There were several good reasons to watch Carlisle United in the 1971/2 season and this was reflected in some healthy crowds at Brunton Park for their seventh consecutive Division Two campaign.

Notable among the highlights was the maverick talent known as Stan Bowles, who had joined from Crewe in October and quickly announced himself with some virtuoso displays at Brunton Park.

Bowles scored his first Blues goal in a 4-1 win over Bristol City and, a month later, produced a magnificent performance to put a hat-trick past the champions-elect Norwich.

These were high points in what was turning out to be a mid-table season under the flamboyant Scot, Ian MacFarlane, and when 11,449 fans filed into the ground on New Year’s Day 1972 there were justifiable hopes for more entertainment against Leyton Orient.

At the time Carlisle were averaging just shy of two goals a game and this appetite eventually proved too strong for the men from east London. The game also came at a time of transfer intrigue, with Bob Delgado linked with Rochdale and MacFarlane eyeing the Scottish market in search of new talent.

“This is the traditional time of year for a full list of games in Scotland, so we are covering a few games and watching a few players,” said secretary David Dent of a scouting mission that also involved chief scout Hugh Neil.

The cross-border trawl did not bring instant results, unlike their efforts against Orient, in a display which, although it took time to unveil United’s full talents, still started well.

It was an overall performance in keeping with a season described as “an enigma” by reporter Ross Brewster, and saw Carlisle produce some extremely positive flashes of ability interspersed with some slips of which a better opponent than George Petchey’s Orient might have taken advantage.

The best of the Blues came when Chris Balderstone was setting an authoritative tone in midfield, with Bowles involved in their most dangerous attacking play and Frank Barton pouring his usual energy into proceedings.

Orient put up stubborn resistance to many of these efforts but found themselves a goal behind in the early stages. United’s opener was crafted by Bowles, who sent Barton through with an intelligent pass, and the former Scunthorpe man took the ball in his stride and sent a confident finish past keeper Ray Goddard.

This should have been Carlisle’s cue to dominate, but there was hesitancy about some of their play from there, and never a sense that they were about to send their opponents truly packing.

Bowles, often to the fore, supplied Bobby Owen with another good chance, but he shot wide of the far post. As the first half went on, the Blues became less convincing and Orient produced some chances of their own.

In the event, they drew up short when in sight of goal. Tom Walley struck a shot against the prone John Gorman and it required United keeper Allan Ross to be alert in order to claim the ball from a resulting scramble.

Carlisle then set about the second half with renewed intent and, as in the first half, did enough to grab a goal. Owen was this time the finisher after a classy contribution from Balderstone.

Tot Winstanley and Owen could have added more but, again, Carlisle went back into their shells somewhat and Orient came into things once more. Ian Bowyer could have reduced their arrears, but he failed four times to force the ball home in a goalmouth skirmish, while Peter Allen found his attempt thwarted by the reliable Ross.

United, at least, had the defensive resolve to ensure their lead was protected. Stan Ternent was his usual determined presence in these efforts and he helped to settle Carlisle through closing stages that could have been more anxious.

In the end, they closed out their 2-0 victory safely enough, having been close to capping their win with a third shortly before full-time when that man Bowles skilfully teed up Dennis Martin, but he was denied by Goddard.

It was, it turned out, a win that featured in a seven-game unbeaten league run, while there was also strong cup interest in the early weeks of 1972 as Carlisle took on Tottenham at White Hart Lane, earning a replay thanks to Bowles.

Spurs then got the better of United at Brunton Park in front of 21,560, while in the league the Blues finished 10th, a platform on which MacFarlane’s returning successor Alan Ashman was eventually able to build towards the First Division two years later.

United: Ross, Hemstead, Gorman, Ternent, Winstanley, Bowles, Barton, Martin, Owen, Train, Balderstone. Sub: Webb.

Orient: Goddard, Allen, Rofe, Bennett, Hoadley, Harris, Fairbrother, Dyson, Bullock, Walley, Bowyer. Sub: Brisley.

Crowd: 11,449.