Paul Simpson admitted Carlisle United were not “calm enough” to see off the agonising closing stages against Stevenage.

The Blues were denied a long-overdue home win by a 96th-minute Terence Vancooten equaliser.

United, having led 2-0 until the 82nd minute, had to settle for a 2-2 draw as a brighter display overall ended in frustration.

Manager Simpson said that, as well as his side played for large parts, they did not handle the crucial closing stages well enough.

“We have to be calmer in defending situations, we have to show a clear mind and we had to clear our lines properly,” said Simpson.

“There were quite a few opportunities where we should have cleared the ball better.

“There were loads of opportunities where we needed to find a pass to our own player and keep possession and keep moving.

“So it’s not just about one thing. It's not about a referee's decision on a penalty, it's not about the second goal that we've conceded – there's lots of things you've got to improve on.

“But unfortunately, as I keep saying, it's the story of our season.”

News and Star: Dan Butterworth celebrates his second goalDan Butterworth celebrates his second goal (Image: Barbara Abbott)

Simpson felt the decision to award Steve Evans’ Stevenage a penalty for Dylan McGeouch’s challenge on scorer Alex MacDonald was soft.

But he did not pin United’s failure to hold onto their lead on that incident alone.

The Blues boss also explained why he did not make many substitutions despite Carlisle’s battle to keep Stevenage at bay.

Jack Diamond’s introduction for two-goal Dan Butterworth was the only replacement and Simpson said: “I didn't make any other changes because I needed to keep the height on the pitch because of what we were expecting.

“And a lot of our subs unfortunately are just smaller and wouldn't have given us that physicality. So that's the reason why we did what we did.”

Butterworth put United in front on 13 minutes by converting an impressive team move, before an excellent finish in the second half doubled the lead.

“It was excellent finishing for both the goals,” said manager Simpson, whose side led at half-time for the first time in the league this season.

“I felt he was ok last weekend at Shrewsbury in all fairness too – I thought he looked bright, and that's why I kept him in. I left Jack Diamond out of it because I've probably expected a bit too much from Jack after the time he's been out and he's played quite a few games…I just thought he started to look tired.

“I wanted an extra midfield player in the team [in Taylor Charters] just to try and give us a bit more solidity. And up until 94 minutes and 50 seconds it was working.”

Both Charters and substitute Diamond passed up good second-half chances which Simpson admitted were also big moments.

“Taylor couldn't get it out of his feet, and Jack did everything right in all fairness, he just hasn't scored. But it's both boxes,” said Simpson.

“It's the whole team in both boxes. You've got to be better on both sides of the game.

“We had a decent amount of control in the game against a side who don't allow you to have control because of the way the play. But, you know, credit to them. They've kept going and got themselves a point.”

Carlisle are 15 points adrift of safety with seven games to go, and visit fourth-placed Peterborough United on Good Friday.