Keith Curle says preliminary talks have been held over a new contract for Mark Gillespie - as the Carlisle United manager expects January bids for his goalkeeper.

Curle says Gillespie has been scouted regularly this season and believes United's resolve to keep the 24-year-old will be tested.

The Blues boss said he would "ideally" like to finalise a new deal for Gillespie before the transfer window but that will depend on finances at Brunton Park.

Curle said: "There's been a few people that have consistently come and watched our games that I know are goalkeeping coaches.

"I'm assuming their appearance at our games means they're watching our goalkeeper.

"I'd be very surprised if people don't come in and try and test our arm with an offer for Mark, because I think the lad has been doing exceptionally well."

Regarding a possible contract extension for Gillespie, whose current deal runs to the end of the season, Curle said: "Discussions have already taken place - we're just waiting for that to get finalised.

"There are different situations happening at the club, and it's trying to get the timing right.

"Mark is seen as an asset by the club, as some of the other players are as well in the short, medium and long-term.

"[Before January] would be the ideal situation, but we need to make sure the finances are in place so that, if we offer contracts, we're able to afford them."

Gillespie was linked with Charlton last summer and is regarded by the United boss as one of the best two keepers in League Two.

Gillespie will maintain his ever-present league record tomorrow when second-placed Carlisle host second-bottom Exeter.

The visit of Paul Tisdale's side sees United aiming to bounce back from their first defeat of the campaign at Newport.

Although struggling, Exeter have taken more points from away games than many sides in the division. Curle said: "At the minute they're probably a team that look forward to playing away from home rather than at home.

"There's a little bit of unrest and anxiety with their home supporters, but they can play on the counter-attack, have good footballers, like to play at their tempo and can manoeuvre the ball very well.

"One of their strengths is that I can sit here now and not honestly know what formation they're going to turn up with. Likewise, they don't know what formation we're going to play, or what personnel. The first 10-15 mins might be a case of shuffling the pack and seeing what has turned up."

Curle said he is expecting another big home crowd tomorrow, while the manager has hinted he would like to sign trialists Alex McQueen and Kevin Wright.

The pair remain in training with the squad and Curle said: "I'm liking what I'm seeing from both. It's very difficult to say that if I sign them, they are going to play next week, but would I have any hesitation in playing either if I needed to? No, I wouldn't.

"I've got to be able to say to the club that these are investments I think I can balance the books - [for example] with somebody else going out on loan, and being able to bring them in on a figure that's comparative to the money going out.

"Both know I'm trying to manoeuvre and strike a deal with them and the club that suits both parties, but for the time being they're here, integrating into the group and showcasing what they're about very well."

Curle said he has no new injury concerns with David Atkinson back in training after a calf injury. The manager, meanwhile, claims to be planning a change to his previous "lucky" touchline attire following last week's defeat.

"It's gone. It's changed," he said. "I went shopping yesterday. I've got some new clobber, hopefully we'll get the right result and you'll see it for a long, long time.

"I've bought a bit of quality so it will last if needed."