Part nine of our weekly series charting Carlisle United's historic 1973/74 season...

After kickstarting their season at home, it was time for Alan Ashman’s Carlisle to hit the road for a double-header which was set to test their durability away from home.

Saturday at Millwall and Tuesday at Portsmouth represented a demanding schedule for a Blues side who had not, for some time, been particularly able travellers.

“Our away record this season – and last season – is pretty poor, but we’re out to change all that,” manager Ashman said.

“And what better place to do it than Millwall, where we have never fared well?”

The optimistic talk was needed at a time United’s mixed record at the start of 1973/74 was keeping them outside the race of early contenders. Yet victory at home against Oxford United, coupled with the welcome return of Chris Balderstone from a recent club suspension, had restored better feelings for the long journey south.

Carlisle’s build-up was accompanied by other developments involving members of their squad. Defender Stan Ternent’s future was in serious doubt as directors met to discuss his fate, a departure seemingly on the cards.

News and Star: Stan Ternent's United future was up in the air in September 1973Stan Ternent's United future was up in the air in September 1973 (Image: News & Star)

Club officials agreed to Ashman’s recommendation that Ternent should be made available for transfer, but United awaited any firm moves for the player.

Another man moving on was misfiring former record signing Kenny Wilson who, a year after his £36,000 move from Dumbarton, was now on loan with York City, where he was impressing for their reserves.

In the front line, meanwhile, there was also an urging from Ashman for the previous season’s top scorer Joe Laidlaw to get back on the goal trail. After nine outings without scoring in the new campaign, the manager said of Laidlaw: “It’s time he was getting off the mark.

“But at least he has been getting himself into scoring positions in recent games. I’m sure the goals will begin to come again.”

The trip to the Den approached, Ashman advising his side to remain “disciplined” in the face of a “partisan” Millwall support – and, even without ill line-leader Frank Clarke, the Blues heeded their manager’s advice to the letter.

The result was as fine an away victory as one could imagine, given United’s previous shortcomings. Benny Fenton’s Lions were hoping to extend Carlisle’s wait for a first win at the London ground, but Ashman’s side performed with style.

News and Star: The Den at Millwall was known to be a hostile place in 1973/74The Den at Millwall was known to be a hostile place in 1973/74 (Image: PA)

Carlisle performed with confidence in their style, which was a more enterprising version than the hosts’ more direct play. This kept them well in a contest which eventually came to life in the last ten minutes.

By then, Bill Green had assembled another excellent display in the Blues’ defence while a midfield of Les O’Neill, Mike Barry and Balderstone had proved a telling blend.

O’Neill’s disruptive efforts on the Millwall midfield also appeared critical on a day when Millwall also lost keeper Bryan King for a spell after a collision with United’s Bobby Owen.

News and Star: Our report of United's win at The Den in 1973Our report of United's win at The Den in 1973 (Image: News & Star)

United’s own No1, Allan Ross, had impressed with some athletic and courageous saves, yet he was beaten in the 80th minute when Gordon Bolland found the net from outside the area.

Yet Carlisle’s response was immediate and, aided by a mishap in the home defence, equalised a minute later when Laidlaw’s touch on a right-wing cross deceived both King and defender Barry Kitchener, who headed into his own net.

United then went boldly after maximum points – and claimed them when King, outside his area, fouled Laidlaw and summer signing Barry’s free-kick was headed firmly home by Green.

News and Star: Bill Green - United's matchwinner at MillwallBill Green - United's matchwinner at Millwall (Image: PA)

A 2-1 win put real wind in Carlisle’s sails before heading to the south coast in midweek. Between the two away games there was a trip to the seaside at Bognor for some rest and relaxation.

United, based in Chichester for the trip, were nursing a thigh injury to Balderstone, whilst also hoping Clarke would return from his sickbed. Otherwise the mood was upbeat as they considered their next assignment on the road.

“I fancy us to go on and win again at Portsmouth,” said midfield man Barry, noting how United had now come from behind to win in successive games.

Ashman also spied a climb from the bottom half of the Division Two table. “It’s very close. We are just one of seven clubs all with seven points and, although we are in the lower half of the table, there is actually only four points difference between us and the leaders.”

Portsmouth’s own record gave United further grounds for hope, Pompey only with one win to their name, albeit one that had come at Brunton Park. Yet Carlisle’s confidence was undeniably on the rise.


Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

Part five

Part six

Part seven

Part eight