Paul Simpson says the fact “everyone” has written off Carlisle United’s survival chances can lift pressure from his team.

The Blues are 11 points adrift of safety after five straight defeats ahead of this weekend’s home clash with leaders Portsmouth.

Bookmakers have made United as short as 1/50 (William Hill) to go down.

Simpson, though, believes a dramatic revival is still possible – and the volume of doubters could help United.

“I think there’s a pressure-off moment [now],” he said.

“Everybody’s already written us off, everybody thinks we’re down.

“We have an opportunity to change that.”

Carlisle’s task got even harder in midweek when Reading’s win at Stevenage increased the safety gap to 11 points.

The challenge this weekend is no less daunting with John Mousinho’s table-toppers in Cumbria.

Simpson says few will give his side a chance against Pompey either, despite how well United played in their last meeting with the south coast club – a 1-0 defeat in which Carlisle came close to a late winner before the leaders struck in added time.

News and Star: Conor Shaughnessy's late goal separated the sides in OctoberConor Shaughnessy's late goal separated the sides in October (Image: Barbara Abbott)

“We had opportunities, particularly in the second half that we didn't take – but I think they showed why they’re a top team, because they were relentless,” said Simpson of the October game.

“They just kept going, and had the quality from the set play at the end to get that delivery in and then attack the ball with a really powerful head.

“But we were close. We've had that in a lot of games, far too many games – or particularly over the first half of the season, when we've lost by a single goal to nil.

“That was something that we wanted to change, but we haven't been able to, so this is the next test for us.

“There's a big difference in terms of the points totals, we accept that. There's probably an expectation from them that they’ll just turn up and they'll just beat us – there's probably an expectation from most people in the whole of the country who care about this particular game that Portsmouth will come and win.

“We have an opportunity to affect that, if we can get our performance right and hope to cause them problems. And that's the only thing that we can focus on.”

Simpson stressed that United cannot afford to worry about results elsewhere and the size of the gap until his side starts picking up victories.

“It’s irrelevant what happens anywhere else in the country in terms of League One games,” he said.

“If we don’t win ours, we know we aren’t going to move anywhere. We know we’ve got to have a run of wins to get ourselves safe.

“Fleetwood got a win last weekend, they then followed it up on Tuesday with another one. We haven’t given ourselves a chance to get two on the trot, because we haven’t won one.

“If we can get that first win on Saturday, we know we can go into the game at Burton next Tuesday with an opportunity to get two on the trot. Then we have another home game, but we have to get the first one.

“That then gives you the chance to build momentum, and then who knows what could happen.”

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