It is bracing to think that the year 2010 is now a decade ago and, as recent as it may feel, events around that time only serve to underline the change at Carlisle United since then.

While the Blues host Walsall this weekend in the hope they can boost a League Two survival push, back then United were rebuilding in League One after a period of success and then near-calamity.

The final day of the 2008/9 season saw Carlisle, under Greg Abbott, preserve their third-tier status by the skin of their teeth, and the following campaign was, thankfully, a little better, even if United were seldom good enough to threaten the top half.

Abbott survived a bad autumn run, built better form around the talisman striker Vincent Pericard (as opposed to the disastrous signing of Hamilton’s Richard Offiong), but saw his side scrambling again after the big Frenchman was lured to Swindon in January.

The eventual arrival, though, of another target-man, Millwall loanee Jason Price, gave the side a fresh and timely focal point and he joined a side which had enjoyed more memorable days in cup than league, Carlisle having reached the FA Cup third round – where they lost valiantly at Everton – and the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, where dramatic northern final victory over Leeds was followed by a Wembley thrashing to Southampton.

By the time the league season was nearing its end, Abbott had lifted United to lower mid-table and the visit of Walsall on the penultimate weekend offered the chance to consolidate a better position.

The manager was without a host of injured players, the 60-game campaign having taken its toll on the likes of Joe Anyinsah, Kevan Hurst, Peter Murphy, Matty Robson and Danny Livesey, but there was more welcome news with the availability of 18-goal defender Ian Harte after a groin problem.

What unfolded against Chris Hutchings’ Saddlers in many ways summed up the Cumbrian season: some good, some bad, and just about enough to encourage a glimpse of better times.

They had to respond to the worst possible start, since the game was only two minutes old when Walsall grabbed the opening goal. Visiting frontman Troy Deeney intercepted a Price header and flicked it through for Darren Byfield, who hammered his shot past Adam Collin, the former Workington keeper who had forced his way into the United side in his first Football League season.

This obliged United to regroup, with Manchester City loanee Adam Clayton on the right of midfield and Richard Keogh switching to centre-half after some barnstorming runs at right-back.

Keogh, the newly-crowned News & Star readers’ player of the year, galloped back to deny Byfield a second, and he was involved in United’s improvement midway through the half, almost converting a Clayton corner.

Up front, meanwhile, Price and the precocious Gary Madine were starting to set Walsall awkward problems and just before the half-hour they combined for the equaliser. Madine flicked on a deep ball from David Raven, and Price met it with a composed finish for his third goal in eight games.

That was much more like it, and Walsall faced further troubles from Carlisle’s other attackers, including young Stoke loanee Ben Marshall, who was denied by visiting keeper Rene Gilmartin.

The mid-table Saddlers were a more energetic opponent in the second half, Richard Taundry and Julian Gray examining Abbott’s rearguard, while at the other end Keogh and Harte were at the heart of late set-piece efforts.

Keogh repelled a final blast from Deeney and Brunton Park’s calendar closed with a 1-1 draw: not the stress of 12 months earlier, certainly, and due respect was shown from supporters as Abbott’s players circled the pitch at the end.

“The appreciation the crowd showed us was lovely,” Abbott said. “That gives us encouragement.” Always ready with a quip, Abbott then lined up a final-day trip to champions Norwich with the hope that “Delia [Smith]” would “burn all her pies”. In front of fancy-dress chefs in the crowd, Carlisle did indeed raid Carrow Road for a 2-0 win and a 14th-placed finish.

“If I was doing a school report on this season, it would say that progress has been made, but there is still lots of improvement to do,” Abbott concluded. It may have been a long way from the promotion near-miss of 2008, but Carlisle were at least back in recovery mode.

United: Collin, Raven, Horwood, Keogh, Harte, Taiwo, Thirlwell, Clayton, Marshall (Dobie), Price (Bowman), Madine. Not used: Pidgeley, Bridge-Wilkinson, Aldred, Kane, Swinglehurst.

Walsall: Gilmartin, Weston, Vincent, McDonald (Hughes), Smith, Jones (Till), Taundry, Richards, Gray, Byfield, Deeney. Not used: Ince, Bradley, O’Keefe, Westlake, Grigg.

Crowd: 5,114.