Carlisle United were an established Second Division side come the early weeks of 1969 and, as they prepare to face Football League new boys Salford this weekend, they were certainly operating in higher circles 50 years ago - and against some of the more renowned names in the country.

That applied not just to the bread and butter of league action, but also friendlies. Their summer of ’69 saw a major pre-season occasion at Brunton Park with the visit of Celtic, who just two years earlier had famously won the European Cup in Lisbon.

Several of that legendary side remained in the Glasgow team who came to Cumbria, such as Billy McNeill, Tommy Gemmell, Bobby Lennox and Bobby Murdoch, while the brilliant winger Jimmy Johnstone was among their subs.

They were followed to Carlisle by a large influx of supporters which led, according to reports, to a number of incidents and arrests in the city. One such episode, a raid in a Co-op, led to “over 120 pounds of banana skins covering most of the top of Botchergate and Court Square”.

Lovely. On the pitch, meanwhile, Jock Stein’s Scottish champions slipped up against Bob Stokoe’s men thanks to a goal from Scot Tommy Murray and, if this encouraged thoughts that the Blues could take England’s second tier by storm in the season about to unfold, it did not quite happen that way – not that 1969/70 was entirely without drama.

After an opening-day defeat to Cardiff and a draw at Swindon, Carlisle entertained Aston Villa in mid-August. Manager Bob Stokoe was without key half-back Stan Ternent and was also facing other injury worries, although the boss was grateful that keeper Allan Ross was passed fit for Villa’s visit after a rib concern.

Tommy Docherty’s Villa side had not started the campaign well either, yet despite Carlisle offering the more enterprising and ambitious play in the Brunton Park encounter, they managed to leave Cumbria with a point.

In front of a 12,000 crowd there was a predictable pattern as the visitors gathered men behind the ball and sought to frustrate Carlisle, as per many pre-match forecasts.

United had to wait for a mistake in order to get ahead and this led to a trying first half. There was some promising early fluency about their play, with Chris Balderstone and George McVitie setting a decent pace, but few serious chances.

One fell to Frank Barton, but he was denied by visiting keeper Evan Williams. Derek Hemstead and Bob Hatton also tried their luck for the Cumbrians while, at the other end, Villa’s future Blues defender Brian Tiler headed over the United bar.

The game required an injection of quality to lift it from this stalemate and, four minutes into the second half, it finally arrived. Carlisle made the inroad they sorely needed as Villa’s Charlie Aitken sliced a long Willie O’Neill ball into the path of McVitie, who had dashed behind the visiting man.

From there, the winger cleverly volleyed over Williams from a narrow angle to give the hosts the lead.

The game now seemed set for United to draw Villa out and counter-attack for more goals. Instead, though, it was Docherty’s men who struck next. Stokoe was cursing as Carlisle’s lead was wiped out inside a minute, the result of a Peter Garbutt slip which allowed Ian Hamilton to take the ball through and round Ross to score.

This denied the United keeper a clean sheet in front of the watching Scotland manager Bobby Brown, while his team-mates came up short in their attemts to grab another lead. Garbutt and Hatton went close with headers, while striker Hugh McIlmoyle set up Barton with a fine delivery, but another chance went begging and 1-1 it ended.

Stokoe was left a frustrated man and, in his Evening News & Star column, did not speak highly of Villa’s style of play, suggesting United’s own football was in sharp contrast to that of their “once-famous” opponents.

Nonetheless, he also conceded that Villa had posed the hardest physical test likely to be faced in the second tier.

Carlisle ended their wait for a win at the fourth attempt, against Middlesbrough, as a mid-table season unfolded which saw them finish 12th, as Villa struggled and were relegated in second bottom position.

The campaign was also significant for meetings with another Black Country club, for United embarked on a League Cup run which took them to the semi-finals. Alas, on the brink of their first major Wembley final, they were beaten 4-2 on aggregate.

United: Ross, Hemstead, Caldwell, Garbutt, Passmoor, O’Neill, McVitie, Barton, Hatton, McIlmoyle, Balderstone. Sub: Murray.

Aston Villa: Williams, Wright, Aitken, Tiler, Edwards, Turnbull, Ferguson, Hamilton, McMahon, B Rioch, Godfrey. Sub: N Rioch.

Crowd: 12,504.