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

With three days left in Carlisle United’s tortuous struggle to stay in the Football League, there was a bullish enough message from one of their experienced heads.

There was a looming problem, though. Whatever United said and did, it could be out of their hands in a matter of hours.

The Blues were preparing for their final game of the season against Plymouth Argyle at Brunton Park, but tremors would be present at Brunton Park if things went Scarborough’s way in their game in hand against the Pilgrims first.

That encounter at the McCain Stadium offered the Seadogs the chance to leapfrog United and send them to the foot of Division Three going into the last weekend.

One way or another, things were coming to a dangerous boil. Ian Stevens, United’s 32-year-old frontman, told the News & Star that he was keen to be the man to shoot United to safety – not that he was particularly fussed who did the goalscoring business.

“I’m going to be trying to get myself in the box to score,” he said. “I’ve tried to do that all my career and it will be no different on Saturday.

“But I don’t care who scores as long as we get the win. We have got to get a victory any way we can.

News and Star: Ian Stevens was hopeful - but with three days to go things were out of Carlisle's handsIan Stevens was hopeful - but with three days to go things were out of Carlisle's hands (Image: News & Star)

“If we can stay up it does not matter if you finish mid-table or second bottom – at least you are still in the league.”

That is all that mattered to Carlisle in this zero sum game. Stevens had ten goals to his name in a struggling collective campaign and was dearly hoping that tally could be upped on the final afternoon.

“It is a massive game for the club. I have played in big games, but this is probably bigger than any,” the Maltese-born striker added.

“I have played in the League all my life and I don’t want to be associated with a team that has gone down into non-league. Hopefully the fans will get behind us from the start. We are confident.”

Yet how could they be? Over on the north Yorkshire coast, Scarborough were planning to breeze into survival contention. Colin Addison’s side had given their chances a big boost by defeating Halifax Town in their most recent game.

Now they faced mid-table Plymouth. “We have gone to Halifax, taken them on in their own back yard and given ourselves a lifeline,” said manager Addison.

“We will be as positive as we can be for the remaining two games.”

Two wins for Scarborough, against Plymouth and then Peterborough United, would mean the end of Carlisle’s Football League status. Anything less, and United could still save themselves.

It was as excruciating as it sounds. And then…