It is now more than 14 years since Carlisle United delivered only the third championship in their history and the passing of the years since only serves to put Paul Simpson’s team in an even more treasured place.

Their gallop to the top of League Two in 2005/6 was the result of a period of renewed momentum, driven by Simpson’s resourceful management, Fred Story’s front-foot ownership and a squad of players with character and mettle.

Simpson had pieced them together from the wreckage of 2003, when he took charge after Roddy Collins’ dismissal, and though he could not prevent relegation to the Conference that season, the Carlisle-born manager led United back up in 2004/5 – and then onto further success.

The Blues, fuelled by Karl Hawley’s goals, hit the front early in 2006 and when Hawley jabbed in a close-range goal at Mansfield in April, their second successive promotion was secured.

All that was left was to clinch their first title silverware since Mick Wadsworth’s heroes of 1995. There was a disappointing 2-1 home defeat to Torquay as they tried to get the final job done but then a trip to Simpson’s former club Rochdale finally saw the Blues secure top spot beyond dispute.

United’s hosts included a member of that 1994/5 side – Tony Gallimore, who was an unused Rochdale sub – while Simpson called frontman Glenn Murray into the current side in place of the injured Michael Bridges, Danny Livesey also coming back into United’s defence.

Rochdale boss Steve Parkin, having secured safety at the other end of League Two, threw 16-year-old Theo Coleman into battle but it was the dangerous attacking figure of Rickie Lambert who set Carlisle a few early challenges, the frontman and strike partner Chris Dagnall firing narrowly past Keiren Westwood’s goal on the few occasions they got any change out of the Blues’ resolute skipper Kevin Gray.

Hawley and Adam Murray tried to reply for United but it was a man from the rearguard who gave the 2,500-plus travelling fans reason to cheer after the half-hour mark. Hawley’s break earned a corner and when Murphy curled the set-piece into the box, centre-half Livesey threw himself through flying boots and limbs to bury a brave header.

It was Livesey’s latest decisive goal for Carlisle a year after his penalty had settled a Conference play-off epic against Aldershot. Both he and Murphy were in the process of building two of United’s most enduring modern careers and the latter man – playing on the left of midfield – was then quick to get in on the scoring act himself.

It was Murphy who extended United’s lead shortly before half-time, arriving with sweet timing onto an Adam Murray cross that Hawley had glanced on, and when Murphy sent a half-volley tearing into Rochdale’s net United’s dominance was in place.

It was the end of Rochdale’s hopes of unseating the champions-elect and the second half was a case of Carlisle trying for a third in the comforting knowledge that their place at the summit was now secure.

The 2,500+ beckoned the popular Chris Billy to shoot from distance, the midfielder firing narrowly wide, with Hawley and Paul Arnison in the mix for further chances, but these were the finer details of a bigger picture, which was clear at full-time when United celebrated with their travelling faithful.

It was only incomplete in the sense that Northampton could overhaul the Blues if they engineered a 17-goal swing on the final day. That wasn’t going to happen and Carlisle knew it as Simpson gripped an inflatable trophy, Zigor Aranalde pulled a Basque flag around his shoulders and United turned Spotland – the ground next to a cemetery – into the latest scene of their mid-noughties resurrection.

For Simpson, it was quite the crowning glory. “We’re so happy about it,” said the United boss. “You can’t put it into words. At the start of the season you have a picture about picking up a trophy, but the championship would only have been in our wildest dreams.

“Those scenes at the end were worth waiting for.”

Indeed they were, and they were prolonged when a goalless draw at Stockport – Simpson giving himself a cameo in order to make his 808th and last professional appearance – was followed by United returning to Brunton Park and lifting the League Two trophy in front of a large gathering of fans, heralding a return to the third tier which would last eight years.

Rochdale: Gilks, Jackson, Boardman (Sturrock), Griffiths, Goodall, Coleman, Doolan (Cooksey), Warner, Jones, Dagnall (Thompson), Lambert. Not Used: Cartwright, Gallimore.

United: Westwood, Arnison, Aranalde, Gray, Livesey, Billy, Murphy, A Murray, Lumsdon (McGill), Hawley, G Murray (Nade). Not used: Williams, Grand, Hackney.

Crowd: 4,439.