at the Highbury Stadium at the end of the month.

He broke the deadlock with his second goal in two matches with four minutes on the clock, rifling past away goalkeeper Conrad Logan in emphatic style after good build-up play between Jamie Devitt, Hope and Nadesan.

On 12 minutes, Nadesan earned the Cumbrians a free-kick, having been brought down by Mal Benning. Captain Danny Grainger took it and Tom Parkes flicked inches wide of Logan’s right-hand post.

Despite looking like they could cause problems, Mansfield, who came into this game on the back of a 1-0 victory at Grimsby on New Year’s Day, struggled to make clear-cut chances in the early stages.

They created their first opportunity with 19 minutes on the clock. Captain Krystian Pearce could not seriously trouble Carlisle keeper Adam Collin, though, as his hooked shot sailed comfortably over the bar after a corner had only been half-cleared by the Blues’ defence.

Carlisle’s second then came on the 26th minute in superb style. Devitt threaded through the Mansfield defence for Nadesan and, despite being off-balance, the 24-year-old crossed for Hope, and the Barbados international slotted into the gaping goal.

With their long unbeaten run under real threat, David Flitcroft’s men looked for a quick response and came close on the half-hour mark when ex-Leyton Orient man Parkes cleared a dangerous Mellis left-wing cross.

Five minutes later, winger CJ Hamilton broke through the United defence, only for Gerrard to track him all the way and block Hamilton’s effort behind for a corner, which was confidently collected by Collin.

Things then went from bad to worse for Mansfield as, having been booked for his reaction to a late challenge by Grainger, Bishop again made contact with the 32-year-old Cumbrian as the sides headed down the tunnel at the break. 

With referee Robert Lewis deciding that was enough to earn Bishop a second caution, the Stags started the second period with 10 men and were also forced into their second change, with Timi Elšnik brought off in the first half. That second substitution saw Will Atkinson replace Ryan Sweeney.

But it was Mansfield who had the first chance after the restart when top-scorer Walker, on loan from Championship outfit Nottingham Forest, cut in off the right and curled over with 49 minutes played.

It was United, though, who were in the ascendancy with Nadesan and Devitt going close before the hour mark, although neither could test Logan with their strikes.

Meanwhile, on 67 minutes, Gillesphey was allowed space to drift through midfield and flashed his shot wide of Logan’s right-hand post.

But the complexion of the encounter changed with 12 minutes to play when the Stags pulled one back. Benning’s free-kick found an unmarked Matt Preston who headed past Cumbrians keeper Adam Collin to give Mansfield hope.

Moments later, though, Hope found the bottom corner to restore United’s two-goal cushion.

Now on a hat-trick, the 24-year-old twice went close, forcing a fine fingertip save from Logan on the 84th minute, before he was replaced to a standing ovation from the home supporters a minute later as teenage winger Liam McCarron was given another run-out.

Mansfield were still not done, though, and after Hayden White had beaten Collin to a loose ball, Walker headed home with three minutes of normal time left to send home fans’ hearts racing again.

Appleby teenager McCarron then had the chance to put the result beyond any doubt in the first minute of stoppage-time, only for Logan to save the 17-year-old’s strike before Sowerby’s effort was deflected wide for a corner.

But that miss had little effect on the final result.

Match facts

Carlisle United: Collin, Grainger (c), Liddle, Gerrard, Parkes, Hope (McCarron 85), Devitt, Gillesphey, Sowerby, Etuhu, Nadesan.

Carlisle unused subs: Gray, Miller, Kennedy, Jones, Bennett, Slater.

Goals: Sowerby (4), Hope (26 and 80).

Mansfield: Logan, White, Benning, Preston, Pearce (c), Bishop, Mellis, Sweeney (Atkinson 45), Walker, Elsnik (Rose 33), Hamilton.

Mansfield unused subs: Kean, Khan, Butcher, Law, Graham.

Goals: Preston (78), Walker (87).

Ref: Robert Lewis.

Crowd: 4,563 (335 away fans).