The spring of 1985 brought a few temporary interruptions to Carlisle United’s general state of decline.

Four wins in March briefly arrested an overall sense of struggle and most notable of all in this period was a heavy triumph against a club heading in the other direction.

Wimbledon were still three years away from their greatest glory in the FA Cup Final, but the 1984/85 campaign was still a significant one for the club from south London: their first in English football’s second-tier after back-to-back promotions.

Having only been a Football League club for eight years, it was an impressive climb indeed and their side at this stage featured certain players who would reach further heights, such as keeper Dave Beasant and full-back Nigel Winterburn.

Also in their line-up for a Brunton Park trip in late March was forward Carlton Fairweather, who several years later, would have a short and unmemorable stint in United’s blue.

As for Bob Stokoe’s Cumbrians, they had been unable to sustain any kind of challenge in 1984/85, bursts of form too brief and volatile results seeing them established in the bottom half, a disappointment after the previous season’s seventh-placed finish.

It was a trajectory which would continue to damaging effect in years to come, but they certainly gave their dwindling support an afternoon to remember against the Dons, putting away six goals in a league game for the first time in 13 years.

The stars were frontmen at different ends of the experience scale, Andy Hill and Malcolm Poskett.

They were in the mood to pounce when Wimbledon’s defence showed itself to be, in the words of Evening News & Star reporter Ivor Broadis, “as brittle as clay pipes in a fairground shooting gallery”.

The pattern was set as early as the second minute when Carlisle claimed an immediate lead.

From Wimbledon’s point of view, the penalty was contentious as former Derby County prospect Hill battled with Mike Smith, but the spot-kick was awarded by referee Alan Saunders and Mike McCartney showed no mercy as he fired past Beasant.

At the other end, Andy Sayer failed to convert a Fairweather cross, but Wimbledon’s search for parity only served to stretch the game, enabling Stokoe’s hungry Blues to capitalise.

Their second goal, on 20 minutes, proved a spectacular effort indeed: an overhead volley from Hill after Don O’Riordan had headed Alan Shoulder’s deep corner back into the middle of the box. The Dons’ gate was now open, and United, with Newcastle loanee Steve Carney making a steady debut in defence, were free to go through it more times before the break.

Six minutes from the interval, they made it three. Poskett controlling a Hill flick and returning it to his strike partner, who rifled home left-footed.

Carlisle were still not done before the halfway point as, three minutes later, Paul Haigh’s low cross found Poskett between Wimbledon’s defenders to make it four.

United were in blissful control and even a side with the Dons’ upstart reputation could not reverse things from here. They sneaked a consolation early in the second half, Sayer steering a Fairweather cross past keeper Dave McKellar, but Carlisle simply responded to this by snatching two further goals.

The next one came as the 26-year-old Beasant failed to get a Poskett header under control after a John Halpin corner. The tall figure of Hill was quick to pounce and he dispatched United’s fifth, completing his first ever hat-trick.

Poskett then wrapped things up in style, picking up the ball on the left and going past two Wimbledon defenders before calmly bringing up Carlisle’s half-dozen.

It had, naturally, been Hill’s best afternoon in blue, not least because Stokoe had been preparing to give him a run in midfield as a result of a prolonged drought.

“I can understand the reason for a move back after going so long without scoring,” Hill said. “I hope the goals will help.”

It was, at 6-1, comfortably United’s most handsome victory of term, and momentum delivered two more, against Barnsley and Middlesbrough.

In an echo of the previous season, though, they then ended with a slump, winning none of their last seven encounters and finishing an underwhelming 16th.

That saw them four places behind Dave Bassett’s Dons, who built on their maiden second-tier efforts by reaching the top flight a year later: the same time as downwardly-mobile Carlisle dropped to the Third Division, before slumping back to the basement in 1987.

United: McKellar, Haigh, Ashurst, Carney, McCartney, O’Riordan, Halsall, Halpin, Shoulder, Poskett, Hill. Not used: Robson.

Wimbledon: Beasant, Kay, Morris, Smith, Winterburn, Handford, Evans (Gage), Ketteridge, Fishenden, Sayer, Fairweather.

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