After the glory, the struggle. It is often remarkable how quickly things can change in football and just a few months after Carlisle United’s greatest time – their rise to the First Division in 1974/5 – the picture was markedly less positive.

Thoughts of a soft landing back in Division Two were dashed by a poor start. Alan Ashman’s side took six league games to pick up their first victory and by the time they faced Oldham in November they had embarked on another seven-game winless streak.

It was a rather deflating comedown, and inevitable that such a path would claim casualties. The most significant was Ashman himself, the legendary manager quitting in October.

Dick Young, the trainer whose coaching methods had been central to Carlisle’s golden era, was a reluctant figurehead but he took caretaker charge as bigger names jockeyed for the job.

With former Scotland international Jimmy Scoular and Doncaster’s Stan Anderson among the reported contenders, Young took one point from his first three games, while preparations for the visit of Oldham were also hit by off-field controversy. Goalkeeper Martin Burleigh was dropped after a dressing-room row with the stand-in boss, having been denied permission to travel home from a defeat to Nottingham Forest with a friend rather than on the team bus.

Midfielder Mike Barry was also in trouble, disciplined after been spotted drinking two days before the Oldham visit. “I don’t mind a player going out with his wife or friends,” Young said, “but he should drink milk with his meal.”

Both incidents brought unhappy responses from the players’ wives, who defended their men in the press, amid reports of transfer requests. In terms of the Oldham game, the goalkeeping change saw the long-serving Allan Ross recalled for his first start of the season against a Latics side who included former United wing favourite George McVitie.

Young also tweaked his team defensively, moving Peter Carr from the middle of defence back to right-back, and restoring Bobby Parker to sweeper. This gave Carlisle a more familiar feel and it paid off in timely fashion against Jimmy Frizzell’s visitors.

It was not a vintage display, exactly, but United at least rediscovered their front foot for long enough. The Brunton Park encounter began with Carlisle’s Frank Clarke rifling wide in the opening seconds while, at the other end, a trademark McVitie run brought the best out of Ross.

A dour struggle followed, neither side producing anything to enliven the 6,389 crowd – until the 24th minute, that is, when Carlisle took the lead.

It came from, at that point, an unlikely source, given that defender Mike McCartney had not yet opened his Carlisle account. He, though, was on hand to send a fierce 10-yard volley past keeper John Platt after Dennis Martin’s cross had evaded Joe Laidlaw.

It was a moment to savour for the 21-year-old McCartney, and created momentum that provided a rapid second just two minutes later. Carlisle had seldom known such dominance in 1975/6 than going 2-0 up in the blink of an eye, their next goal nodded in by Clarke after Ray Train had chipped a John Gorman delivery back into the middle.

It proved a suitable cushion against Oldham’s fightback, which the Latics attempted as Carlisle’s performance levels fell away. Ross denied David Shaw and, in the second half, United were largely uninspired – but, crucially, kept their visitors at bay.

Attempts to extend the lead saw Laidlaw go close, but Oldham then flew back at the Cumbrians. After Ross kept out a shot from winger Alan Groves, and the latter hit the bar, Frizzell’s men finally pulled one back through Graham Bell in the 71st minute.

This inevitably made the home crowd anxious, but Young’s men held on for an important 2-1 win.

It eased, a little, fears of a second consecutive relegation, as did a better run of form over the winter, with Young placed in full-time charge. The Oldham victory had also proved to be an unforgettable day for McCartney, who would go on to become one of United’s most durable servants.

Of his landmark goal, the young Scot said: “What pleased me more was that it was with my right peg, my swinger.

“I’ll never forget that moment – my first goal. It’s the greatest feeling on earth.”

Such feelings were not plentiful elsewhere in 1975/6, alas, as United finished fourth bottom – a survival which only delayed the drop to the Third Division by a season, by which time Young had eventually stepped aside for a new boss in the Newcastle legend Bobby Moncur.

United: Ross, Carr, Gorman, Green, Parker, Train, McCartney (Prudham), Martin, Clarke, O’Neill, Laidlaw.

Oldham: Platt, Wood, Blair, Bell, Edwards, Holt, McVitie, Shaw, Robins (Whittle), Chapman, Groves.

Crowd: 6,389.