It's the news Carlisle United fans have been waiting for - star defender Rhys Bennett is staying with the Blues.

The centre-half has signed a new short-term deal which keeps him at Brunton Park until the end of the season.

Bennett's original terms had been set to expire this month but the 29-year-old has now committed to United despite interest from higher-placed clubs.

The news comes as a huge boost to table-topping United's promotion push.

Bennett has impressed in his 12 appearances so far, and has picked up a Sky Bet League Two player of the month nomination for December.

Boss Chris Beech said on Saturday that talks were ongoing and encouraged Blues fans to tweet Bennett in the hope of persuading him to stay.

Prompted by fans' forum, hundreds of supporters sent the ex-Mansfield and Peterborough man messages.

Beech insisted today that such messages had played a part in Bennett staying.

Bennett joined the Cumbrians in November and his 12-game stint has included three goals.

Head coach Beech said he was sure the news of his new deal would "really please our supporters".

“It’s one I’m delighted to get done and it goes without saying that the football club worked incredibly hard to make this happen, and support it," he added.

“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d have brought Rhys in as soon as I could, and that he had higher level plates spinning, but I thought the aptitude he’s demonstrated has set the standard from what we all now expect from him.

“It’s no surprise whatsoever that his short run of games and three goals alerted the attention of other teams, including those in higher divisions than ours, who were itching to step in when his short-term deal in Cumbria finished.

“Rhys is ambitious, he wants to play as high as he can, so when League One sides come calling with higher wages than ours and sitting in the promotion positions, it’s hard to ignore.

“The flip side to that are the relationships he’s built in Cumbria in such a short space of time, the group of lads he sees daily, the rapport he’s got with the staff, and indirectly with the supporters [albeit in the majority it has to be across social media] and the journey we find ourselves on."

Beech added on the club website: “I encouraged our supporters in my post-match interview after Walsall to do all they could, and message him to stay on, and I genuinely believe that’s played a huge part in this happening – so thank you to those who took the time to help us."

The defender dropped hints on Twitter that he was staying at Carlisle in the build-up to this morning's announcement.