Part 16 of our weekly series charting Carlisle United's historic 1973/74 season...

It was an earlier than normal start for Alan Ashman’s promotion-chasing Carlisle United as they plotted their trip to Nottingham Forest.

A nationwide power crisis in the autumn of 1973 had led to a ban on floodlighting – and fixtures were brought forward 45 minutes to 2.15pm.

The Football League’s secretary Alan Hardaker made the announcement at the start of the week, with League Cup fourth round games also set to be played in the afternoon in midweek.

Other sports, such as rugby league and rugby union, were similarly affected though the news did not particularly dull the bright feelings around Brunton Park as the season rolled on.

News and Star: Our headline reflects the energy situation in November 1973Our headline reflects the energy situation in November 1973 (Image: News & Star)

As United prepared for their journey to the City Ground, they did so as emerging promotion contenders. Both they and Forest were in joint fourth position in Division Two, and seven unbeaten league games had built momentum behind the Blues.

“Last season our away record really dragged us down, but this season we seem to have conquered it and the result is a feeling of much greater confidence,” declared manager Ashman.

United and Forest were in the pack trailing leaders Middlesbrough and, for a game where they’d aim to keep on their tails, Ashman was assessing injured defenders Bill Green and Brian Tiler, who were back in light training.

Midfielder Mike Barry, meanwhile, was dogged by an achilles problem, but United travelled to Nottingham in hope – and with good backing. It was the first time in the season that their supporters’ club had been able to run a coach for fans.

“We are giving it a try and hope it will enable us to get future trips to gapes off the ground,” said supporters’ club secretary Colin Barton.

The trip, though, proved an unmemorable one in a footballing sense, given that Forest got the better of their Cumbrian visitors. The hosts grabbed two first-half goals and United were never able to mount a realistic comeback.

With Tot Winstanley and Stan Ternent again deputising for Green and Tiler, Carlisle started optimistically but were soon hit by a sixth-minute goal. Forest swept down the right and Neil Martin found space to fire past Allan Ross.

News and Star: Nottingham Forest's Duncan McKenzie punished United in November 1973's clashNottingham Forest's Duncan McKenzie punished United in November 1973's clash (Image: PA)

The goal was supplied by Duncan McKenzie, the second tier’s leading scorer who remained a persistent threat. Ross did well to save the frontman’s shot and Carlisle struggled for any kind of foothold.

Duly the second goal came in the 34th minute, when Jimmy McIntosh’s cross was headed home from close range by McKenzie, and United’s own offerings were paltry, Joe Laidlaw missing the target from a rare opening and, later, Bobby Owen giving the hosts a scare with a pacy run.

Carlisle could not, though, penetrate the home defence and a 2-0 defeat checked their fine recent form. They slipped to ninth in the table and were left with a few wounds to lick before their return to Brunton Park against Bristol City the following weekend.

In between times, Ashman continued assessing his squad in terms of those who might be considered for a departure. Winstanley and Ternent had been transfer listed but their resolute displays when called upon had put a certain premium on their heads.

Steve Derrett had returned from a spell with Aldershot while in the case of Kenny Wilson it started to seem that a return to Scotland would be on the cards for United’s former record signing.

News and Star: Little and large: our photo shows Bill Green and Ray Train together at Brunton ParkLittle and large: our photo shows Bill Green and Ray Train together at Brunton Park (Image: News & Star)

The £36,000 man, who arrived with big hopes from Dumbarton, had struggled to make an impact and, after a loan spell with York City, was now attracting interest from Hamilton.

Their manager, Alec Smith, visited Carlisle for talks with Ashman and the player himself. United’s boss said: “We did discuss a loan situation, but the Football League say that such an arrangement is not possible between clubs in England and Scotland.

“So if Hamilton still want Kenny, they will have to buy him.”

Wilson was, at the present time, on loan at Workington Reds along with defender Bob Delgado, who had been impressing for the west Cumbrians. Reds boss George Aitken was keen on a longer stay for Delgado, with Ashman weighing up that prospect as well as his defensive walking wounded.

“We’ll wait until the end of the week and then review the situation,” said Ashman, who hoped Green and Tiler would be available soon.

Carlisle would need their defensive bedrocks for the crucial period ahead.