Second in the league, and booed off at home? Hard to imagine today…but such were the expectations when Carlisle United were trying to ensure their stay in non-league was a one-season affair only.

The Blues, come the spring, had seen Conference title hopes fade as Barnet vanished over the horizon. While United had suffered some winter struggles – in a season also hit by 2005’s devastating floods – they remained the best of the rest come March.

A miserable home defeat to part-time Forest Green Rovers had, though, seen Brunton Park at its most frustrated. Paul Simpson’s side copped some flak after ex-Blues man Damon Searle hit the winner.

It was a good thing, then, that United were back on home soil just three days later as they tried to pin down a play-off place. Experienced defender Tom Cowan set the tone when he spoke ahead of the game against York City.

“We deserved the criticism at the weekend, as we were awful,” the Scot said. “But we’d been on a good run before that game, so there’s no point getting too despondent.

News and Star: Danny Livesey hooks in the openerDanny Livesey hooks in the opener (Image: News & Star)

“That said, it’s one of the biggest games we’ve had this season, and it’s great to have a game so quickly to prove the critics wrong.”

Carlisle were second and York, although struggling, boasted top fifth-tier performers like striker Andy Bishop. A testing encounter was perhaps expected. That’s not what the Blues and their supporters got.

Instead, it was an emphatic surge back to form as confidence flowed back through the team. They did not quite manage to make it their biggest win of the campaign, but got mighty close on a prolific Brunton Park night.

Player-manager Simpson, who had rebuilt the relegation-bound squad the previous season and in the summer, made changes for the visit of the Minstermen, who had come down from the fourth tier with United in 2004. Young Cumbrian striker Glenn Murray, signed from Barrow earlier in the season, took the place of top scorer Karl Hawley.

News and Star: Livesey, right, celebrates as Glenn Murray leaps for joyLivesey, right, celebrates as Glenn Murray leaps for joy (Image: News & Star)

Former Derby County man Adam Murray was also switched into a new role behind the strikers. The changes paid off handsomely and Carlisle smothered York from the start.

It took them just 11 minutes to get in front. Adam Murray was involved in the build-up, as he earned a corner, from which Danny Livesey hit the crossbar before hooking in the rebound.

It was not the big defender’s last dramatic moment at Brunton Park that season. As things went on, Glenn Murray was having one of those games where defenders did not get a moment’s peace, and his physical style forced a penalty in the 25th minute.

The Maryport man was clattered in an aerial challenge, before York’s Kyle Armstrong hammered a clearance against the arm of team-mate Paul Groves. For whichever reason, ref Dave Foster pointed to the spot, and midfielder Chris Lumsdon swept home the penalty.

News and Star: Chris Lumsdon scores his first of the night from the penalty spotChris Lumsdon scores his first of the night from the penalty spot (Image: News & Star)

Carlisle’s superiority was now set, even if Glenn Murray’s night had to end prematurely, as his head injury forced his substitution as Magno Vieira came on after 33 minutes.

York’s hopes of a fightback then met the defiance of Blues keeper Matty Glennon. Although not greatly called upon, United’s No1 made an excellent save to deny Ben Jackson before half-time…and that proved the Blues’ cue to kick for home.

The second half proved a spectacular scoring episode as Carlisle rammed four more goals past Billy McEwan’s beleaguered visitors. Just after the hour mark, Adam Murray joined in the fun, firing the ball home from the edge of the box after a mix-up between defenders.

News and Star: Adam Murray's first United goal makes it 3-0Adam Murray's first United goal makes it 3-0 (Image: News & Star)

It was his first goal in a United shirt, and prompted others to join in. After Groves hit the bar for York – for whom teenage future Blues defender Byron Webster didn’t make it off the bench – Carlisle went up the other end and made it 4-0, big frontman Derek Holmes hammering home.

A fifth came ten minutes from time when visiting defender Dave Merris inadvertently spooned a clearance into his own net.

News and Star: Derek Holmes celebrates United's fourthDerek Holmes celebrates United's fourth (Image: News & Star)

And then, in the closing stages, the best goal of the night’s half-dozen came along when Lumsdon arrowed a brilliant low shot past keeper Chris Porter from outside the box.

Only the early-season 7-0 thrashing of Farnborough had seen United in more ravenous mood. It was a decisive and timely statement of their promotion potential, and Simpson said: “We wanted an emphatic win and we’ve produced it.

News and Star: Magno Vieira, left, takes on the York defenceMagno Vieira, left, takes on the York defence (Image: News & Star)

“Glenn Murray was the base for us to build on. He put himself about and was a real nuisance to their defence.”

Carlisle, after the 6-0 win, swiftly made sure of their play-off place – and an epic three games followed, Aldershot finally defeated in the play-off semi-final on an extraordinary night at Brunton Park, when Livesey’s shoot-out penalty sent the Blues to the final.

News and Star: The Brunton Park scoreboard reveals the routThe Brunton Park scoreboard reveals the rout (Image: News & Star)

Then, at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium, Peter Murphy headed the Blues back to the Football League. Relief, and jubilation, had replaced the boos of Forest Green.

United: Glennon, Livesey, Gray, Cowan, Beharall, Lumsdon, Murphy, Billy, A Murray, G Murray (Vieira, Hawley), Holmes. Not used: Coyles, McGill, Arnison.

York: Porter, Merris, Armstrong, Davis, Law, Jackson, Donovan, Groves (Bishop), Dunning (Stewart), Robinson, Yalcin. Not used: Smith, Stockdale, Webster.

Crowd: 3,810.