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

Messages of goodwill were not going to keep Carlisle United in the Football League. Not with one game to go and with Scarborough, Division Three’s bottom side who had a further game still to play, now capable of sending them down.

All the same: sympathy still came the Blues’ way as they stood five days from their fate. It came from the illustrious source of Peter Beardsley, who had played for Hartlepool United in the 0-0 draw with Carlisle which had pushed Nigel Pearson’s side nearer the precipice.

“On Saturday we are at Southend, but as soon as the game finishes Carlisle’s will be the first result I look for,” Beardsley said.

“I came here to try and help Hartlepool get out of it. I was very nearly in the other corner.

“It is special to play Carlisle. The fans are special. 1,200 made the trip [to Hartlepool] and they deserve a lot of credit. They don’t want to see their team drop out of the league.”

News and Star: Peter Beardsley evades Tony Hopper in the 0-0 draw between Hartlepool and CarlislePeter Beardsley evades Tony Hopper in the 0-0 draw between Hartlepool and Carlisle (Image: News & Star)

You could say that again, Peter. Alas, that hope was in the hands of others given that Scarborough, on the coming Wednesday, hosted Plymouth Argyle knowing victory would take them above the Blues with one game to go.

The Seadogs had kept their hopes alive by winning 2-1 at Halifax Town while Carlisle were drawing at Victoria Park. It was a case of United blinking again when close to the line, and their relegation rivals finding some spirit in the face of adversity.

Not the collection of circumstances that were needed. At least it hadn’t been even worse, and for that United had their unheralded loan goalkeeper to thank.

Jimmy Glass had defied 38-year-old Beardsley and his team-mates with some resolute saves against Hartlepool. Chris Turner, the home manager, was keen to praise United’s temporary No1 on the day the Monkey Hangers got safe themselves.

“We needed not to be defeated while they needed to win,” Turner said. “It was desperation football. I thought we edged the first half. Jimmy Glass pulled off three great saves.

“It was not the greatest game, but it was never going to be.”

News and Star: David Brightwell was not giving up the ghost despite Carlisle's worrying positionDavid Brightwell was not giving up the ghost despite Carlisle's worrying position (Image: News & Star)

The gap at the bottom was two points, and at the mercy of being gobbled up should Scarborough account for Plymouth at the McCain Stadium. Carlisle’s Football League status had seldom looked so precarious, whatever the measured noises coming out of the dressing room.

“It is up to us to win on Saturday and make sure Scarborough have to win their two games,” said Blues captain David Brightwell.

“There is no better place than a full Brunton Park to go out and secure our future.

“If Scarborough get two wins then, at the end of the day, they deserve it.”

Pearson, the United manager, had instructed his players to “knuckle down and concentrate on getting maximum points out of the last game”, and then hope the fates elsewhere would be kind.

Little had been kind to Carlisle all season. It felt, at this desperate stage, a case of hope springs eternal. And in two days’ time, things could be looking terminal…