“Lucky United” was the Cumberland Evening News’ term for Carlisle United on December 29, 1962. It was a term that may have needed revising when events unfolded amid football’s big freeze.

The arctic weather of late ’62 put most of the football fixture list into cold storage. The hard winter conditions were among the coldest on record and remained for several weeks.

Some clubs were left without games for more than two months after the icy climate took hold in December. Snow drifts and frozen pitches meant games were called off in their dozens.

The programme on December 29 was wiped out to the tune of 38 matches in England and Scotland, leading to the suspension of all the major football pools. One of the handful of games to survive was United’s trip to Watford’s Vicarage Road.

News and Star: Watford staff, right, clear snow from the pitchWatford staff, right, clear snow from the pitch

Referee Mr Spittle of Yarmouth inspected the snowbound pitch at declared it playable. The game came only three days after Ivor Powell’s Blues had beaten the Hornets 2-1 at a chilly Brunton Park.

It was United’s first season in Division Three after the previous season’s first-ever Blues promotion, and the first encounter with Watford had proved a welcome filip to a side struggling at the bottom of the third tier table.

The return game, one of only three games played in their division on December 29, was not quite so successful against a Hornets side flying high in the table.

News and Star: Watford find the net against the BluesWatford find the net against the Blues

It was the only match within 100 miles of London to take place and it was a lively Watford who enjoyed much better command of the conditions, a snow plough having cleared the worst of things before the game but still a coating of the white stuff on the Vicarage Road surface as things got under way.

Several players struggled for their footing, though Sammy Taylor, from a free-kick, threatened early on for the Cumbrians. Joe Livingstone slammed a shot into the side-netting soon after and the early signs suggested that United were warming to their task.

It proved quite the false dawn. After Blues keeper Joe Dean had survived a goalmouth scramble after failing to hold a free-kick, he was beaten in the tenth minute when Wales international Dai Ward turned on the ball and shot past the United No1.

Carlisle, in the short term, responded gamely. Livingstone and Reg Davies combined well and Peter McConnell made some powerful inroads – and come the 34th minute, Powell’s side were level.

News and Star: United skipper Peter McConnell's penalty brings the scores levelUnited skipper Peter McConnell's penalty brings the scores level

Ken Nicholas was ruled to have handled the ball in a penalty-area scramble, and ever-reliable skipper McConnell made no mistake from the spot.

Hopes of a successful afternoon in the snow came, though, to an abrupt halt. Just three minutes later, United’s Alan McBain and Jack Marsden collided and, as they lay on the field, Ward stole in to head Watford back in front.

News and Star: United's Jack Marsden receives treatmentUnited's Jack Marsden receives treatment

The two injured men were soon back on the pitch after treatment but Watford were buoyed by the restoring of their lead – and Ward pounced to complete his hat-trick two minutes before the break.

Carlisle were two goals and also a man adrift come the second half, since Marsden was unable to continue because of concussion. The use of substitutes in English football was still three years away, and so the ten men had a steep task in front of them to turn things around.

They played some bright football in the middle of the park, but lacked anyone to make a decisive move in attack. Frank Kirkup made one promising run past two defenders, but lacked support and was duly checked.

News and Star: Watford's goal comes under pressure from the BluesWatford's goal comes under pressure from the Blues

United battled hard to deny Watford further opportunities, McBain and Terry Caldwell digging in against dangerous wide men and McConnell also deputising valiantly for Marsden in defence against the impressive home line-leader Charlie Livesey.

It took Ron Burgess’s Hornets until the 82nd minute to add a fourth, this time John Fraser striking after Dean had saved a George Harris shot.

The emphatic scoreline was a shade harsh on United, who went on to concede a fifth when Harris fired in from a tight angle. Dean had earlier made a superb save from Fraser but Carlisle left Hertfordshire on the end of a 5-1 defeat.

News and Star: United keeper Joe Dean holds onUnited keeper Joe Dean holds on

At least there was little prospect of a repeat in the immediate future - since it proved United’s last league game until late February. In the meantime, an FA Cup humbling at the hands of Gravesend & Northfleet cost Powell his job, leading Carlisle to turn to Alan Ashman.

He was unable to keep the Cumbrians up amid a congested run of rearranged games from March onwards, as they were relegated back to Division Four in second-bottom position. But the following two campaigns both brought promotions, heralding a golden era for the Blues: something which probably felt a long way off as the cold and Watford’s goals chilled them to the bone in 1962.

Watford: Underwood, Bell, Nicholas, Chung, McNeice, Gregory, Howfield, Ward, Fraser, Livesey, Harris.

United: Dean, McBain, Caldwell, McConnell, Marsden, Oliphant, Davies, Brayton, Kirkup, Livingstone, Taylor.

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