There is not much, other than its significant expanse of green grass, to identify Peel Park as a ground where history could once be made. The stands have long gone and the field serves the adjoining primary school, and an amateur football club in Accrington, nothing greater.

All the park's gates are locked when I visit. A green sign, partly obscured by leaves, warns firmly against trespassers. On the opposite side, a couple of iron bars are bent where someone has sneaked through, via a ginnel.

Drinkers venture in and out of the Peel Park Hotel, positioned above the large, weed-strewn bank beside the pitch. A red-bricked building - a remnant of an old changing room block, apparently - stands a few yards away. A couple of sets of goalposts are pushed together at the edge of the field and, as rain tips down, a pigeon pecks its way around the centre circle.

Yet it is at this unassuming east Lancashire place where the ghosts of Carlisle United's very first Football League team reside. It is hard to envisage a Blues XI performing in front of 6,714 boisterous spectators at this setting yet it was here, exactly 90 years ago today, that they did not so much tiptoe into a new era of football as burst upon it.

If it was not quite the beginning of Carlisle's full story - the club had evolved from the former Shaddongate United, who were established in 1896 - August 25, 1928 was the hour of their most significant step. Elected into the League at the third attempt, at Durham City's expense, a new season in Division Three North finally took the Brunton Park club's endeavours onto a national setting.

It is difficult to overstate the sense of anticipation that accompanied this virgin path. Carlisle's status as a football city had grown over previous decades and United's survival of financial troubles and floods had been sufficiently strong to help them build a promising team for their maiden League campaign.

"The club officials must be congratulated on having built a fine side," declared the 1p Cumberland Evening News as the dramatic day approached. United's numbers included Davie Hutchison, a clever inside-right from Motherwell, Jimmy McConnell, a formidable Scottish centre-forward, other likely lads from the North East, and the long-serving inside-left Billy Ward, the only Carlisle man to make the opening-day cut in his eighth season with the club.

With general secretary George Bristowe in charge of proceedings, an announcement that the team would leave for Accrington from the Citadel Station on the 8.25am train brought hundreds to the platforms that Saturday. As they passed the goods sheds, engine drivers saluted them with blasts from their whistles, several supporters also on board.

What these hopeful chaps faced as they arrived at Peel Park, other than bright sunshine, gusty wind and a tantalising sense of the unknown, was a home side well versed in the competition. Accrington had been Football League participants since 1921 and finished ninth in the 22-club table in 1926/7.

This was no barrier against Carlisle's fearlessness, though. Ten minutes into the game, which kicked off at 3.15pm, many of the local spectators were stunned into silence by two Cumbrian goals.

McConnell, inevitably, was the linchpin of this immediate impact. The thick-thighed striker had been born into a Kilmarnock mining community, also serving in the Royal Horse Artillery in Egypt during World War One, before returning to nurture outstanding goalscoring potential in Scottish football.

After a stint in America, which was in the 1920s offering Brits enviable money to play "soccer" across the pond, he accepted Carlisle's approach to spearhead their first Football League side. On a photograph of United's line-up for their opener, full-back Thomas Coulthard's appearance is that of someone about to confront the person who had spilled his pint, yet 29-year-old McConnell somehow dominates: arms folded, his head slightly larger than the rest, his face glowering slightly, a sight no doubt familiar to defenders of the time.

Accrington certainly had little early response to McConnell. After making a vigorous start, the striker received a forward pass, took two steps and unleashed a fifth-minute shot "with such force that [Accrington goalkeeper] Finnigan had no earthly chance of saving" it, the ball rising into the top corner of the net.

This momentous strike was swiftly followed by another, Ward securing local pride by heading an Alf Agar lob into the net via the crossbar. Such was Carlisle's dynamism against Accrington's "no back" tactics - the hosts pushing up to try and contain or snare United's attackers - that there were cries of relief when four further strikes were ruled out for offside, not all of them accurately.

Reports of the day further describe Carlisle's forward play as "aggressive," "virile" and "thrustful". Even after Stanley pulled one back early in the second half - a Barclay penalty, after Coulthard's handball - it barely deterred the new boys, who swiftly extended their 2-1 lead when a Stanley corner was cleared to Agar. With all the home outfield players in Carlisle's half, the outside-right had the freedom of Peel Park to surge forward and dispatch a forceful shot past the keeper.

McConnell, Agar, Hutchison, Billy Pigg and others pressed for more, while at the other end United's No1 George Prout, who hailed from Dalton-in-Furness, was either sweeping up outside his box, punching crosses clear or pulling off more conventional saves. He was beaten late on, by a "stiff drive" from Accrington's Lee, but there was little disputing that Carlisle's opening-day enterprise was fairly rewarded with the two points on offer.

Given this maiden territory, the victory was, reported the Evening News , "more than the majority of local football fans had hoped for". It stirred up excitement to the extent that "thousands" congregated at the station to welcome them home. Their train back was late, but upon arrival the players were cheered through the crowd, greeted by club directors and members of the Cumberland Football Association.

It also raised the city's eagerness for United's first home game, five days later against Bradford City, formidable 11-1 conquerors of Rotherham on the opening day. Before then, though, there was some contented reflecting on Carlisle's League bow. Monday's headlines told the tale - 'Great initial triumph…United's fine debut in League soccer…Stanley shock…Carlisle excel in weight, speed and skill' - while correspondents were in little doubt as to the individual star.

"It won't be long," one wrote, "before James McConnell becomes one of the most sought-after players in the game if his form of last Saturday is to be a true criterion of his real abilities. He had almost uncanny ball control, yet he did his work with a fleetness of foot that was amazing. He was in America last season, but such a talented player is too valuable in this country."

Interest in this bold United was such that even their reserve team drew a 3,000 crowd for their own season opener. As for Brunton Park's first Football League game, 13,496 fans were drawn to the ground despite competing city attractions such as the Plaza, "Carlisle's super ballroom, for all that is best in dancing" and the picture house on Botchergate with its matinee viewings of Lost at the Front - the Laugh that Stopped the War , starring Chas Murray and George Sidney.

On Warwick Road, the city's newest stars again performed admirably in front of a then record gate. A 2-2 draw saw Carlisle's pluck match Bradford's experience, and then came a riotous 8-0 obliteration of Hartlepools, McConnell claiming the club's first Football League hat-trick.

After that astonishing result - which still stands as United's record win - these lethal exploits continued even as the Blues' first defeat then came at Bradford in their fourth game. While the Yorkshire club advanced to the title, Carlisle achieved a highly creditable eighth in front of several five-figure crowds, McConnell accumulating 42 goals in as many league games; also a club record. Adept with either foot, the Scot's return of 126 in the league over four campaigns has also never been bettered.

As Carlisle's story unfolded, the greatest finisher in their history eventually moved on to Crewe Alexandra, who happen to be United's opponents today. It would be somehow appropriate if the next goal scored by someone in blue - which will be the Blues' 5,048th in the Football League - could be sent into the net this afternoon with the same gusto as their first, nine decades ago at breezy Peel Park: the sensational moment from which all else at this intriguing football club has flowed.

*Additional research material from When Saturday Comes,, and