Carlisle United 0 Bristol Rovers 1: Sam Lavelle's first-half own goal sent Carlisle to another defeat and down to third bottom of League One.

The defender deflected Jack Hunt's cross over Tomas Holy and into his own net in the 38th minute.

And that proved enough for Bristol Rovers, who withstood plenty of Blues pressure after the break despite having defender Tristan Crama sent off.

Luke Plange went close for United but Paul Simpson's side once more failed to carry enough serious goal threat as their struggles went on in front of a 7,838 crowd.

Another bad day was worsened by a first-half injury to Paul Huntington on the captain's return to the side after injury and illness.

Carlisle are now three points adrift of the safety line after 17 games with their prospects of staying in the division showing little sign of improving.

Blues boss Simpson made four changes to the line-up that started against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup the previous weekend.

Captain Huntington returned for his first outing since late September, with Jack Armer back from suspension and Dylan McGeouch and Plange also getting starts - McGeouch getting a full league debut in midfield.

News and Star: Dylan McGeouch got his first league start in midfieldDylan McGeouch got his first league start in midfield (Image: Ben Holmes)

They came in for Jack Robinson, Sean Maguire and Dan Butterworth, who dropped to the bench, and long-term injury absentee Callum Guy.

Visiting caretaker Andy Mangan made five changes with Jack Hunt, Harvey Vale, Lamare Bogarde, Crama and Hunt all coming into the Rovers side.

A patchy start saw few chances, with Jon Mellish in midfield for United and Ben Barclay into the referee's notebook early on for a foul, before Aaron Collins was put through to the left of goal for Rovers, only to shoot narrowly wide.

Carlisle called for a penalty when Armer's cross struck Vale but handball appeals were dismissed by the officials.

Ref Martin Woods came in for increasing stick from home fans for a series of decisions, the official booking Joe Garner for an aerial challenge and the visitors' Ryan Woods also yellow-carded  for his reaction.

Goalscoring opportunities remained scarce, Plange - on the left of the attack - almost setting up Armer and Garner with a low cross, Collins shooting tamely at Tomas Holy on a Bristol break.

Vale missed the visitors' best chance yet on 26 minutes, firing over the bar when found in plenty of far-post space, Jordan Gibson curling a more ambitious effort into the hands of keeper Matthew Cox.

United remained without clear-cut chances but enjoyed spells of pressure, with Owen Moxon having a free-kick blocked before Gibson, with a skilful run, beating two players before shooting side.

Carlisle, though, then found themselves behind in the 38th minute as the visitors put together an attack down the right involving Chris Martin and Collins, before the overlapping Hunt's low cross struck Lavelle and looped over the helpless Holy.

News and Star: Joe Garner shows his frustrationJoe Garner shows his frustration (Image: Ben Holmes)

And things then got worse for the Cumbrians when Huntington, on his comeback game, went down injured and, after treatment, was substituted after 41 minutes.

That saw forward Maguire introduced and Mellish dropping back into defence as yet another injury blow struck United.

Garner was then denied a penalty as he went down after trying to cut past Crama but Carlisle reached half-time still plagued by their lack of serious goal threat.

After the break a dangerous Plange cross went unrewarded before Rovers frontman Collins was booked for a dive in the United box.

Carlisle had much of the play from there as McGeouch saw a shot parried and sub Maguire flicked a Moxon corner over the bar, and then Plange rose in the box to head a Barclay cross on target, keeper Cox diving to push it past the post.

Simpson introduced Terry Ablade for Garner as United looked for some inspiration - and the sub's pace in the 73rd minute saw Crama pull him back 25 yards from goal.

Ref Woods initially appeared to wave Carlisle's appeals away but he eventually gave the foul - and sent off Crama for denying the goalscoring opportunity.

Moxon's resulting free-kick was saved by Cox as United went up against ten men for the final 15 minutes.

Another Blues attack saw McGeouch tee up Plange who turned and saw a low effort tipped wide by Cox.

Simpson then sent on Ryan Edmondson and Butterworth for the closing stages, Gibson receiving a Maguire pass in the last minute but stumbling as he tried to work the chance.

Carlisle totted up ten corners to their opponents' none but the equaliser wouldn't come and it was a sixth defeat from seven from all competitions.

United: Holy, Barclay, Armer, Huntington (Maguire 41), Lavelle, Mellish, McGeouch (Butterworth 81), Moxon, Gibson, Plange (Edmondson 81), Garner (Ablade 68). Not used: Andresson, Whelan, Robinson.

Booked: Barclay, Garner, Gibson, Moxon.

Bristol Rovers: Cox, Wilson, Hunt (Grant 76), Friend, Crama, Woods (Gibbons 83), Vale, Evans, Bogarde, Collins (Brown 83), Martin (Marquis 66). Not used: Hall, Sinclair, Thomas.

Goal: Lavelle 38og

Booked: Woods, Friend, Collins. Sent off: Crama.

Ref: Martin Woods.

Crowd: 7,838 (597 Bristol Rovers fans).