Chris Beech said his Carlisle United team should be praised not criticised despite their promotion hopes effectively ending at Cheltenham.

The 1-1 draw against the promoted Robins made it highly unlikely that the Blues can overturn a six-point and goal-difference deficit to reach the top seven.

United put in a valiant showing against Michael Duff’s side but could not grab the winner that could have prolonged their challenge.

Head coach Beech was visibly frustrated at the end of the game as he spoke about the end of the Blues’ top-seven hopes.

But he said his players should be complimented for the way they have gone about such a challenging campaign.

“We should not get criticised,” he said. “100 per cent.

“We should celebrate their efforts and energies and try and see off the season in a positive manner, which will be difficult, because at this point it’s unlikely we can try and get in the play-offs.

“They have to adjust to that. From the first day, of us having seven players [at the start of] the summer, they’ve worked ever so hard to get to tonight, and it’s tonight they now know they can’t possibly achieve something they’ve aimed at for the last eight or nine months.

“That’s whacked right down their throats now.”

Beech repeated his view that Carlisle had been hit harder than any other side in the division because of Covid-19 and their mid-season postponements.

He also insisted United had been fighting against the odds budget-wise.

He said: “I get criticised if I mention any other factors, whether it’s referees, finance…anything, really.

“I’m so proud of our players, because they’ve given our club everything and we haven’t gained and got what we want.

“We were the better team [against Cheltenham]. We played the better football, had the better chances. For the second consecutive game we hit the bar, and we’ve had the roughest ride of any other club in the Football League.

“It ain’t no excuse. So please, any supporter, it isn’t Chris Beech having an excuse, it’s reality and fact, and I’m so proud of how we’ve responded to that, because I’m so ambitious, and so hungry, and the players deserve great credit for representing our community without the community there [at matches], doing their best at places like this, that do have more money than us.”

Beech said his young team had gone up against Cheltenham’s “seasoned professionals” in the 1-1 draw, which saw Joshua Kayode’s goal cancelled out by Chris Hussey’s free-kick, before Kayode headed against the bar late on.

He added: “I shook everybody’s hand in our changing room and said, ‘Jack [Armer], well done, it’s his first full season. George [Tanner] well done, it’s his first full season. Aaron Hayden, it’s his first full season. Callum Guy, well done, it’s his first full season where he is the main midfield player, not the one that gets dropped and plays half a dozen games.

“I went round the room and when I looked at it – it is our first full season.

“We have to learn from the bits we’ve had. We’ve done really well in handling it, but we haven’t got what we want.

“I’m really disappointed now, but I am so hungry and ambitious to succeed. But of course I have to accept where we are.”

Beech also congratulated Cheltenham as they secured their place in League One.

A United win would have held up the Robins’ progress but the game ended with scenes of celebration among the home contingent.

“I probably have spoilt a few parties in my time, probably from the clothes I had on, never mind the banter,” Beech said.

“But Cheltenham deserve what they’re getting. Well done to the manager, the staff and the players.”

Cheltenham boss Michael Duff said his side were "dreadful" in the first half but after Hussey's cruial strike, admitted his delighted at having steered the Robins to promotion.

"The amount of times we’ve been questioned over the last two years, and historically the club has struggled at the wrong end of the table," he said.

"I am immensely proud to be in charge of this mob. Board, players, staff and supporters have all been brilliant."