Stevenage 2 Carlisle United 2: Steve Evans was boiling. In fairness, so was everyone else. It’s always, though, a sign of a good day against Stevenage when their manager’s mercury is higher than anyone else’s. So it was at the Lamex Stadium after this sweltering 2-2 draw.

“A team deserving of nothing get a share of the spoils…we gave the Carlisle lads some oxygen when they were struggling to find any, not just because of the heat but because of their performance…”

More of this followed. There were, admittedly, enough rays of sunshine over Hertfordshire without Evans providing more. His cloudy mood, though, seasoned by some bitter damning of United with no praise, represented nothing less than a job well done by Carlisle, who could skip back up the road – or maybe walk at a leisurely pace, given the heat – with their first away point of the season.

News and Star: Jamie Reid (no19) scores Stevenage's openerJamie Reid (no19) scores Stevenage's opener (Image: Barbara Abbott)

It was not United at their best, far from it. Yet it was also not United at their most brittle. Nobody leaves Stevenage with something they haven’t had to earn, and in refusing to melt on Saturday, Paul Simpson’s team could reflect on a day of positive, sweat-soaked character if not pristine performance.

“You have to come here and put a right shift in,” was the verdict of Carlisle’s own manager. “We’ve done it. We thoroughly deserve a point.” The fact is, United do. Stevenage do not get extra marks for creating chances they can't take, nor for the “shambolic” lapses Evans blamed for letting the Blues back in.

News and Star: Paul Simpson applauds United's travelling fans before the gamePaul Simpson applauds United's travelling fans before the game (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Equally, Carlisle don’t get docked merit points for spending most of the second half struggling to create. They gained a reward for what they did do, all in all, and Joe Garner’s 90th-minute header – his second in successive league games, and the 150th goal of his career – represented a further finding of feet in League One, certainly in terms of durability.

Yes, it was against a side who followed them out of the fourth tier last season. Yet Stevenage have acclimatised far better than anyone since promotion. This point took the home side to the top of the table – helped by a decimated fixture list, but still a reflection of immediate and striking higher-level progress.

News and Star: Players pause for a drinks break in the sweltering conditionsPlayers pause for a drinks break in the sweltering conditions (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Carlisle, then, knew what they’d be facing when they went to the Lamex. It was the same as they and their peers faced last season, with a little extra on top. They often stood up to it – exceptionally, in the case of Jokull Andresson – in the face of familiar, muscular and mobile Stevenage persistence.

Two goals against were obvious lapses but in the plus column they otherwise stayed with a more dominant side, showed the value of going to the end, got two strikers onto the scoresheet and now have four points from their last two outings.

News and Star: Sean Maguire hits United's first equaliser - and his first goal for the clubSean Maguire hits United's first equaliser - and his first goal for the club (Image: Barbara Abbott)

In a season which is more than ever about points, and getting over that survival line any which way, that will do for now. Simpson, after the game, called his side into a huddle and challenged them to believe in their abilities more. On many other days Carlisle might have lost this: the manager was right to zone in on the reasons why.

Just as he was to isolate the better things. They were found in Sean Maguire’s running and opportunism, and a galvanised, substitute-inspired finish to the game, along with Andresson’s superb goalkeeping: all things on which United can build.

To begin with, it was a case of forming what barriers they could to Stevenage’s strong salvos. The best second-ball team in 2022/23’s League Two were quickly onto Carlisle in terms of speed and exhausting persistence. Jamie Reid was an immediate danger and United had to work furiously to deny Evans’ side space in key areas in front of and outside their box.

News and Star: Maguire points to a tattoo as he celebrates his equaliserMaguire points to a tattoo as he celebrates his equaliser (Image: Barbara Abbott)

To a point they did but their failure to track Reid, when he converted one of umpteen Dan Butler set-pieces in the 15th minute, was badly lax. At least the response was swift, Maguire showing similar opportunism to dart between defence and a hesitant keeper, Taye Ashby-Hammond, reaching a long ball before eventually driving it home.

Carlisle’s growth into the contest at this point was not helped by the first of numerous, necessary drinks breaks as things remained stubbornly, drainingly above 30C. Afterwards, Charlie McNeill missed a decent Stevenage chance and then Andresson saved well from Reid as the hosts broke from an imprecise Jon Mellish raid.

News and Star: Jokull Andresson dives at Carl Piergianni's feetJokull Andresson dives at Carl Piergianni's feet (Image: Barbara Abbott)

By the break United’s midfield in particular had been a peripheral feature. Redressing this is easier said than done against a side of Stevenage’s style and in a game of this back-and-forth nature but Carlisle needed more control to give themselves confidence of a result.

Without it, they could have gone under and it’s both to their credit and their fortune that they rode many of the second half’s testing spells, surviving successive corner barrages, Carl Piergianni hitting the bar and testing Andresson before, in the 74th, Reid broke onto a floated, counter-attacking ball, beat Callum Guy and rifled past United’s keeper.

News and Star: United sub Terry Ablade takes on Stevenage's Dan ButlerUnited sub Terry Ablade takes on Stevenage's Dan Butler (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Carlisle, who’d made three changes early in the half, now had to add decisive threat to their sterile endeavour. Andresson’s further defiance against Reid was needed to keep them clinging on while an offside call reprieved the keeper when he spilled a cross into Piergianni's scoring path. Yet Terry Ablade’s pace eventually took the fight back to Stevenage and Garner’s wiles, in place of Joshua Kayode, earned the Blues territory and set-pieces of their own.

Owen Moxon finally nailed a couple of deliveries. One flew painfully close to conversion, then another was met by Garner’s forehead, Ashby-Hammond’s clawing save coming from behind the line.

News and Star: United's Paul Huntington, left, and Sam Lavelle, centre, - plus bandaged Stevenage captain Carl Piergianni - have their eyes on a cornerUnited's Paul Huntington, left, and Sam Lavelle, centre, - plus bandaged Stevenage captain Carl Piergianni - have their eyes on a corner (Image: Barbara Abbott)

The vocal away end surged in celebration. In eight added minutes, Andresson left a final stamp on a fine day, athletically keeping out Elliott List. Evans then gave his list of grievances, mostly about his own team and laced with those narky words about United. Lots of heat all round, then – but, for Carlisle, maybe just a touch of extra light.