In the 1981/2 season, Carlisle United were drawn at home in the FA Cup second round against Bishop Auckland. The game was to be played on December 12 - yet it took nearly a month for the tie to be completed...and when it was, the action unfolded not at Brunton Park, but Workington Reds’ Borough Park. 

That was a consequence of a series of postponements and a controversial abandonment as weather persistently put paid to the game between Bob Stokoe’s Third Division side and Brian Newton’s Northern League hopefuls. 

A combination of icy weather and heavy rain consistently intervened, taking things well into the new year before matters could be settled.

News and Star: United try in vain to clear ice from Brunton Park's pitch for the Bishop Auckland tieUnited try in vain to clear ice from Brunton Park's pitch for the Bishop Auckland tie

By then, the initial game had been called off and when it finally got under way on January 2, standing water on the Brunton Park pitch rendered the contest a farce. Ref Ken Walmsley, having given the game the go-ahead, called it off with 17 minutes to go, leaving Bishop Auckland aggrieved at being denied a replay on home soil.

Newton felt his side had been "cheated" despite the absurd spectacle of players splashing their way through large puddles, and United had to have a fresh go at staging the game.

This eventually saw Workington step in to offer Borough Park for the day, at a time United's pitch remained under water. Even that game was at risk of being off because of frost, but thankfully the pitch was deemed playable.

“It’s not the sort of surface we’d have picked from choice, but we’ve got to go out in the right frame of mind and make the best of it,” Stokoe said. “I’m grateful to Workington for their part in getting the game on.” 

News and Star: Manager Bob Stokoe on a...slightly unplayable Brunton Park in 1982Manager Bob Stokoe on a...slightly unplayable Brunton Park in 1982

The fixture in west Cumbria on January 9 attracted 4,526 supporters as United finally got it on against a Bishops side who, once again, proved stubborn opponents, even to a Blues side containing the talent of Peter Beardsley. 

The non-league outfit spent some of their gate receipts on special boots to help them combat the hard surface, and they made an industrious attempt at earning a third-round home tie against Huddersfield.

News and Star: Our report of the change of venue as United finally get the second round FA Cup tie onOur report of the change of venue as United finally get the second round FA Cup tie on

United, though, did impose enough quality on proceedings to appear the superior side. Jack Ashurst and Tony Larkin took control through the middle of defence, with Bobby Parker and Paul Haigh either side also restricting the north east side to marginal chances. 

Trevor Swinburne made a full-length save from Dave Gibbon early on, while at the other end Bishops keeper Phil Owers excelled with a series of stops. He denied Gordon Staniforth from close range – and later, United’s record signing hit the crossbar.

News and Star: Peter Beardsley takes on Bishop Auckland at Workington's Borough ParkPeter Beardsley takes on Bishop Auckland at Workington's Borough Park

Carlisle were then very nearly stunned by their opponents who countered through Gibbon, whose pass was sent sailing over Swinburne by Kevin Cross, only for the shot to strike the angle of post and bar. 

United upped things in the second half as they searched for the decisive attacking moment. Owers did well to deny Beardsley, whose willingness to run at defenders gave Bishop Auckland plenty of jitters.

News and Star: Gordon Staniforth on the attack for United at Borough ParkGordon Staniforth on the attack for United at Borough Park

Paul Bannon passed up a great chance on the hour mark, and United were left further frustrated by Owers as the opposition keeper thwarted Beardsley and Staniforth. 

The latter hit the woodwork a second time but, with 11 minutes to go, Carlisle finally cracked it, as Haigh sent a free-kick into the box and Bob Lee rose to power home a header.

News and Star: United celebrate after Bob Lee's headed winner against Bishop Auckland at WorkingtonUnited celebrate after Bob Lee's headed winner against Bishop Auckland at Workington

It proved enough for Stokoe’s men. Bishop Auckland pushed back in search of a leveller but United could have increased their lead through Staniforth and Beardsley. A 1-0 victory was duly completed and finally Carlisle could take their place in round three. 

Newton, the opposition boss, said: “I’ve no complaints, except for the free-kick that led to the goal. I still don’t know what it was given for.”

News and Star: United put aerial pressure on the Bishop Auckland defence at WorkingtonUnited put aerial pressure on the Bishop Auckland defence at Workington

Stokoe, meanwhile, was keen to compliment Owers for his defiant goalkeeping performance as United went through. “The keeper did nothing wrong and we missed a lot of chances, but it was a super goal and we deserved to win,” the manager said. 

Three arrests were made after some minor crowd disturbances at Borough Park, “but overall [the behaviour] was very good,” said Superintendent George Stoddart - and, after waiting so long to complete their second round duties, United then had to be further patient to take on Huddersfield. That tie was due to be played at Brunton Park three days after their win in Workington, but the big freeze cost the Cumbrians again.

News and Star: United try to force their way through against Bishop Auckland at Borough ParkUnited try to force their way through against Bishop Auckland at Borough Park  

Finally they faced the Terriers on January 23, and went down to a 3-2 defeat despite goals from Bannon and Pop Robson. The cup run was over, but it was not the last of Carlisle’s weather-related events in the 1981/2 campaign.

In the league, a trip to Chester fell victim to heavy fog. It prolonged Carlisle’s promotion push, which went to the very final day. Finally, on May 19, Robson scored in the rearranged game to shoot United back into the second tier: the last time they have gone up to such a level, in an eventful season which left them grateful both for their own durability and a helping hand from their Cumbrian neighbours. 

United: Swinburne, Parker, Ashurst, Larkin, Haigh, Lee, Robson, Beardsley, Crabbe, Bannon, Staniforth. Sub: Houghton. 

Bishop Auckland: Owers, M Newton, Hills, Nattress, Rutherford, Gibbon, Parnaby, Richardson, D Newton, Foster (Collingwood), Cross. 

Crowd: 4,526.