It is 58 long years since Barrow last hosted Carlisle United in front of supporters in the Football League.

While the sides faced each other at Holker Street last season, Covid-19 rules meant it had to be played behind closed doors.

Today’s encounter, then, is the first proper occasion between the clubs at Barrow’s ground since March 16, 1964.

That day, some 2,365 supporters headed to Barrow’s ground to watch a game between one of Division Four’s strugglers and a promotion-chaser.

It was the Bluebirds who were propping up the table, while United were gunning for a return to the third tier.

News and Star: Carlisle manager Alan Ashman leads his 1963/4 squad in a training session at AllonbyCarlisle manager Alan Ashman leads his 1963/4 squad in a training session at Allonby

The game featured in the latter stages of the best goalscoring season in the Blues’ history – yet their struggling hosts managed to be a match for them on this occasion.

Indeed, Ron Staniforth’s hosts showed quite some spirit to fight back after going adrift to Alan Ashman’s high fliers.

Carlisle’s side featured many of their stars of the 1960s, Hugh McIlmoyle enjoying a prolific first full season with the club, supported by Joe Livingstone.

Elsewhere in the side, Alan Ross was a reliable presence in goal, having taken the gloves from Joe Dean in his first campaign in Cumbria.

Terry Caldwell, Hugh Neil, Peter McConnell and Johnny Evans were among United’s other top performers and they had good reason to believe they would claim maximum points in Lancashire – Barrow still part of that county at this point in history.

Barrow’s side included the legendary Brian Arrowsmith, the long-serving defender who would go on to have a stand named after him at Holker Street, yet the prospects of the home side upsetting the form book looked slim as United set the initial pace.

After a scrappy opening spell, McIlmoyle hooked an early Carlisle chance over the bar before Ross did well to keep out a Bob Corkhill attempt.

McImoyle spurned another chance, but United then came on strong from the half-hour mark and took command of things. The deadlock was broken in the 30th minute when Wales international forward Reg Davies pounced on an error by home defender John O’Neill.

News and Star: Johnny Evans scored United's second goal at Barrow in 1964Johnny Evans scored United's second goal at Barrow in 1964

The opener appeared to have set the tone and when Evans swiftly doubled the lead, converting a Sammy Taylor cross just three minutes later, the likelihood was indeed of a routine Carlisle victory.

United, though, were left to rue their failure to see the job through – for in the second half Barrow hit back with some gusto.

They applied immediate pressure on Ross’s goal, forcing the visiting keeper into good saves – and then pulled a goal back in the 53rd minute.

It was scored by Ernie Ackerley, turning home a Corkhill cross.

Game on – and an opening for the Bluebirds. Ross managed to keep out an Ackerley attempt and when United mounted a rare second-half foray on the hour, Taylor failed to beat home No1 Brian Caine.

News and Star: The Barrow AFC squad pictured in 1964The Barrow AFC squad pictured in 1964

Barrow then capitalised in the 70th minute. Ross, instead of gathering the ball, attempted to kick it clear, but only succeeded in firing it against Ackerley.

From the resulting melee, former Penrith winger Jack Maddison found the net, and United’s lead had been wiped.

Carlisle tried to summon a late surge, but were thwarted when skipper Peter McConnell hit the crossbar, and both Evans and McIlmoyle were denied at close range.

It finished 2-2, the Blues left to curse their failure to get maximum points to tack onto their promotion-chasing total, and Barrow adding one to their tally in their bid to improve their lowly prospects.

It proved one of 18 draws for Barrow that season, the equal highest tally in the division, but their fightback did not prove a springboard and they went on to finish bottom of the pile, three points adrift at the bottom behind Hartlepools United.

News and Star: Barrow legend Brian Arrowsmith, who has a stand named after him at Holker Street, was in the Bluebirds side that faced United in 1964 (photo: Leanne Bolger)Barrow legend Brian Arrowsmith, who has a stand named after him at Holker Street, was in the Bluebirds side that faced United in 1964 (photo: Leanne Bolger)

As for Carlisle, the unwanted draw proved a blip in their prolific march to promotion. With 113 goals from 46 games, Ashman’s side were promoted in second place, and were followed up by fellow Cumbrians Workington, who were a point behind.

Late in the 1963/4 campaign, United thrashed Barrow 4-1 at Brunton Park – and that was that as far as league meetings were concerned for another half century and more.

This weekend’s fixture is the fourth time they have faced each other since Barrow returned to the Football League – with Carlisle hoping to chalk up the first away victory of that run.

At Brunton Park last season, the Blues won 1-0, while this season’s meeting in Carlisle was a 0-0 draw. At Holker Street last April, there was an echo of the 1964 skirmish as the sides drew 2-2.

Now they meet again, with fans allowed into Barrow’s ground – 58 years since that was last possible when Carlisle came to town.

TEAMS

Barrow: Caine, Arrowsmith, Cahill, Hale, O'Neill, Clark, Maddison, Brennan, Ackerley, Barratt, Corkhill.

Carlisle: Ross, Nei, Caldwell, McConnell, Passmoor, Thompson, Taylor, Evans, McIlmoyle, Davies, Livingstone.

Ref: H Richards (Oldham).

Crowd: 2,365.