The visit of Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town to Brunton Park in 1975 was one of those occasions when Carlisle United, in their solitary top-flight season, rose up and toppled one of the English game’s best sides.

Victories had grown sparing for the Blues by the winter, their sensational opening three wins followed by a string of defeats as they slipped down the First Division.

Alan Ashman’s side produced the goods, though, when Robson and a star-studded Tractor Boys team arrived in Cumbria – with a brilliant Carlisle-born player also in the visiting ranks.

Kevin Beattie never played for his home-city club but by 1975 was establishing himself as one of the brightest defensive talents in the game in the blue shirt of Ipswich.

Beattie’s involvement in the January fixture was responsible for much of the pre-match interest, while Ipswich’s XI also contained George Burley, Mick Mills and Roger Osborne, who three years later would score the winner in the FA Cup final.

News and Star: Kevin Beattie clears Ipswich's lines at Brunton ParkKevin Beattie clears Ipswich's lines at Brunton Park

Carlisle, for their part, had followed a memorable 3-2 win at Everton with a trio of defeats and were in search of a filip in their bid to safeguard their top-flight status.

A brisk and energetic start had United on the front foot in front of 13,054 supporters. Les O’Neill was first to take aim, whistling a 25-yard shot over Laurie Sivell’s crossbar, while at the other end Allan Ross saved bravely from Mick Lambert.

Robson’s side tried various avenues in the bid to find an opening goal, Lambert and Trevor Whymark among their most threatening players. Yet Carlisle were bold in their defending and optimistic in their own attacking play – which sent them into the lead midway through the first half.

Frank Clarke, whose goals had been crucial to the previous season’s historic promotion, was the man to break the deadlock, pouncing to slip home a Dennis Martin flick following Bobby Owen’s cross.

It was a memorable moment for Clarke against his former club.

Ipswich, though, made a swift comeback after just 11 minutes. Bobby Parker was penalised for a nudge on Brian Talbot outside the box, and Colin Viljoen’s free-kick was powered home by Whymark.

That sent the teams level into the interval, but Carlisle came back out in potent mood and soon regained their lead. This time it was Joe Laidlaw with the deadly finish, as he rifled in a 20-yard shot as he turned onto a flick from O’Neill.

News and Star: United's Dennis Martin celebrates after Joe Laidlaw's shot restores the Blues' leadUnited's Dennis Martin celebrates after Joe Laidlaw's shot restores the Blues' lead

This teed up a tense, exciting half in which Ross’s goal came under regular threat – only for the experienced Scot to meet the challenge superbly. He made a serious of courageous saves, yet things remained avoidably tight when Carlisle failed to extend their lead from the penalty spot when Martin was brought down in the area.

Parker’s penalty was saved by Sivell, the referee ordered a retake, insisting the keeper had moved too early – and O’Neill, this time, blasted the second spot-kick high and wide.

Carlisle, though, did not end up regretting this, for they held on admirably. Beattie had began the game displaying all his trademark strength and quality, although United even gave the great Cumbrian one or two tricky moments when attacking down his right side.

The 2-1 outcome cost Ipswich a place at the top, while it was an undoubted lifeline in United’s survival mission.

Beattie was in no doubt how that campaign would end. “Carlisle United are far too good to get relegated,” the Botcherby boy said. “They fought all the way, so much so that I personally weakened in the second half.”

Goalscorer Clarke was a happier man, as he fiddled with the moustache he had regrown in an attempt to recreate the hirsute appearance that had powered the Blues to promotion in 1973/4.

“See – it worked,” he told reporters at full-time, adding: “It’s always nice to score goals, but when it’s against a former club it’s something else.

“If we can fight like that to the end of the season, we shouldn’t go down.”

The Blues were third bottom – but those prophesies sadly turned out untrue. Six straight defeats followed and Ashman’s side couldn’t quite muster the results needed to prolong their stay at the summit.

Ipswich finished third, behind champions Derby and runners-up Liverpool, and would go on to enjoy further success under Robson, notably the FA Cup in 1978 and a UEFA Cup victory in 1981.

By that time, Carlisle’s Beattie had cemented a reputation as one of the Suffolk club’s greatest players of all.

United: Ross, Spearritt, Gorman, O’Neill, Green, Parker, Martin, Train, Owen, Laidlaw, Clarke. Not used: Barry.

Ipswich: Sivell, Burley, Mills, Talbot, Hunter, Beattie, Osborne (Woods), Viljoen, Johnson, Whymark, Lambert.

Crowd: 13,054.