Scunthorpe United v Carlisle United will always mean one thing for supporters of a certain vintage, and one name in particular: Jeff Thorpe.

His two-goal substitute's display, which turned a deficit into a dramatic 3-2 victory at Glanford Park on September 3, 1994, is arguably the Blues' most iconic performance against the Iron.

It came early in a 1994/5 season which would bring Division Three title glory and a first Wembley appearance, as Mick Wadsworth's side were cheered on by the colourful green, red and white-clad 'deckchair army' in the stands.

Thorpe, a young Cumbrian with floppy hair and apparently limitless energy, was a key member of that season's squad; more often than not as a substitute who would be inflicted on tiring opponents in the second half of games.

“I started only seven league games that season,” he said. “Fair dos. The lads were flying. I had no problem contributing off the bench. Mick always put me on and I enjoyed that to some extent. It was: ‘Right, make something happen. Put a bit of pressure on them, run at them, cause trouble.’” 

That he did with two goals in the closing stages at a time United were 2-1 down and heading to defeat in north Lincolnshire. “Every dog has his day I suppose,” said the man from Cockermouth. “I’m pleased I did that, otherwise I’d be remembered only for my dodgy back…” 

News and Star: The News & Star headline after Jeff Thorpe's sensational double at ScunthorpeThe News & Star headline after Jeff Thorpe's sensational double at Scunthorpe
Thorpe had made his debut in October 1990 when the hard-up club were heading back towards the base of the English game. The Blues were giving new opportunities to young, Cumbrian players out of necessity and Thorpe was 17 when Clive Middlemass first brought him off the bench at Scarborough.

“Those barren years were, I suppose, great for us local lads,” he said. “We were getting a chance and, although the club was in turmoil and performances were poor, I think the fans associated with us a little bit.

"Michael Knighton then came in and appointed Mick in 1993. Things were starting to look up at the club, but I broke down on the first day of pre-season training. I had my back operation a week after my 21st birthday and missed all that season, so it wasn’t until the following summer that I got my first real taste of a good pre-season. I was around the first team again, getting the odd sniff…and then the Scunny game.” 

United had begun the new Division Three season well, and Carlisle’s supporters amassed in their hundreds behind one of the goals at Glanford Park. It became the first test of their revamped side’s stomach when Scunthorpe scored twice at that end in the first half. 

News and Star: Tony Gallimore, right, pulls one back before Thorpe's dramatic doubleTony Gallimore, right, pulls one back before Thorpe's dramatic double

United pulled one back with 10 minutes to go when Simon Davey’s saved penalty was swept in by Tony Gallimore. It appeared to be little more than flattering consolation, but Thorpe, a half-time replacement for Darren Edmondson, then announced himself on the closing stages in sensational fashion.

“We’d struggled all game," he said. "I’d been on for half an hour or so, not done much and maybe that was part of me thinking: ‘Just have a go.’

"We were in the last minute, Joe Joyce on the right swung it over, Deano [Walling] missed the header and I picked it up and took a touch inside. I thought: ‘Bend it around, towards the back post’…and in it goes.” 

It was only the second league goal of Thorpe’s career: “Whoa. We’ve sneaked a draw. That’ll do! There was surprise and elation in equal measure. Then we push forward again and, lo and behold, I manage to sneak another.” 

United’s newly-found impetus was irresistible as they rampaged towards their fans in the 92nd minute, earned a corner and worked it short. Davey crossed from the left.

“I just remember trying to get in front of the defender,” Thorpe said. “He checked himself, I darted in front…and that’s all it took. That half a yard. I was just trying to flick it towards goal. But I didn’t think it was going to loop over and in.” 

Thorpe’s header did drop into the net, and astounded fans burst over the hoardings and on to the pitch. “It was nuts. Everyone mobbed me. I just turned and legged it. I wasn’t sure where to run or what to do.

News and Star: Jeff Thorpe goes on the attack during his two-goal cameoJeff Thorpe goes on the attack during his two-goal cameo

"I remember Gally grabbing me and Simon Davey – Boycey, we called him, after Max Boyce, the Welsh singer – did the same. It was such a great feeling.” 

After the initial madness of the victory, Thorpe encountered a range of reactions: “When someone such as David Reeves bags 20-odd goals a season, it’s: ‘Great, he’s scored again.’ When you’re one of the lads who puts a shift in, works hard and gets a goal only now and again, everybody in the dressing-room loves it. I enjoyed being at the centre of that."

“Wadsworth was different, though. He said: ‘It’s a good job you scored, because you’d been [rubbish] until then.’ He might have had a go at the rest of the lads, too, but that’s the bit that sticks in my memory. 

“He was a great coach, don’t get me wrong. But I didn’t play well under him, I don’t think. I just wasn’t his type of player. That’s fine. The next season he put me on the transfer list, but [his successor] Mervyn Day pulled me off it and put me back in the team. Then you’re walking tall again. Football can be that way.” 

Thorpe always felt that barmy day said something profound about United's prospects in the unforgettable '94/5 campaign. “I remember sitting on the bus, saying: ‘We’ve got away with that one, lads.’ But you got the sense there was something different about that team.

"We hadn’t necessarily set the world on fire before then, but I think that game signified the start of something.

"It wasn’t that we were far superior to anybody. On our day, yeah, but there were numerous occasions when we did it in the last 15 minutes of games. Deano said it to me once: ‘Nobody can beat us.’ We were just so together. We always had somebody who could score, who could pull a good result out. That spirit and that belief were something special.” 

Thorpe gave the Blues unending dedication in an often-challenging decade, when injuries prevented him from fulfilling all the golden potential hinted at that season. He scored three more goals for United - and Scunthorpe away would always be an emotional pinnacle.

Despite the fact that, in the end, it was one of few days when the game bestowed its full magic on him, Thorpe was always happy to be reminded about Glanford Park: “That feeling, the buzz of that day, stayed with me for longer than anything else. That’s why it brings back so much satisfaction when it crops up.

"It makes me chuckle as much as anything. I had 11 years at Carlisle and I’m known for two minutes at Scunthorpe! Moments define careers, I suppose..."

Adapted from the book Bolts From The Blues by Jon Colman