Port Vale 2 Carlisle United 1: Former Blues loan striker Mark Cullen struck a late winner as Gavin Skelton's first Carlisle United game in caretaker charge ended in defeat.

Substitute Cullen headed home in the 83rd minute for Port Vale after Byron Webster failed to clear a James Gibbons cross.

That completed the home side's fightback after David Worrall had earlier wiped out Carlisle's first-minute lead earned by Ryan Loft.

The defeat in United's first game since Steven Pressley's sacking sent them down a place to fifth bottom in League Two, five points above the relegation place.

Carlisle made a dream start under Skelton as they took the lead after just 21 seconds.

It was Loft who struck the quickfire opener, sliding home Gethin Jones' low cross after the right-back had linked well with Olufela Olomola.

United held the advantage to the break despite their hosts having much the better of general first-half play.

In an eventful start after the quick opening goal, ex-United man Richie Bennett was denied by Adam Collin before Harry McKirdy almost made it two for Carlisle, but his near-post effort deflected out to Mike Jones, who shot wide.

On six minutes Port Vale then hit the post through a 25-yard effort from Jake Taylor.

United, with Canice Carroll handed only his third league start for the Cumbrians at Jack Bridge's expense, were on the back foot as John Askey's side aimed a series of crosses towards Bennett.

In the 10th minute he twice saw attempts saved by Collin with Jarrad Branthwaite also blocking a shot from the striker.

Vale attacked through ex-Carlisle winger David Amoo on the right but his final ball often faltered in the first half.

At one stage Amoo saw a cross strike Jack Iredale's arm but ref Martin Coy dismissed penalty appeals.

Branthwaite did enough to prevent Bennett converting an aerial cross on 27 minutes while Webster also regularly cleared crosses for the Cumbrians.

In a rare attacking break, Nathan Thomas was denied by defenders as he tried to shoot from the edge of the box, while McKirdy came in for some stick from home fans who accused him of going down too easily under challenges.

A flashpoint late in the half saw McKirdy stay down after a tackle with Montano then appearing to barge the United man back over.

Skelton, who dropped Jon Mellish and Bridge from the side that started at Dulwich Hamlet in last Friday's FA Cup tie, saw his side survive another Taylor attempt shortly before the hour mark.

But two minutes later Vale levelled, when Amoo's cross found Gibbons in space to flick on, and Worrall stole in front of Gethin Jones to score at the back post.

Carlisle tried to come back again with McKirdy shooting wide and Thomas, switching to the left, testing Vale.

He drew a flying save from Scott Brown with a near-post shot before setting up Loft to fire over from a good position.

Cullen had by then replaced Scott Burgess and he was on hand to nod the winner when Webster swung and missed at Gibbons' cross.

The Valiants held on to maintain their unbeaten home record in the league as managerless Carlisle - backed by 343 fans in a 4,783 crowd - remained at the wrong end of the table.

Mo Sagaf was not involved in the squad due to swelling to a head injury suffered at Morecambe on Tuesday. The midfielder took part in some running drills before the game.

Hallam Hope, meanwhile, was absent on Barbados international duty, playing 66 minutes inthe Bajan side's 1-0 defeat to Saint Martin. They next face the Cayman Islands on Wednesday.

Port Vale: Brown, Gibbons, Legge, Smith, Taylor, Joyce, Burgess (Cullen 73), Montano, Amoo, Worrall (Browne 84), Bennett (Pope 57). Not used: Maddison, Evans, Brisley, Lloyd. 

United: Collin, G Jones, Iredale, Webster, Branthwaite, M Jones, Carroll (Sorensen 87), McKirdy, Thomas, Olomola (Bridge 64), Loft. Not used: Gray, Elliott, Mellish, Hayden, Knight-Percival.

Ref: Martin Coy

Crowd: 4,783 (343 Carlisle fans)