Notts County came away empty handed once more this afternoon in a 1-0 loss to Carlisle United.
Notts dominated for long periods, creating a host of chances, but were unable to break the deadlock. This was later punished by Gary Madine's 68th minute winner - the only goal in a lively 90 minutes.
The Magpies had a week to put the defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday behind them, but another stern test awaited at a blustery Brunton Park. Carlisle had started the season well and resided in fourth, though Notts only trailed them by three points, despite being placed 14th prior to the match.
Lee Hughes was missing from the squad through injury, giving Karl Hawley a chance to prove himself against his former club in his first start since the end of March. Ricky Ravenhill returned from suspension to partner John Spicer in the centre of midfield, taking the place of Neal Bishop, who was serving a one-match ban, and Craig Westcarr returned to action following his recovery from a hamstring problem.
The opening stages could have seen either side go in front, with chances created at both ends. In form striker Madine may have put the hosts ahead if he had been able to tame play-maker Oliver Norwood's bending, overhead pass on five minutes, and, for Notts, Hawley rounded off a quick cross-field move by firing into the high into the terracing behind the goal.
Unpredictable winger Francois Zoko appeared to be the Cumbrians' biggest offensive threat, as he constantly toyed with the County backline. Although his pace and power was restricted somewhat in the final third, Rob Burch was still forced to gather two of his powerful hits.
If anyone looked likely to go ahead, it was the Magpies, but a failure to convert a number of promising openings meant the game remained goalless. Spicer's ambitious, dipping volley landed on the roof of the net in the first part of Notts' increasing dominance.
But, better openings were on the way and Kevin Smith should have put his team ahead with the finest of them. Hawley had fed Westcarr into the box, where he laid the ball into the path of Smith, but the forward took too many touches and his delayed attempt was deflected narrowly wide.
Westcarr, who kept drifting into attack, had two opportunities, both with his head. Nipping in front of home stopper Adam Collin, he directed Spicer's cross over and then he glanced Smith's floated delivery inches past the foot of the post.
United fought their way back into the fixture as half time approached and Madine almost made Notts pay for their misses, when he cleared the bar with a thumping header. Though, it was Spicer that almost had the last say in the opening 45 but his volley, set up by Hawley's weighted cross, was palmed away by Collin.
Unlike last week against the Owls, Notts took their first half form into the second period. And, on 47 minutes, Hawley's imaginative turn and pass found Westcarr, who rounded the keeper, but saw his finish hacked off the line by the Simek.
It appeared that Craig Short had instructed his team to attack, as John Thompson made his presence felt down the right flank. Two of his centres almost saw Notts take the lead, but Hawley nodded off target and Smith failed to connect at the back post.
Mike Edwards was next to come close when he latched on to Ben Davies' in-swinging corner. Connecting forcefully with his head, he was denied by the woodwork.
Against the run of play, the home faithful thought that their side had taken the lead moments later. James Berrett's cross was nodded towards Craig Curran, whose headed flick had Burch worrying, as he anxiously watched the ball nestle on the roof of his goal.
Smith had another fantastic opening for the Magpies from Hawley's chipped through pass. Controlling comfortably with his chest, he prodded towards the top corner, only for Collin to tip behind at full reach.
At the other end, Burch had no chance of keeping out Madine's strike, which put the hosts 1-0 up. Substitute Matty Robson had skipped past Smith on the left wing and his whipped delivery, helped along by Zoko, fell to Madine to lash home without hesitation.
The goal lifted the Cumbrians and Robson's creativity should have led to his second assist and Madine's second goal. Struck across the face of goal, Madine only had to hit the target, as Burch clambered desperately along his line, but he somehow slid the ball wide.
A new-look strike force took to the field, consisting of Luke Rodgers and Jake Jervis, in an attempt to salvage something from the match, but Carlisle looked the most likely to strike next. Burch was required to keep Notts in the match with two excellent blocks to shut out Zoko.
Thompson came close during three minutes of added time with a header at the back stick, but Sean McDaid beat him to it. It proved to be the final chance for Notts, who were again left wondering how they came away with nothing from a game that they dominated for so long.
Attendance: 5,599 (332 Notts County supporters)
Magpie Player Man of the Match: John Spicer