Part six of our mini-series counting down to the 25th anniversary of the incredible events of May 8, 1999...

It was, as the clock ticked down to United’s penultimate game of the 1998/99 season, very much a time for action, not talking. However – there was time to fill, a void to fill. And so, there was talking…plenty of it, by various rival parties.

From bottom-placed Scarborough, four points adrift of second-bottom Carlisle with a game in hand at the foot of Division Three, came a message of defiance from a familiar figure.

Their assistant manager was Derek Mountfield, the former Brunton Park title-winning defensive hero. Four years after the magic of 1994/95, he was with the Seadogs in their fight to leapfrog his former club at the end of this season of turmoil.

“We have to believe we can get out of the situation,” Mountfield said. “We have made it difficult, but we won’t give up. We are not going to lie down and die.”

Five consecutive defeats had put Scarborough in serious peril. They were now clear favourites to sink into the Nationwide Conference…provided Carlisle could keep them at bay.

“I can’t put my finger on why last season we were in the play-offs and are struggling this season. But we have enough about the club to make a concerted effort to get safe,” added Mountfield.

For Scarborough, a trip to Halifax Town awaited. On the same day, Carlisle would go to Hartlepool United. It shaped up to be one of the weightiest games in United’s history, given the predicament, but manager Nigel Pearson was a little more measured in his outlook.

News and Star: Derek Mountfield, the former United star, was Scarborough No2 in 1999Derek Mountfield, the former United star, was Scarborough No2 in 1999 (Image: News & Star)

“It is a big game for us and a good one for us. We can take a big step towards safety – it is in our hands,” said Pearson, who had been Blues manager since December.

One ominous feature of United’s approaching trip to the north east was the presence of Peter Beardsley in the Hartlepool ranks. Having been linked with a return to Carlisle earlier in the campaign – a situation bringing claim and counter-claim between the ex-England star and United owner Michael Knighton – he went on to join struggling Pools.

And Beardsley made a decisive impact on their own survival fight in the week Carlisle were waiting to face the Monkey Hangers. In a midweek clash with Leyton Orient it was Beardsley who defined a 1-0 victory, scoring in the 13th minute and producing a man-of-the-match display.

Chris Turner’s side held on and Hartlepool were now on the brink of safety themselves, eight points above bottom-placed Scarborough, who had three to play, and four above the Blues ahead of their own penultimate encounter in three days’ time.

For United, keeping a lid on the tension was difficult at this poised stage. In the youth department of the club, decisions were announced on some teenage players, with trainees Jon-Karl Benson, Jamie Heath, Alan Hodgson, Michael Irving and Barry Stevens not offered professional contracts.

What sort of future the Blues were preparing for, though, remained unclear. The clock ticked, and Victoria Park loomed…