The FA Cup second round can either be a graveyard of ambitions or a 90-minute passage to exciting times, and Carlisle United would certainly take a repeat of their efforts at this stage 40 years ago.

While the struggling Blues face League Two high-fliers Forest Green on Saturday, 1979 saw the Cumbrians paired with a club of greater stature in round two, with Sheffield Wednesday heading to Brunton Park.

Both sides were negotiating their way through the Third Division, United having made a mediocre start to the season under Bob Moncur and the Owls placed higher as they tried to fight their way back up the leagues.

Wednesday were under the management of Jack Charlton and his task was to upset a Blues home record which was in contrast to their struggles away. Moncur’s men had only lost once at Brunton Park in the league by December and Charlton accepted they were “a very nice, tidy team.”

Wednesday, who were not formidable on their travels, were also facing a player they had previously tried to sign: Gordon Staniforth, Carlisle’s recent record buy from York. The striker had four United goals to his name by the time of the cup tie and, in the event, proved a decisive figure in the game.

Heavy overnight rain had required a morning effort by groundstaff to clear water from the goalmouths – and, when the game went ahead, it was Carlisle who made much the bigger splash.

Conditions had left the pitch heavy but this did not deter Moncur from handing the nimble 19-year-old Peter Beardsley a call-up in place of the injured Phil Bonnyman. The teenager slotted into a side that, on the day, looked more cohesive and crisp than Charlton’s Wednesday.

With Jim Hamilton full of midfield industry, George McVitie a classy threat on the wing and Beardsley and Staniforth menacing in their movement, Carlisle grabbed an early lead. It was Staniforth quickest off the mark, heading home a McVitie cross that paid tribute to United’s confident start.

It was a good way to open proceedings in front of a near 8,000 crowd and though Wednesday tried to fight back, led by Terry Curran, they could not endanger Trevor Swinburne in the Carlisle goal, with United’s defence firmly on top.

Then, 10 minutes before the break, came the latest example of Beardsley’s precocious quality. The young forward picked up a Hamilton pass midway in the Wednesday half and, in the words of reporter Ivor Broadis, “bewitched” a couple of defenders with his movement before planting a cross-shot past keeper Bob Bolder.

United’s two-goal half-time lead looked secure and they managed to survive two isolated scares early in the second half. Full-back Ray Blackhall popped up 20 yards from goal and cracked a low shot against the Blues post, and the same player hit the upright again a while later, the ball rebounding in front of goal.

That was as close as the Owls got and their inability to halve Carlisle’s lead saw the game proceed on a positive United path. McVitie came off with a shoulder injury but United still found their way to a clinching third, claimed by Steve Ludlam when he steered Beardsley’s cross over the keeper five minutes from time.

A 3-0 victory, and a place in the third round, naturally pleased Moncur, who said: “We stuck to what we do best despite the conditions.”

Charlton felt the scoreline flattered United but did not pretend his side deserved to avoid defeat. The first goal, he said, was “diabolically” defended while Wednesday had not made the best of their chances.

“My grouse about the cup,” he sourly added, “is that it lifts supporters while you’re in it but then chops the legs from under them. In the final disappointment you lose more than you gain.”

What United gained was not a glamour tie but a home draw against Bradford, then in the Fourth Division. Bonnyman returned that day to help the Blues to a 3-2 victory and they progressed to face second-tier side Wrexham.

They were the same opponents who had put Moncur’s side out of the League Cup and, alas, the outcome was the same here, United falling 3-1 in a fourth round replay after a 0-0 home draw.

It was the end for the Blues in the cup, and also came shortly before Moncur left for Hearts. That left assistant Martin Harvey in charge, and he guided United to a sixth-placed finish. Carlisle paid tribute to the Northern Irishman this week after news of his death at 78.

United: Swinburne, Hoolickin, MacDonald, Parker, Winstanley, Ludlam, Hamilton, McVitie (McAuley). Bannon, Beardsley, Staniforth.

Sheffield Wednesday: Bolder, Blackhall, Smith, Pickering, Grant, Johnson, King, Mullen (Sterland), Wylde, Mellor, Curran.

Crowd: 7,823.