Carlisle have a history of high-scoring encounters against MK Dons but it may be a push to expect as many goals this weekend as the teams provided nine years ago.

Then, it was a dramatic seven-goal encounter, edged by Greg Abbott’s United at a time they were plotting a tricky path away from the previous season’s survival scrape.

Abbott, appointed successor to John Ward in 2008/9, saw his team escape the League One drop on the final day. The following campaign did not start brilliantly yet Carlisle’s boss was a survivor, and in October conjured a 2-1 home win against Southend at a time the axe was hovering.

A better spell then unfolded, key to it an unlikely new addition. Vincent Pericard, once of Juventus, had joined on a short-term deal and immediately provided talisman qualities.

With a couple of other veterans, Ian Harte and Graham Kavanagh, influential in defence and midfield, Carlisle made progress in league and cup, though inconsistency still dogged their efforts ahead of their second-ever visit to stadium:mk.

Abbott made a major selection call for the Tuesday night November trip. Former Chelsea keeper Lenny Pidgeley had started the season as first choice but a handful of errors saw United’s boss turn to the less experienced hands of Adam Collin, the Cumbrian who had shone in non-league with Workington Reds.

The man from Great Salkeld cannot have expected such an eventful Football League debut. With Abbott calling for a performance to lift spirits in flood-hit west Cumbria, United built a three-goal lead inside 20 minutes.

Paul Ince’s Dons were taken aback as, in the fifth minute, Carlisle opened the scoring, Harte sending Kavanagh down the right and the player-coach feeding Kevan Hurst, who sidestepped a defender before slotting home.

Then it was Pericard’s turn. On 17 minutes Matty Robson was fouled on the left, and Kavanagh’s free-kick was glanced home by United’s big striker.

Three minutes later, even better. A set-piece on the right this time was earned by Pericard, who then found space to head in another Kavanagh delivery.

This was uncommon ground for Carlisle on the road - and perhaps inevitable that they would then make things more complicated.

The direction changed suddenly, as the Dons desperately tried to hit back. That they did in the 35th minute, when Martin Devaney’s cross was cut out by Harte but Luke Chadwick arrived to score.

A minute later, another; Chadwick on target again as he pounced on some haphazard attempts to clear.

Momentum continued in its new direction after the interval. Just two minutes of the second half were required for MK to level, Chadwick sending Sam Baldock sprinting away from Harte to blast past the exposed Collin.

Their lead torched, one thing in United’s favour was that so much time remained for events to be given another change of course.

Abbott removed Manchester City loan midfielder Adam Clayton, sent on forward Joe Anyinsah and brought Kavanagh deeper. This allowed United to rebuild some control - and then snatch a winner. For the fourth time in the game, Kavanagh was the supplier, this time a right-wing corner, helped on by Pericard and turned home by Anyinsah.

The only surprise from here is that no further goals followed. Robson and Pericard went close for United while, in defence, Harte blocked a Jason Puncheon effort, Collin also releasing pressure with some commanding claims. Dons declined to use a certain Jabo Ibehre as substitute, and the only other blot on the Blues’ victory was a red card for midfielder Tom Taiwo, his second yellow for delaying a Dons free-kick.

“We are happy, relieved, exhausted, excited, the whole lot,” said Abbott after the 4-3 win. It launched Carlisle into their best spell of the season: seven games unbeaten, including a memorable FA Cup victory over Norwich in the mist, Pericard scoring one of the more unorthodox volleyed goals Brunton Park has seen.

United went on to lose valiantly to Everton in the third round, while their revival was hit by Pericard’s decision in January to join Swindon, the Blues eventually finishing 14th in the league, two places behind MK.

They did, at least, have more cup drama in store, reaching the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final after a barnstorming northern final against Leeds in which Collin was a shoot-out hero. Southampton, alas, thrashed them in the final.

United: Collin, Keogh, Horwood, Livesey, Harte, Taiwo, Clayton (Anyinsah), Robson, Hurst, Kavanagh, Pericard. Not used: Pidgeley, Murphy, Dobie, Rothery, Burns, Kane.

MK Dons: Gueret, Doumbe, Lewington, McCracken, Swailes, Howell (Quashie), Devaney (Easter), Puncheon, Chadwick (Johnson), Baldock, Wilbraham. Not used: Searle, Powell, Ibehre, Carrington.

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