When Carlisle United started the 1983/4 season with one point and no goals from four games, it was not immediately obvious that a promotion challenge was in the offing.

Come the winter, though, that outlook had emphatically changed. By December Bob Stokoe’s Blues were in potent form and looking a decent bet for a return to the top flight for only the second time in their history.

Division Two was chock full of big names, clubs such as Chelsea, Newcastle United, Manchester City, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United among those competing with the Cumbrians.

United, though, gave an impressive account of themselves against most of them. The attacking combination of north-east duo Malcolm Poskett and Alan Shoulder was often telling and, come the end of November, Carlisle were unbeaten in seven games.

News and Star: Penalty-box action as Leeds come under pressure from the BluesPenalty-box action as Leeds come under pressure from the Blues

Then came the visit of Leeds to Brunton Park on December 3. The Elland Road club were not the force they had been under Don Revie some years before but, by 1983, were still a name to be reckoned with under the management of Eddie Gray.

Leeds had bolstered their squad in the summer at a time United’s recruitment had been more sparing. The Blues had come up into the Second Division in 1982 and a tightly-knit team took them on into 83/4.

News and Star: Leeds try to hold off United pressure in the 1983 clashLeeds try to hold off United pressure in the 1983 clash

They began against Leeds with an iron record at Brunton Park, having not conceded in six straight home games. It led to a closely-contested game, in which Leeds had the better of possession without often threatening to do a great deal with it. Their attacks often foundered with hasty play, while occasional complacency at the back almost allowed Carlisle in.

Kenny Burns, early in proceedings, fluffed a backpass and threw out an arm to impede Poskett, picking up a booking for his troubles. Later, the former European Cup winner misplaced a header which allowed Carlisle’s Andy Hill a clear run to the box, only for Tony Brown to spare Leeds with a timely challenge.

Burns, in fairness, otherwise looked commanding, while the best of Carlisle’s few first-half chances saw visiting keeper David Harvey beat Poskett to a Shoulder cross, while the Leeds No1 also thwarted Hill from a header.

At the other end, Blues keeper Dave McKellar was well protected by Bobby Parker and Jack Ashurst, who kept Leeds’ Andy Ritchie and Andy Watson at bay.

News and Star: Mally Poskett, right, gives chase for UnitedMally Poskett, right, gives chase for United

The second half began in a more open fashion with both sides giving one another a scare. Carlisle threatened first, Tommy Craig picking out Paul Haigh, who tested Harvey with a strong, swerving shot.

At the other end Dave Rushbury made some vital clearances for the Blues as Ritchie and Watson looked to combine.

It still required a goal to lift the game from its tension – and when it eventually came, in the 53rd minute, it was with special style.

Don O’Riordan supplied the pass, sending the ball over Burns for the galloping Poskett. He met it sweetly and sent a brilliant volley dipping over Harvey, the power and flight of the shot giving the Leeds keeper no chance.

News and Star: Poskett hits his memorable 53rd-minute goalPoskett hits his memorable 53rd-minute goal

It was the Teessider’s sixth goal of the league season and the one he would come to regard as his best in a blue shirt. Brunton Park’s 6,000+ crowd greeted it jubilantly.

It also left United with plenty of time to consolidate and protect their sudden lead. Leeds came back with a purpose they had not hitherto shown, testing United through George McCluskey, who carved half-chances for Ritchie and future Blues midfielder Gwyn Thomas.

News and Star: Poskett, No9, runs off in celebrationPoskett, No9, runs off in celebration

Haigh missed a chance to put United two goals clear, and after that it was all Leeds as Gray’s side pushed in vain for a leveller. McKellar turned away a McCluskey attempt, Rushbury again cleared a further effort off the line, Peter Barnes came close to crafting something and then Burns, when found in space, shot well off target.

The remainder saw United grateful for the defensive composure of Parker and the battling of Mick Buckley in midfield, and Stokoe’s side saw home the 1-0 victory that further enhanced their promotion ambitions.

It kicked off a five-game winning run and also saw player of the month McKellar set a new club record for seven straight home clean sheets. United were up to ninth and handily placed for a new-year challenge, Poskett continuing to supply a consistent tally of goals as the thought of top-flight football returned to Cumbrian minds.

News and Star: United sub Russ Coughlin sends in a crossUnited sub Russ Coughlin sends in a cross

Alas, the 1983/4 run-in brought the more familiar United sight of anti-climax. After a 23-game spell which brought a single defeat, the final 10 matches yielded not a single victory.

Carlisle’s challenge duly lost momentum and they had to settle for a seventh-placed finish (three above Leeds): a frustrating outcome after the heady hopes generated by days such as December 3, but still the sort of status they have not come close to hitting since.

Poskett ended the season on 16 league goals and will always be regarded as one of the Blues’ stars of the 80s: an adept goalscorer capable of marvellous flourishes, in United’s last era of football at seriously high levels.

United: McKellar, Parker, Ashurst, O’Riordan, Haigh, Buckley, Craig, Rushbury, Hill (Coughlin), Poskett, Shoulder. Sub: Coughlin.

Leeds: Harvey, Dickinson, Burns, Brown, F Gray, Thomas (Hamson), Watson, Donnelly, Barnes, Ritchie, McCluskey.

Crowd: 6,845.