It is 30 years now since the final home game of one particular Carlisle United era – with another very different one closely around the corner.

The visit of Burnley to Brunton Park on April 25, 1992 was the last fixture at the ground before the Michael Knighton takeover of that summer.

The promotion-chasing Clarets came to the city at a time United’s very future was on the line. ‘SKINT UNITED PUT UP FOR SALE’ was a recent headline in the Evening News & Star, and chairman Andrew Jenkins set out the situation. 

News and Star: The headlines in the spring of 1992The headlines in the spring of 1992

“We are not going bankrupt but we can’t let the present financial situation to go on any further,” he said, amid losses of £3,500 a week and dwindling crowds with Aidan McCaffery’s team second bottom of the Football League.

There was, depressingly, also talk of employing part-time players and, all in all, it was a desolate time to be a Blues fan.

News and Star: Fans at the Burnley gameFans at the Burnley game

For Burnley things were different – top of the Fourth Division under Jimmy Mullen and, with promotion in sight as they headed to Brunton Park, a bumper support to say the least making the trip up to Cumbria.

There were Clarets supporters in various parts of the stadium, Burnley’s fans outnumbering Carlisle’s by a considerable margin as they craved the victory that would secure their place in the third tier. It made for an unusually large attendance at this point in what was arguably the worst Carlisle season of them all.

News and Star: Andy Watson on the ball as Jason Prins looks onAndy Watson on the ball as Jason Prins looks on

Only the implosion of other clubs was keeping United from a non-league reckoning even if, in the young likes of Darren Edmondson and Jeff Thorpe, there was hope for the future.

Both those players started against Burnley, teenage winger Thorpe recovering from a groin injury to get the nod, as an ankle problem kept out striker Tony Fyfe. Carlisle’s line was led by the reliable Andy Watson and Dean Walling, while another young prospect, Jason Prins, got a start.

News and Star: John Holliday battles in the air for UnitedJohn Holliday battles in the air for United

The bumper crowd made for a welcome atmosphere and Carlisle responded to the occasion by making things harder for Mullen’s side than the league table and form would have suggested.

Seven minutes in, Edmondson made a gallop through midfield, the ball breaking to Micky Holmes, whose chip from 25 yards was tipped over the bar by Burnley keeper David Williams.

News and Star: Burnley's keeper is at full stretch to deny UnitedBurnley's keeper is at full stretch to deny United

Things then turned further eventful off the pitch as a host of Burnley fans made their way onto the Paddock terrace. Police stepped in to try and restore order, and things duly calmed down as the match continued in tense fashion.

Thorpe, from the left, saw a low cross evade everyone and bobble just wide of the far post, whilst a strong wind appeared to affect Burnley’s composure in terms of their own passing game.

News and Star: Dean Walling tries his luck for the BluesDean Walling tries his luck for the Blues

Mullen cut an agitated figure on the touchline, but the Burnley masses suddenly had reason to cheer, and believe, when John Francis cut in from the left and sent an impressive shot past Kelham O’Hanlon to give the title-chasers a 41st-minute lead.

There was a jubilant response from the visiting contingent, some of whom were dancing on the dugouts – but Burnley then met a spirited reply from the Cumbrian strugglers. Thorpe, starting at left-back, was pushed up to the wing after Prins was replaced by Craig Potts, and Carlisle set about trying to claim some pride from the contest.

News and Star: Andy Watson is delighted as Gwyn Thomas's shot finds the Burnley netAndy Watson is delighted as Gwyn Thomas's shot finds the Burnley net

O’Hanlon, in goal, kept them in it when scrambling to save a defensive header from Holmes, and the latter then passed up a good chance at the other end.

Carlisle, though, would not be denied and in the 79th minute burst Burnley’s balloons when a Potts cross broke and experienced midfielder Gwyn Thomas arrived to send it high past Willams for the equaliser.

News and Star: United players celebrate with goalscorer ThomasUnited players celebrate with goalscorer Thomas

The many visiting fans were stunned as their promotion expectations were suddenly put on hold, United denied an unlikely win late on when Holmes shot instead of feeding the overlapping Edmondson.

A 1-1 draw was, at least, a creditable way to end United’s home efforts in a season to forget. Assistant boss Peter Hampton said afterwards: “We were the better team over 90 minutes. If you look at them as champions and we are second bottom, I don’t think we are a million miles away.

News and Star: Dean Wallins jumps as Andy Watson, left, and John Holliday, right, look onDean Wallins jumps as Andy Watson, left, and John Holliday, right, look on

“Hopefully next season when we get our long-term injuries back and add one or two players to the squad, we can have a bit of a go ourselves.

“I was pleased Gwyn got his goal because he has turned in consistent performances. He said he was saving it for the big occasion.”

News and Star: Burnley fans invade the pitch despite United delaying their promotinBurnley fans invade the pitch despite United delaying their promotin

Burnley eventually sealed their promotion, while the big occasions came for Carlisle – eventually. After a last-day thrashing at Scunthorpe saw them finish 92nd out of 92 in the Football League, the future took a dramatic twist with Knighton’s arrival, at which point United’s 1990s became by turns colourful and controversial.

For a while at least, when the Blues were on the march in the middle of the decade, the troubles and hardship of 1992 came to feel like something very much from the distant past.

United: O’Hanlon, Walsh, Thorpe (Armstrong), Edmondson, Holliday, Barnsley, Holmes, Thomas, Watson, Walling, Prins (Potts).

Burnley: Williams, Measham, Jakub, Davis, Pender, Farrell, Painter, Deary, Francis, Conroy, Harper (McKenzie). Not used: Monington.

Crowd: 8,990.