As Danny Grainger reflects on Carlisle United’s 2-0 defeat at Newport County, it’s hard not to hear the disappointment in the skipper’s voice.

In South Wales, United’s League Two promotion hopes were delivered another blow with goals in either half from Ade Azeez and Padraig Amond earning the Exiles the points.

Asked to sum up the emotions in Steven Pressley’s side’s dressing room after the loss, Grainger concedes: “It’s disappointment, really.

“Obviously, the goals we gave away were sloppy and we had chances to score but we didn’t take our chances, so we’re really disappointed.”

In the build-up to Saturday’s encounter, Blues boss Pressley had called on his team to stand up for themselves against the robust style employed by Mike Flynn’s outfit who reached the FA Cup fifth round this term before they were eventually knocked out by Man City. But strikes from two set-plays proved to be United’s undoing.

Grainger admits: “We knew they were going to put balls in our box. 

“We knew they would be in and about us, then play when they had time, but they want to get the ball in the box as soon as they can, and we knew that.

“So, their game-plan is to play to their strengths and, obviously, that works well for them. 

“It’s just a disappointing day for us.”

Prior to former AFC Wimbledon, Partick Thistle and Cambridge United man Azeez’s 14th-minute opener, the Cumbrians did have a great opportunity to open the scoring themselves. 

Aston Villa loan midfielder Callum O’Hare slotted through Hallam Hope who was denied by the on-rushing home goalkeeper Joe Day, while Blackpool loanee Mark Cullen’s follow-up effort was fired wide. Grainger accepts Carlisle had chances to break the deadlock in what has been a first-goal league.

“Yeah, we did. But Adam Collin has made some unbelievable saves, as well, and he has kept us in it in the first half,” the 32-year-old says.

“We weren’t clinical enough, we gave up too many opportunities and you are asking for trouble with that sort of recipe, really. 

“Going into that final third, sometimes, maybe we just panicked a little bit. 

“It’s just a disappointing day, and one we are going to have to bounce back from this weekend.”

At Rodney Parade, things went from bad to worse for the Cumbrians in the closing stages when, handed the opportunity to give his team a lifeline from the penalty spot after Tom Parkes had been hauled to ground by home defender Mark O’Brien, Grainger was denied by Newport shot-stopper Day.

Captain Grainger, from Eamont Bridge, reveals he apologised to his team-mates immediately after the full-time whistle for the miss and his mistake which allowed Newport’s top-scorer, Amond, in for their second after the hour mark.

“As I’ve always said, I’m confident when stepping up to penalties and I still will be, carrying on my duty. The second goal is, obviously, a mistake by myself,” he says. 

“I have apologised to the boys in there, it’s one that I should have just dealt with.”

Meanwhile on the first goal, which came after Amond headed into the path of Azeez to stab home following a quick-corner routine, Grainger says: “It’s not a great goal to concede.

“We know we should have done better with the first ball and the second ball. 

“For both of the goals, you wouldn’t say ‘That was well-worked’ or anything like that. It’s our own doing on both occasions.”

Defeat at the weekend extended Carlisle’s winless run to five matches - a run which dates back to a 1-0 victory at Port Vale on January 26.

“Head down, work hard – we will be on the training ground, working hard this week,” admits Grainger when he is asked how the Blues will go about looking to return to winning ways, ahead of Saturday’s home clash against play-off rivals Richie Wellens’ Swindon side.

“The manager [Pressley] will be getting us ready for the next game and that’s the main thing. 

“We can’t affect what happened at Newport now. We will analyse where we went wrong but, after that, it’s under the carpet and it’s on to the next game which is a big home game.”

Asked to give the reasons behind United’s recent poor form, which has come with Pressley looking to gel his-new look outfit together after a number of January additions - as well as Fleetwood loan pair Jack Sowerby and Ashley Nadesan returning to parent club Fleetwood - Grainger explains: “It’s part and parcel of football sometimes. 

“I’d be more worried if we weren’t creating chances, but I think we created enough chances. 

“I think, at times, we looked solid but we haven’t kept many clean-sheets as a team and we haven’t scored enough goals – it’s as simple as that. 

“Ourselves, as players, we need to make sure that we turn it around quickly.”

Despite picking up just two points from a possible 15, United remain only a single point outside the play-off places in a tight promotion race, currently sitting in ninth place with just 10 points separating fifth-placed Exeter and Keith Curle’s Northampton in 16th.

Grainger says: “There will be a lot of ups and down to go yet, we know that.

“We need to make sure that we start picking up points and start picking up wins, sooner rather than later. We will go out at Brunton Park this weekend fully expecting to get three points.”

For this weekend’s contest at Brunton Park, United will welcome back Irish playmaker Jamie Devitt into the fold for the clash against the Robins who - in contrast to the Blues - have taken 10 points from the last 12 available. 

They are one place and three points behind United with a game in hand.

Devitt, 28, will return, having served a three-match suspension following his sending off in the 2-1 defeat at Crewe last month.

“Of course it is a boost [to have Devitt back available]. When you have a player like Devs, it’s always disappointing [when he isn’t available],” Grainger admits.

“But there is more than enough in the squad that we should have gone on and picked up points even without him. 

“Like I say, I’d be more worried if we weren’t creating chances, and teams were cutting us open, but it’s our own doing.”