Easter. A time of hope, renewal and all those things which have not, let’s be honest, appeared on the agenda very much at Carlisle United this season. On the pitch at least.

So I’m afraid there is nothing else for it but to go back to January 1989 and remember simpler, more innocent times.

Thank goodness for the presence of a video camera at Peterborough United v Carlisle United that month. Otherwise we’d have been deprived of the footage of a goal which progressed, by stages, from a flowing move towards a finale more suited to a cartoon.

Well, we could all do with a good laugh now and again. So here is the magic of John Halpin’s “strike” – and you’ll need those inverted commas – in each of its wondrous stages.


Our story begins on an archetypal wet and muddy pitch from football’s glamorous late eighties. Carlisle are playing in red and blue to avoid a kit clash, and the fun starts when a Posh player executes an inch-perfect pass which clears one team-mate then puts the other at the mercy of a lurking Derek Walsh. Within a second, one home player is in the dirt and another miles adrift as Walshie wins the tackle then motors hungrily towards a centre circle that resembles where Shrek lives.

News and Star: In steps Walshie...In steps Walshie... (Image: YouTube)


With elbows pumping and the scurrying figure of John Halpin to his left, Walsh keeps his footing on the bog as Peterborough defenders race back in panic. He turns, pauses as though he has no more strides left in the quicksand, and pings the ball forward - out of striker Archie Stephens’ reach, but very much in the range of the covering Posh centre-back, whose attempt to cut out the pass is highly impressive in how spectacularly he manages to miss it.

News and Star: Away goes ArchieAway goes Archie (Image: YouTube)


As the home defender slides in the direction of Cambridge, leaving a skidmark behind him that would test most leading detergents, Stephens adeptly moves onto the ball and hurdles the keeper, whose hurtling run takes him to the edge of the penalty area.

News and Star: Going somewhere nice, keeper?Going somewhere nice, keeper? (Image: YouTube)


The goal now inviting, from the right Stephens opts for placement over power. In fact he opts for just about everything else over power. The right-footed attempt is in fact a sort of tamely-struck pass which would not disturb a butterfly from its afternoon snack. And yet...the Posh defender charged with intercepting this does so with magnificent slapstick. Racing along the greasy green/brown surface, trying with all his earthly powers not to fall over, he manages to get one heel on it, then another, and the ball flicks back into the six-yard box as his momentum takes him just wide of the right-hand post.

News and Star: What an assist...What an assist... (Image: YouTube)


And then, from the left, comes Halpin: mindful of his footing as though traversing a frozen lake, then wrapping his right foot around the chance a couple of feet from goal. To say the chance is easy would be an understatement; to say Halpin's contact is minimal would be like saying United have lost the odd game this season. The inside of Halpy’s lesser-used peg gives the ball the gentlest brush, and had the distance been any further it might not, incredibly, have reached the line.

News and Star: Halpy, right, unleashes his rocket...Halpy, right, unleashes his rocket... (Image: YouTube)


The finish is a feat in itself. And here, from nowhere, comes the goalkeeper, who has, because of the chaos unfolding since he tried to intercept Stephens about three weeks earlier, now managed to gallop back towards his goal. As Halpin’s blunderbuss shot progresses at the speed of a Purepay email reply, the Posh custodian manages to take the ball with him, over the line and ending up on his front with his legs lifted and caught in the net: a scorpion trapped by a bigger predator. The scorer, to the right, has gone merrily backside-over-breast a few yards away.

News and Star: GOAL! (just)GOAL! (just) (Image: YouTube)


The final mini-epic concerns the celebrations. United’s drenched heroes give it large in different ways. Brent Hetherington, arriving on the scene like he’s just found his ticket to the party, remembers the absolutely crucial job of shoving it up the opposition and their fans, before recalling that there are team-mates to celebrate with too. That minor inconvenience acknowledged, he throws another fist up towards the Posh faithful then pirouettes away like a moustachioed extra from Swan Lake. Halpin, smothered by hugs, then trots away, before the stage clears for the coup de grace. Walsh, the architect of all this mayhem, is on his own for a split second. At this point he does the only thing left to anyone at the scene: he throws his head back and has a right good laugh.

News and Star: Walshie's reaction is for us all...Walshie's reaction is for us all... (Image: YouTube)

They don’t teach this at St George’s Park, and the modern game is massively worse for it. Now watch the whole, sorry, magnificent spectacle as it unfolded right here. You won't regret it...