There were familiar faces on and off the pitch when Watford visited Carlisle United in the 1978/9 season.

It was a time when the Blues were showing signs of stirring again after their recent fall from the First to the Third Division.

For their opponents, it was a time of significant progress. In the away dugout sat Graham Taylor, who had been appointed Hornets boss two years previously, and had already led the club to promotion from the fourth tier.

They arrived at Brunton Park in April 1979 with an excellent chance of going up again, while Bob Moncur’s Blues were a little further behind in the chasing pack and with an outside shot at remaining in the race.

Watford’s XI included a former United favourite – midfielder Ray Train – and a future Blues figure; Dennis Booth, the future Carlisle assistant manager.

While Booth, 30, was a mainstay of the Watford side, Train – a veteran of Carlisle’s 1974/5 First Division campaign – was back after injury and earned a recall by Taylor in a bid to arrest a stuttering run which had seen three defeats in six games.

For the Cumbrians, Moncur brought back in midfielder Jim Hamilton at the expense of Jim Lumby as United sought a result that would take them to within a point of their second-placed guests. They embarked on that aim with a familiar-looking line-up which featured the likes of Trevor Swinburne, Steve Hoolickin, Mike McCartney, Bobby Parker, Mick Tait and George McVitie.

Watford started in determined attacking fashion, throwing men forward in a bid to get their own form back on track. Luther Blissett, some four years before AC Milan came calling, was one of their main threats, testing Carlisle with an early run and an off-target shot.

Taylor’s side were persistent but, in terms of examining keeper Swinburne, largely unthreatening, and it was Carlisle who provided the first half’s one decisive moment.

There was controversy in their 14th minute opener, since Taylor and Watford were adamant United should not have been awarded the free-kick which led to their opening goal.

Alan Garner’s handball, though, gave Phil Bonnyman a shooting opportunity for the Cumbrians, and the Scottish midfielder obliged with a skilful, curling free-kick which evaded Watford’s wall and keeper Andy Rankin.

This delighted the 7,141 crowd – the second highest home attendance of the campaign – and gave the Blues a lead they sought to hold through some dogged, organised defending.

They kept Blissett and fellow attacker Ross Jenkins at arm’s length throughout, centre-halves Ian MacDonald and Parker maintaining a tight hold on frontmen who had scored more than 60 goals between them during the campaign.

Swinburne was not truly tested until the 35th minute, at which point he made a sharp save from Roger Joslyn’s header after Booth had sent a cross into the Blues’ area.

News and Star: United's Phil Bonnyman curls home a free-kick for the only goalUnited's Phil Bonnyman curls home a free-kick for the only goal

After the break, Moncur’s men saw more of the ball and gradually began to turn the screw. With Bonnyman growing in influence, Carlisle could have grabbed a second on 78 minutes.

Kemp, though, was penalised when he handled a McVitie cross into the Watford net. Alan Garner had Watford’s best remaining opportunity but his header was comfortably held by Swinburne.

It ensured a welcome 1-0 victory for the Cumbrians which kept their slim promotion chances alive, even if they still had ground to make up on those above them.

Taylor, after the game, was aggrieved at the decisive free-kick. “The referee seemed to overrule the linesman,” said the future England boss. “Having said that, I must accept his decision.

“We controlled the game and I wasn’t disappointed with our performance, but Carlisle are very tight defensively and they wouldn’t let us dictate where it mattered.”

Moncur took a brighter view of United’s overall showing, arguing the Cumbrians had won on merit, but their habit of performing well against top sides like Watford yet slipping up against those below them cost them on the final laps.

United, fourth after beating Watford, went on to lose their last two games, to Exeter and Oxford, meaning a sixth-placed finish - and another campaign in the third tier.

For Watford and Taylor it was a different story. They held onto second place and won a second consecutive promotion behind champions Shrewsbury.

Come 1982 they had gone up twice more and reached the top flight, capping a remarkable rise under Taylor.

United: Swinburne, Hoolickin, McCartney, MacDonald, Tait, Parker, McVitie, Bonnyman, Hamilton, Kemp, Ludlam. Not used: Lumby.

Watford: Rankin, Stirk, Harrison, Booth, Bolton, Garner, Pollard (Mercer), Blissett, Joslyn, Jenkins, Train.

Crowd: 7,141.