Part 15 of our weekly series charting Carlisle United's historic 1973/74 season...

The front page headlines concerned the prospect of nationwide power cuts, but at Carlisle United, the lights were very much on as the Blues prepared for a cracker of a November cup tie.

An overtime ban by power workers raised fears of a blackout, though in United’s case the visit of a star-studded Manchester City looked set to further illuminate a season getting brighter by the week.

City had overcome Walsall after a second replay in the League Cup and a third round trip to Brunton Park was duly secured. The men from Maine Road, featuring luminaries such as Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell and Francis Lee, would prove a healthy attraction with 14,472 fans snapping up places in the ground for the tie.

News and Star: The great Francis Lee was the difference for Man City at Brunton ParkThe great Francis Lee was the difference for Man City at Brunton Park (Image: PA)

Alan Ashman’s side were now a rising force in the Second Division and well placed for a crack at a City side under the caretaker control of Tony Book after boss John Hart was struck down by illness.

United’s own manager was coy with his public comments in the build-up, offering a line very much in keeping with the wider situation. “The reason I am not saying an awful lot about how we view this game is because I want to leave City rather in the dark,” he said.

Ashman, in the event, brought Chris Balderstone back for his first start since suffering a nasty facial injury in the previous League Cup round at Gillingham. Mike Barry made way for the classy midfielder, with United banking on Balderstone’s quality to help them match up to their top-tier visitors.

Carlisle had conquered City in a famous League Cup game three years earlier while this occasion offered Bobby Owen the chance to go up against his former club. His prospects of proving an attacking menace for United, though, were dashed by an early injury in the game to Brian Tiler. The defender went off injured and, as Barry came off the bench, Owen was shifted into the back line.

United still went after the contest with some zeal and forced a series of corners in the opening stages. Other ventures saw Bill Green head just off target while Dennis Martin and Peter Carr linked brightly down the right.

News and Star: Joe Laidlaw shoots in vain as Man City players watch on at Brunton ParkJoe Laidlaw shoots in vain as Man City players watch on at Brunton Park (Image: News & Star)

Yet Ashman’s side found Book’s City in solid and composed mood themselves, offering the Cumbrians little in the way of crystal clear chances. While Balderstone and Martin did their all to try and unlock them, it was the visitors’ star Lee who had the nearest first-half miss, hooking a shot across goal with force from six yards.

The tie remained poised, United’s football of admirable quality at times and their goal surviving City’s persistent efforts. Tony Towers hit the crossbar before the elegant Bell went through only to shoot wide.

Carlisle looked to take this as their cue, and hit the post twice themselves in quick succession via Frank Clarke and Joe Laidlaw. Yet it was City who then made the decisive move, breaking at the Blues late on and, after Green’s attempted interception failed, Lee pounced to rifle past the advancing Allan Ross.

It was an anti-climax given United’s optimistic efforts, and the 1-0 defeat ended their League Cup interest. Yet there were still grounds for positivity as the Blues, having pushed City so close, moved back to league duties, with Hull City the visitors that coming weekend.

And there were further grounds after the game – an annihilation of the Tigers that well and truly underlined United’s Division Two potential. A vintage showing produced a 4-0 victory which did not flatter Ashman’s side in the slightest.

News and Star: Our headline as the Blues thrash Hull in November 1973Our headline as the Blues thrash Hull in November 1973 (Image: News & Star)

Although without Tiler and Green, sidelined with knocks against City, United still dominated. Tot Winstanley and Stan Ternent were recalled to defence, Owen was released back into attack – and the Blues were rampant.

With full-backs Carr and John Gorman enterprising, Les O’Neill a captain of industry in midfield and Owen tigerish in his frontrunning and tackling back, United soon overcame a mediocre opening spell to dominate.

Come the 29th minute they were ahead, Carr’s cross flicked on by Laidlaw for the rampaging Owen to smash home. Martin had a goal disallowed but, after the break, United got into serious rhythm. Four minutes into the second half they outplayed Hull to fashion a chance for Laidlaw, whose effort came back off the bar for Martin to score the second.

The lead was further increased through Laidlaw on 75 minutes as he pounced on defensive indecision to slip the ball past Hull keeper Jeff Wealands. An angled shot from Laidlaw in the last minute completed the rout and the only disappointment was the drop in attendance from the City game, given only 6,563 were there to watch United’s latest statement of promotion intent.

Ashman, meanwhile, was delighted that the players who stepped into his side had done so impressively. Winstanley and Ternent, who had been transfer-listed, excelled against Hull and the manager said: “The clubs who didn’t come in for them may have slipped up badly.

“I had no fears about putting in either Ternent or Winstanley when other players were injured. After all, they are both very good players.”

United, as 1973/74 went on, appeared to have an abundance of them. Up next – a trip to the City Ground.