There are clear grounds for saying the 1969/70 season was one of Carlisle United’s very best in cup football.

The Blues, after all, made highly positive progress on two fronts, cutting down big clubs along the way and getting as close as they’ve ever come to a Wembley final in one major competition. 

That was the League Cup, where upwardly-mobile United’s best-ever run ended agonisingly in a two-legged semi-final to West Bromwich Albion. 

In the FA Cup, meanwhile, Carlisle also set about things boldly and, in so doing, reaffirmed their status as a Second Division club with an admired reputation and high aspirations.

A month after their League Cup adventure had ended in gallant failure at the Hawthorns, United were off to another top-flight side in the FA Cup third round. 

News and Star: A smile from Chris Balderstone as he leads out the Blues at the City GroundA smile from Chris Balderstone as he leads out the Blues at the City Ground

Nottingham Forest were the opponents, a trip to the City Ground far from the kindest possible tie to emerge from the draw for Carlisle’s first game of the 1970s.

The hosts, under Matt Gillies, were negotiating a mid-table First Division season while Bob Stokoe’s Blues were embarking on a similar path the next tier down. It was United’s fifth season at that level, with an evolving side that included stars such as Allan Ross, Derek Hemstead, Stan Ternent, Tot Winstanley and Chris Balderstone. 

News and Star: United's Bob Hatton challenges the Forest keeperUnited's Bob Hatton challenges the Forest keeper

A crowd of 23,419 amassed on a misty January 3 afternoon by the Trent for a game which, in defiance of the respective league standings, saw United the better and brighter side. 

Stokoe was glad to have full-back Hemstead available despite an injury concern, while young Cumbrian midfielder Maurice Peddelty was preferred to Willie Brown. 

The Blues went into the game in free-scoring form, having plundered 12 goals in their previous four league games, and so it was no surprise that they set about the challenge against Forest with confidence.

News and Star: Forest see off a burst of United pressure in front of a packed crowdForest see off a burst of United pressure in front of a packed crowd

Stokoe sent his side straight onto the attack and the bright approach almost fashioned an early opening when Bob Hatton crossed for Tommy Murray, but Bob Chapman intervened for Forest. 

Barry Lyons hit the side-netting in response for the home side, but Carlisle were often on the offensive, with Frank Barton and George McVitie giving the Forest defence further edgy moments.

News and Star: Aerial battle during United's first game of the 1970sAerial battle during United's first game of the 1970s

Carlisle survived a scramble midway through the half and went on to test Gillies’ side further, Murray almost teeing up the dangerous Hatton and winger McVitie forcing Forest into some last-ditch defending as he tried to force home a corner. 

United had grounds to feel slightly aggrieved that they had not broken the deadlock by half-time - and went on to start the second half in a similarly positive frame of mind.

News and Star: Wing wizard McVitie hits the deckWing wizard McVitie hits the deck

Forest keeper Alan Hill was soon called into action after the break, snatching the ball just as 19-year-old Peddelty tried to pounce on a free-kick. 

The home side responded with forays that saw Ian Storey-Moore and Lyons threaten, but with Stan Ternent attentive at the back, Carlisle managed to limit the danger.

News and Star: Bob Hatton finds the net for United - but the goal was ruled out for offsideBob Hatton finds the net for United - but the goal was ruled out for offside

The Blues’ football under Stokoe was always optimistic, and United redoubled their efforts to cause an upset via McVitie, whose header forced the keeper into a scrambling save, and later Winstanley, who missed the target when attacking a corner. 

Shortly afterwards, Hatton saw a goal disallowed for offside but United, undeterred, kept going, Balderstone next to go close with a header, the home fans' anxiety increasing along with the risk of a Cumbrian upset.

News and Star: Forest try to clear their lines under United pressureForest try to clear their lines under United pressure

When the home side put Carlisle at their most serious risk of conceding, meanwhile, the Blues were grateful for the reflexes of their own goalkeeper Ross, who produced an athletic leap to tip a Henry Newton finish over the bar. 

In the event, though, it was United who finished the stronger, and only a coat of paint on the crossbar denied Peddelty a memorable late winner.

News and Star: United on the attackUnited on the attack

It ended in a valiant goalless draw, with Ross, one of the heroes of the hour, leaving the pitch clutching a badge thrown at him by a frustrated Forest fan. “I pinned it to my cap where it will stay,” said the smiling Scot. 

A Brunton Park replay followed three days later. The fixture was put in peril by snow, but a diligent effort by ground staff ensured the pitch was clear, while Liverpool-based referee AW Jones left nothing to chance: the official travelled by train rather than risking the drive over snowbound Shap.

News and Star: Forest's keeper holds on to a crossForest's keeper holds on to a cross

The game went ahead on a hard but playable surface. Stokoe was able to name the same XI – and this time United got the knockout job done in impressive fashion. 

With the prize a fourth-round home encounter with Huddersfield or Aldershot, United conquered the Arctic conditions and their top-flight visitors. They prevailed 2-1, thanks to goals from Murray and McVitie, on a chilly but famous night at their home ground.

News and Star: United keeper Allan Ross shows off his City Ground memento in the Cumberland Evening NewsUnited keeper Allan Ross shows off his City Ground memento in the Cumberland Evening News

Fourth-division Aldershot were next, and United put them away after a replay. Alas, their FA Cup run ended at the fifth round at the hands of Middlesbrough in front of a club record 27,500 home crowd. 

That remained as far as the Blues got in the famous competition until 1975, when they reached the quarter-finals. By then, they were a top-flight team themselves, the 1970s turning out to be the most special decade of all in the highly eventful history of Carlisle United. 

Nottingham Forest: Hill, Hindley, Brindley, Chapman, O’Kane, Newton, Rees, Lyons, Hilley, Richardson, Moore. Sub: McCaffrey.  

United: Ross, Hemstead, Davis, Ternent, Winstanley, Balderstone, Peddelty, Barton, Hatton, Murray, McVitie. Sub: Brown. 

Crowd: 23,419.