Paul Simpson has expressed his gratitude to Carlisle United fans for keeping the faith despite the team’s struggles.

The Blues take on League One leaders Portsmouth today (Brunton Park, 3pm) desperately hoping for a turnaround.

United have suffered five straight defeats and sit 11 points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table.

Simpson concedes the team have not given fans anywhere near enough to cheer this season but hopes that can start to change.

“The supporters have been outstanding,” said Simpson.

“They've made this place a really vibrant atmosphere every game.

“We just haven't got the performances and results to make it an even better place to be.

“But we’ve still got home games to come this year and this is the first one of them against the top team in the league.

“And what I would say is – they'll come and back us, we know they will. I think there'll be a good attendance this this weekend.

News and Star: Another good crowd is expected at Brunton Park todayAnother good crowd is expected at Brunton Park today (Image: Ben Holmes)

“We've got to get our performance right and make them stay with us

“Last weekend I was I was so pleased when I went over to the fans at Orient and thanked them for the journey – and they’re staying with me, staying with us.

“I think that's really important and, and I'm delighted that they're doing that. Now this is the next opportunity to have to keep them with us and we've got to make sure we give them more than we have so far this season.”

Another defeat for United today would mean the longest losing run in the league since 2003, when Simpson took charge for the first time from Roddy Collins.

Victory, though, could prove a huge shot in the arm as United bid to pull off an unlikely great escape.

Simpson, who is assessing the fitness of Jack Diamond, Jack Robinson and Josh Emmanuel ahead of the game, will see former Carlisle favourite Owen Moxon in the opposition ranks today.

News and Star: Leaders Portsmouth are in town todayLeaders Portsmouth are in town today (Image: PA)

But the focus is firmly on United showing they can produce a more substantial performance than they’ve managed so far.

“There are still lots of points to play for. But more than anything, there's pride to play for,” added Simpson.

“We have to show a fight, we need to show a determination, which I think we've shown in patches, but not consistently enough, over 90 minutes and over months of games.

“The first 29 games we haven't shown it. And that's why there's a 43-point difference between us and Portsmouth at the top of the table. So we have to do something to change that and that starts with our performance.

“We have to get our performance right from the first whistle, not when we're a goal down, or two goals down, or 3-1 down – we have to start games right.

“That’s what we've talked to the players about constantly over the season. We've talked to them about it this week, and actually said over the last couple of weeks now, ‘Just go and play without any fear. There's nothing to fear, because everybody's already written us off’.

“We have to just go and play with a desire to show that we've got fight in us and that we want to get those results.”