Carlisle United 2 Walsall 1: Debutant Nick Anderton and Ryan Loft earned Carlisle United a much-needed victory at Brunton Park.

Chris Beech's side boosted their League Two survival hopes against the Saddlers as they moved seven points above the League Two relegation place.

Left-back Anderton marked his first start with a goal on 20 minutes and recalled striker Loft forced the second shortly before half-time.

Mat Sadler pulled one back soon after the break but Carlisle did enough to see off an attempted fightback and secured their second win in 11 games.

That, coupled with Stevenage's defeat at home to Plymouth, saw United increase by three points their cushion above bottom place.

Head coach Beech included new boys Anderton and Lewis Alessandra from the start as United sought a vital win.

Defender Anderton pounced to open the scoring, firing home from the left after the visitors had failed to deal with an Elliot Watt free-kick at the near post.

It was the left-back's first Football League goal and ended a home league scoring drought for the Cumbrians which had reached six hours and 28 minutes.

The free-kick had been earned by the hard-working Alessandra as he led a counter-attack down the left.

Walsall then applied pressure in search of a quick equaliser, Adam Collin spilling a catch but Elijah Adebayo turning the shot wide.

Adebayo was then denied by an Aaron Hayden tackle when advancing on goal from the left, with Liam Kinsella's low shot kept out by Collin a minute later.

United were hanging on at this stage, but then doubled their lead on 42 minutes.

It came after Loft had gone clean through but failed to beat keeper Liam Roberts.

The striker, though, got his head on Watt's resulting corner and the ball hit the underside of the bar before rebounding over the line off the keeper.

Nathan Thomas tested Roberts with a long-range free-kick as United, two goals ahead for the first time in a league game this season, finished the half strongly.

Hopes of a comfortable passage to victory were, though, checked five minutes into the second half when Sadler struck for Darrell Clarke's side.

The defender headed home a Rory Holden corner from the left on 50 minutes.

The set-piece had been avoidably conceded when United lost possession on the left of their defence, and miscommunication between Gethin Jones and Collin then saw Jones turn a cross behind under no pressure.

Minutes later, Anderton intercepted well after midfielder Watt had turned into trouble, but Walsall struggled to carve out clear openings from there with United's centre-halves Hayden and Byron Webster defending solidly.

Some good work down the right for Carlisle saw Gethin Jones' cross almost produce a third with Loft at the near post, with sub Jack Nolan having an attempt blocked for the Saddlers.

Blues sub Jack Bridge then did well to cross for United, Roberts pushing the chance away from the hard-working Alessandra, who was named man-of-the-match as Carlisle saw off Walsall's late set-pieces.

Top scorer Harry McKirdy was not in the squad, head coach Beech saying the frontman had "fatigue" in his hamstring, relating to a tendon problem dating back to his time at Aston Villa.

Loan forward Joshua Kayode was also not involved due to illness.

United: Collin, G Jones, Anderton, Webster, Hayden, M Jones, Watt, Scougall (Iredale 80), Thomas, Alessandra (Charters 90), Loft (Bridge 77). Not used: Gray, Olomola, Sagaf, Hunt.

Walsall: L Roberts, Pring, Sadler, Clarke (Norman 62), Scarr, Kinsella (Guthrie 57), Sheron, Holden (Nolan 71), McDonald, Gordon, Adebayo. Not used: Rose, Sinclair, Lavery, K Roberts.

Ref: James Oldham.

Crowd: 4,097 (286 Walsall fans)