There was no denying the identity of Carlisle United’s major attacking threat at the back end of the 1968/9 season – it was, as it had been so often that decade, the great Hugh McIlmoyle.

The Scottish striker was back for a second spell at the Blues, having been snapped up by Wolves and then Bristol City after his initial, prolific Brunton Park stint.

McIlmoyle had left Carlisle as a Third Division club but returned a division higher, the Cumbrians now firmly established in the second tier with Bob Stokoe having replaced Tim Ward as manager early in the 68/69 campaign.

It had proved to be another mid-table adventure for United, who were in recovery mode after a winless start in the league which amounted to 12 games. Under Stokoe, the revival was then just as stark: 13 games unbeaten, including eight wins, and a much steadier ship overall.

By the time promotion-chasing Middlesbrough visited in mid-March, McIlmoyle had scored 13 goals and, in a side that also featured the likes of Chris Balderstone, George McVitie and Tommy Murray, was hungry for more.

Boro, in second place, were fancied to make the most of their trip to Carlisle but it went against the visitors in comprehensive fashion. United put the Teessiders in their place with three unanswered goals in front of a 13,920 crowd, the biggest of the season at Brunton Park.

In their previous home game Carlisle had pushed leaders Derby to the limit in a 1-1 draw, and soon against Boro their attacking raids, fuelled by positive teamwork, were appearing too hot to handle.

The opening exchanges saw Balderstone test keeper Willie Whigham, Peter Garbutt head narrowly wide and Murray - who had famously scored an FA Cup winner at Newcastle the previous season - have another attempt saved.

Boro were also attack-minded in an open game but their back door was burst open on 35 minutes, with McIlmoyle making an inspired contribution. The striker expertly regained possession on the byline having been tackled, and then switched the ball into the middle for Eric Welsh.

He sent it forward to Murray in space, and though his first finish was saved, he made no mistake from the rebound.

In response, the visitors cursed inaccurate finishing from Ray Lugg and Mike Kear from good positions, and the second half then saw them pinned further back by renewed Blues force.

Whigham was at full-stretch to keep out a 30-yard Balderstone piledriver before United made their superiority count on 52 minutes.

Their second goal came in time-honoured style, a free-kick chipped into the box by Balderstone and won emphatically in the air by the hanging McIlmoyle, who nodded home.

Brunton Park greeted this effort jubilantly and an invigorated side then quickly added a third. This time it was Garbutt on the scoresheet, after charging down the middle to meet a McVitie cross with a guided header.

It was up there with United’s most emphatic displays under Stokoe and left Middlesbrough with little to do but chase scraps. Allan Ross, in goal, had a quieter afternoon than many had feared and was well protected by the likes of Tommy Passmoor and Stan Ternent at the back.

Northern Ireland international Welsh, too, impressed on the wing and, though he ended the game in the wars, needing treatment after a knock to the face, it did not take the shine of his eyecatching day or United’s progress.

The 3-0 win checked Boro’s own march after eight previous matches without defeat. It also put Carlisle seventh in Division Two and certainly heading the right way after that barren start to the campaign.

The remainder of their season then levelled out, five defeats in their last seven games resulting in a 12th-placed finish, while McIlmoyle’s 17 league goals had plainly not gone unnoticed by the side he vanquished that March day, and whose promotion push ended unsuccessfully in fourth.

Indeed, after just 10 games of the following season, the 29-year-old was on his way to Teesside, where he spent two seasons, later moving on to Preston and Morton before returning for a third, swansong Carlisle campaign in their top-flight adventure of 1974/5.

United’s encounters with Middlesbrough continued, meanwhile; none so attractive as their FA Cup fifth round meeting in the 1969/70 campaign.

That attracted 27,500 people to a crammed Brunton Park for a 1-2 defeat. It remains the stadium’s highest-ever recorded attendance for a first-team game.

United: Ross, Marsland, Balderstone, Garbutt, Passmoor, Ternent, Welsh, Barton, McIlmoyle, Murray, McVitie. Not used: Davies.

Middlesbrough: Whigham, Moody, Allen, Smith, Rooks, Spraggon, Kear (Kinnell), Hickton, McMordie, Crossan, Lugg.

Crowd: 13,920.