The visit of Nottingham Forest to Brunton Park in the 2006/7 was always likely to be a highly-anticipated fixture – even more so considering the intrigue around several strikers going into the game.

For Carlisle, the campaign had seen Karl Hawley continue his impressive form from the previous League Two title campaign. The frontman was being talked about as a target for other, higher clubs.

As for Forest, they headed to Cumbria with two Cumbrians in their ranks. Grant Holt, the Harraby star, was being persistently linked with his home-city club. Further local spice was added by the presence of ex-Blues star Scott Dobie in Colin Calderwood’s squad.

“This was one of the first games I looked for,” said Dobie ahead of the midweek match.

“Me and Grant have been getting stick off the lads who are saying Carlisle is in the middle of nowhere, so we’re going to come up and show them the sights…”

News and Star: Joe Garner goes down Joe Garner goes down (Image: News & Star)

Those Forest doubters knew where Brunton Park was by the end of proceedings. While the visitors were chasing promotion, United were progressing in upper mid-table in their first season back in League One for eight campaigns.

Neil McDonald, the manager who had replaced Paul Simpson, was without ankle injury victim Chris Lumsdon for the January clash, though there was a home debut for new signing Jeff Smith.

A spiky young loan striker from Blackburn Rovers, name of Joe Garner, got his latest start, while McDonald had been back in the market for another forward, Bolton Wanderers’ speedy American, Johann Smith, an arrival offset by the stalwart midfielder Chris Billy’s departure for Halifax.

A contract impasse with Hawley and Peter Murphy was an issue in the background, but they and their team-mates rose impressively in front of a crowd of 9,022 which reflected the occasion.

News and Star: Matchwinner Karl Hawley holds off defendersMatchwinner Karl Hawley holds off defenders (Image: News & Star)

Forest started confidently, Jack Lester a crucial link man between midfield and attack, but Dobie and James Perch could not make the most of the early chances he created.

Carlisle, with Garner tigerish up front and Paul Murray a typically busy midfield presence, steadily closed off this avenue and started creating their own chances. Visiting keeper Paul Smith was at full stretch to tip over a Garner attempt after good work from David Raven and Murray.

Garner ghosted onto further chances to no avail, but the teenager was a constant nuisance at a time Holt was not enjoying a profitable return to his home city. A 20-yard shot was blocked by Danny Livesey, and the striker was later booked for a foul on Raven, to the pantomime reaction of home supporters.

News and Star: No way through for Forest's Grant Holt, centreNo way through for Forest's Grant Holt, centre (Image: News & Star)

The game then spun decisively in Carlisle’s favour moment before half-time. Hawley was fouled by Julien Bennett to the right, and Smith’s free-kick was cleared to the edge of the box.

The awaiting Paul Thirlwell sent it deftly back into the box, where two Blues players were retreating from offside positions. Hawley made a gambler’s run, the ball landed to him in acres, and he headed it clinically past Smith.

For a moment, United’s fans could not quite grasp what had happened. Then they erupted. Supporters cheered ref Darren Drysdale and his assistants down the tunnel for allowing the goal – and then watched McDonald’s side try to defend it.

News and Star: David Raven battles with Scott DobieDavid Raven battles with Scott Dobie (Image: News & Star)

They did so with a superb and defiant second-half performance. Livesey, at the back, produced a performance up there with his season’s best, while Keiren Westwood was unflappable in goal.

United might have added another goal, Smith beating Wes Morgan to a cross but heading over, while Forest subs Nathan Tyson and Junior Agogo made little impact on things.

There were few reasons for anxiety as Carlisle closed out a terrific 1-0 win over the former European champions, meaning they had taken four points from Forest in the season, having already drawn 0-0 at the City Ground.

News and Star: Zigor Aranalde breaks down the left for CarlisleZigor Aranalde breaks down the left for Carlisle (Image: News & Star)

It put Carlisle tenth, with hopes of a play-off push – and left their manager thrilled.

“Without a shadow of a doubt it’s my proudest day since I took over,” McDonald said.

“It was a fantastic game and a brilliant performance, and I hope the huge crowd went home ecstatic after watching us beat the former European champions.”

Despite the speculation, a part-exchange deal that would have seen Hawley and Holt swap clubs did not materialise. United followed the Forest victory with a fine Hawley and Smith-inspired 2-1 win on the road at Doncaster Rovers, but a spell of one win in seven then checked their top-seven hopes.

News and Star: United fans enjoy the victoryUnited fans enjoy the victory (Image: News & Star)

An impressive winning run then put late fuel in the tank but they had to settle for a creditable eighth-placed finish, seven points outside the play-off spots.

For Forest, meanwhile, the season would end in a frustrating finale, going down to Yeovil Town in the play-off semi-finals. They regrouped, and got the better of the Blues in the following season’s agonising promotion race – before signing Garner from Carlisle in the summer of 2008, by which time Dobie was back in a blue shirt.

United: Westwood, Raven, Aranalde, Murphy, Livesey, Thirlwell, Murray (McDermott), Jeff Smith, Gall, Hawley, Garner (Holmes). Not used: Williams, Gray, Joyce.

Forest: P Smith, Breckin, Curtis, Morgan, Bennett, Perch, Clingan, McGugan, Lester (Agogo), Dobie (Tyson), Grant Holt. Not used: Redmond, Bencherif, Gary Holt.

Crowd: 9,022.