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


So, in an interview paraphrased by the News & Star headline, said Chris Freestone, the former Carlisle United striker now with Hartlepool United.

The day had arrived and the Blues’ penultimate game of a tortuous Division Three relegation battle was at hand. The Cumbrians, four points clear of Scarborough having played a game more, went to Victoria Park knowing victory could take them closer to the brink of safety.

One problem. This was not a winning Carlisle team. Nigel Pearson’s men had one victory in 11 games. Hartlepool, who were third bottom, were in better nick and close to securing their own Football League survival.

The thought of nailing that and pushing United to the precipice was not one that gave Freestone sleepless nights. “I will have no problem in scoring goals that could send Carlisle down,” he said. “My future and priorities are with Hartlepool and I will do what’s best for them.

“There will be no sentiment from me.”

News and Star: Chris Freestone, the former Carlisle striker, faced the Blues with HartlepoolChris Freestone, the former Carlisle striker, faced the Blues with Hartlepool (Image: PA)

On a day Scarborough went to Halifax, more than 1,100 Carlisle fans went to Hartlepool. “The supporters make a massive difference,” said assistant manager John Halpin. “I hope they are as vocal as they are at home and I’m sure they will be.”

Players also tried to whip up the Blue Army, with Damon Searle anticipating an “electric atmosphere” and Stuart Whitehead predicting a feeling akin to a home game.

Amid the tension, fear and bravado stood a man preparing to make his second appearance for the club. Goalkeeper Jimmy Glass, signed on emergency loan from Swindon Town, had conceded three on debut in the previous Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Darlington.

This time it was a first away appearance for the man charged with keeping out the likes of Freestone and the legendary figure of Peter Beardsley in Hartlepool’s blue and white stripes.

That he did, often impressively. Yet it turned into an afternoon where Carlisle’s loss of the winning habit was starting to look seriously ominous again.

News and Star: Tony Hopper pictured in action for Carlisle in the 0-0 draw at HartlepoolTony Hopper pictured in action for Carlisle in the 0-0 draw at Hartlepool (Image: News & Star)

The game, on a poor pitch, was tense and compelling, even if the quality of it was sometimes sparing. Scott Dobie shot over for Carlisle after good work from Ian Stevens and Richard Tracey, and then at the other end, Beardsley lined up a free-kick after David Brightwell had fouled Freestone.

The former England star took aim, dispatched a rocket – and found Glass equal to it with an outstanding save.

So far, so goalless. Richard Prokas cleared a Freestone header off the line before Tracey, for the Blues, missed a good chance and then Dobie was denied by a Gus DiLella clearance at close range.

A bruising encounter saw Pools’ Tommy Miller go off with a broken nose following a tangle with United’s Peter Clark, and his replacement, Chris Westwood, was denied by another valiant Glass save.

As United battled for an advantage, the half-time interval left fans perplexed as they waited to hear news from the Shay. The Football League had decided the latest score in Scarborough’s game should not be announced.

This was disregarded by the Hartlepool fans who had found out, and who proceeded to taunt Carlisle’s faithful with a chant of “2-1 to the Scarborough…”

News and Star: A first United clean sheet for the impressive Jimmy Glass...but the relegation vultures were circling after the Hartlepool stalemateA first United clean sheet for the impressive Jimmy Glass...but the relegation vultures were circling after the Hartlepool stalemate (Image: News & Star)

As for the second half at Victoria Park, it had plenty of endeavour but nobody able to seize things. Glass was bundled over the line by Denny Ingram, the goal rightly disallowed, while Carlisle’s own end product fell short.

It resulted in a 0-0 draw which saw Glass hailed as an 8 out of 10 star man by our reporter Anthony Ferguson, who praised the loanee’s “magnificent stops”. Yet those figures were not as significant as those in Yorkshire, where Scarborough had won.

It meant, with one game to go, Carlisle were staring at the real prospect of non-league football again. Scarborough’s game in hand would come during the week against Plymouth Argyle. Should they win, they would overtake United and would hold all the survival aces going into the final day.

It was a desperate predicament for Carlisle. “We desperately needed a goal,” admitted Pearson of the Pools game. “In a lot of ways a point was not good enough, but we have just got to keep battling on. Now we have to see what happens with Scarborough…”

United, the stark reality said, were a week away from non-league football, should things go the way they were heading…