Carlisle United will be hoping the drama of the FA Cup favours them this weekend - but it would be a stretch to expect an epic quite like their only previous ties against Shrewsbury Town.

Only once before have the Blues and the Shrews come out of the hat together in the old competition – and they needed three painstaking and dramatic attempts to be separated.

It all took place in early 1966, a time when multiple replays were still common. United’s Division Two new boys and Shrewsbury’s Third Division hopefuls required two of them.

It all unfolded over a 10-day period as the sides from Cumberland and Shropshire did prolonged battle – before things were eventually settled in neutral Lancashire.

Here’s how it all panned out.


United, a second-tier team for the first time in their history in 1965/6, had the new privilege of entering the cup at the third round stage. They dispatched Crystal Palace 3-0 at Brunton Park - and were handed a trip to Gay Meadow next.

News and Star: United skipper Peter McConnell leads out the Blues at ShrewsburyUnited skipper Peter McConnell leads out the Blues at Shrewsbury

Alan Ashman’s side were picking up their league form after a difficult start, while Shrewsbury, managed by the prolific former inside-forward Arthur Rowley, were bound for a mid-table finish in the division below.

Carlisle fancied at least emulating their best run in the cup to date – the fifth round, two seasons before – and went keenly about their build-up during a snowy February.

“They will have a break on Wednesday, when they will probably be playing golf, but otherwise their training will be just the same as if they were preparing for a league match,” the composed Ashman told reporters the preceding week.

News and Star: United's Chris Balderstone, left, in action during the 0-0 draw at ShrewsburyUnited's Chris Balderstone, left, in action during the 0-0 draw at Shrewsbury

There had been concerns about the quality of Shrewsbury’s pitch, but these were allayed on the morning of the game.

“The state of the pitch is similar to Brunton Park…the heavy going should suit us down to the ground,” said skipper Peter McConnell.

United had been to the cinema the night before, where the manager happened to be a Cumbrian – a Mr Bunting from Keswick – and while a Shrewsbury fan had managed to scrawl the word ‘Shrewsbury 3 Carlisle United 1’ on top of one of the newspapers delivered to a Blues player’s hotel room on the morning of the game, that prediction proved inaccurate.

News and Star: United fans on the train to ShrewsburyUnited fans on the train to Shrewsbury

The hosts, though, did make a serious game of it in front of nearly 14,000 fans, including 3,000 Cumbrians. The Shrewsbury side included former England winger Peter Broadbent and Carlisle - who took a buoyant travelling support to Salop - ended things content to have forced a replay.

For that they had full-back Terry Caldwell to thank, the former Leeds man making one goalline clearance and several other strong interventions.

News and Star: United star Eric Welsh shows his frustration after a chance goes beggingUnited star Eric Welsh shows his frustration after a chance goes begging

George Boardman squandered one great chance for Shrewsbury, who boasted one of the third tier’s strongest home records, rifling high and out of the ground when trying to burst the net from a good position.

News and Star: The travelling Blues fans at Gay MeadowThe travelling Blues fans at Gay Meadow

For United, who fielded defender Peter Garbutt up front in Joe Livingstone's absence, Eric Welsh had their best chance but he was denied by keeper Alan Boswell, and while Carlisle grew stronger as the game went on, they were not dissatisfied with a 0-0 draw.

News and Star: United's Peter Garbutt, right, competes in the air at Gay MeadowUnited's Peter Garbutt, right, competes in the air at Gay Meadow

It meant a replay at Brunton Park three days later.


Before the second attempt to separate the sides, the fifth round carrot was revealed: the winners would be going to Chelsea.

News and Star: (l-r) Ronnie Simpson, Joe Livingstone, Hugh Neil and Tommy Passmoor await the draw(l-r) Ronnie Simpson, Joe Livingstone, Hugh Neil and Tommy Passmoor await the draw

“It will be a great incentive,” admitted Blues secretary David Dent, who joined Ashman and players in watching news of the draw come through via a teleprinter in the Cumberland Evening News offices.

Captain McConnell also acknowledged the potential financial benefits of a trip to Stamford Bridge – providing they could get the job done.

News and Star: United's players line up at Brunton Park before the replayUnited's players line up at Brunton Park before the replay

Again, though, it proved a trickier task than the clubs’ respective league standings might have suggested.

Just short of 18,000 people packed into Brunton Park to watch United try to book their trip to London, but by the end they were again glad still to be in with a 50-50 chance of progressing, with Ashman’s predictions of another “tough match” proving sound.

News and Star: United on the attack in front of a packed Main StandUnited on the attack in front of a packed Main Stand

It turned out to be a rather gruelling contest in which United made underwhelming progress in their search for goals.

Referee Mr Richards, from Oldham, contributed to its stop-start nature with some fussy officiating, and while Welsh hit the Shrewsbury crossbar with Johnny Evans unable to finish the rebound, other Carlisle chances were scarce.

News and Star: Shrewsbury's keeper holds on under the floodlightsShrewsbury's keeper holds on under the floodlights

At the other end United keeper Joe Dean was seldom tested but nine minutes from time the shock was on when Shrewsbury found a way past him.

The underdogs, though, could not hold on, and Carlisle gained a fortunate leveller in the dying stages when visiting defender Peter Dolby, trying to clear from his own goalmouth, only succeeded in finding the roof of Boswell’s net.

News and Star: Young fans pour onto the pitch after United's own-goal equaliser, as a policeman looks onYoung fans pour onto the pitch after United's own-goal equaliser, as a policeman looks on

That launched a mini pitch-invasion, which left police officers discarding toilet-rolls hurled by rattle-waving young United fans, and saw a period of extra-time in which Carlisle were again on the back foot, Caldwell again rescuing them with some last-ditch defending to safeguard a 1-1 draw.

A second replay was, then, required - and this one had to be at a neutral venue. A coin was spun by Ashman to decide the destination. Rowley, who favoured Old Trafford, called tails.

It came down on heads, and United got Ashman's wish of a trip to Preston North End’s Deepdale, six days later.


It was the second time in United’s post-war years that a second replay had been needed to decide on their cup progress.

News and Star: Action from the dramatic second replay at DeepdaleAction from the dramatic second replay at Deepdale

British Rail announced a special “excursion train” to take several hundred Blues fans to Lancashire, and some 18,678 supporters made their way to Preston for the evening tussle – and it was quite in keeping with the epic tie that, even though it finally burst into goalscoring life, it was eventually settled by the finest of margins, and with a dash of controversy too.

News and Star: Peter McConnell on the attack for United at DeepdalePeter McConnell on the attack for United at Deepdale

Carlisle started like the clappers at Deepdale, taking the lead after two minutes when Chris Balderstone’s free-kick from the edge of the box was too good for Boswell.

They held their lead for over an hour but Shrewsbury forced their way back when Eric Brodie pounced on a Trevor Meredith cross.

News and Star: United celebrate one of their goalsUnited celebrate one of their goals

Things remained in the balance even when United, in the 85th minute, scored what appeared a likely winner – David Wilson, back from suspension, sending a fierce shot into the Shrews’ net.

The underdogs, though, refused to be put away and in the third minute of added time made it 2-2 when Broadbent headed home a free-kick.

News and Star: Action under the lights at DeepdaleAction under the lights at Deepdale

More extra-time, then – and a good deal more drama to come.

Shrewsbury struck first in the added period, when future United striker Frank Clarke applied a close-range finish to Broadbent’s cross.

This time it was Carlisle’s turn to fight back, and duly they did when Willie Carlin struck from a tight angle just before the extra-time interval.

News and Star: Shrewsbury frustration as United celebrate another goalShrewsbury frustration as United celebrate another goal

Caldwell was back to his best from here onwards, clearing more goalbound efforts, but with five minutes to go, Broadbent popped up to grab a Shrewsbury fourth.

Even then, though, Carlisle were agonisingly close to prolonging things. In the fading moments of the tie, Stan Harland rose for a header which hit the inside of the post, flew across the goal, bounced and was then cleared by a Shrewsbury man.

News and Star: United's celebrations were dashed by a late Shrewsbury winnerUnited's celebrations were dashed by a late Shrewsbury winner

“Was it a goal?” asked the Evening News the next day, referring to Harland’s near miss. It was, they pointed out, the same post that had denied United in their fifth round meeting with Preston two seasons before.

Yet a hard-luck story was all Carlisle took from the marathon encounter in the end. Shrewsbury edged through 4-3 and claimed their Stamford Bridge prize.

“Naturally we are disappointed that we are out of the cup,” said Ashman, before adding, magnanimously, “I thought Shrewsbury deserved the win they got in a very hard game, and we wish them the best of luck against Chelsea.”

News and Star: United's efforts were in vain as Shrewsbury finally went throughUnited's efforts were in vain as Shrewsbury finally went through

The winners very nearly tamed the aristocrats of Chelsea in round five, Shrewsbury going down narrowly 3-2. It took Carlisle until 1970 again to reach the fifth round, while they went a stage further to the quarter-finals in 1975.

This time around, they find themselves the underdogs, fourth tier versus third, with a third round place the prize. A a reverse of 1966’s outcome would do just fine 55 years on when Blues and Shrews meet again – even if it has to go the distance once more...