The approach of Carlisle’s home encounter with Scunthorpe in the 1993/4 campaign came at a time of genuine and overdue league and cup excitement for the Blues.

In Division Three – the new name for the fourth tier since the advent of the Premier League in 1992 – they were building a belated play-off push under Mick Wadsworth.

While momentum grew on that front, anticipation was also mounting about the possibility of a first-ever Wembley appearance, due to United’s promising run in the Autoglass Trophy. A gutsy campaign had taken them to the northern final, but the Twin Towers receded somewhat after a 4-1 first-leg defeat at Huddersfield Town.

Before the second leg, United hosted Scunny in the league at a time when chairman Michael Knighton was also launching a new initiative concerning the Blues’ home ground. A bond scheme, offering fans the chance to buy their own seats in his proposed stadium redevelopment, was advertised via booklets handed to fans as they came through the turnstiles.

On the pitch, it is fair to say the Blues had more success than the bond scheme off it, and the Scunthorpe game certainly turned into a memorable day for the overseas import in their squad who came off the bench to wrap up the points.

Before the introduction of American trialist Paul Conway, Carlisle spent an hour searching for an opening against the visitors, who were under the temporary charge of physio Dave Moore after boss Richard Money had been relieved of his duties.

The Blues struggled for fluency even if their effort and commitment was plain. With the experienced Joe Joyce and Peter Valentine coming into their defence, United may have been relieved that Scunny’s top scorer Matt Carmichael was also pressed into rearguard duties at the other end due to an Iron injury crisis.

He was active early on as Carlisle forced the opening chances. Midfielder Shane Reddish failed to convert a cross from record signing David Reeves, while Dean Walling - now established at the back after starting his United career up front - headed a free-kick over.

The Blues’ rookie Cumbrian goalkeeper Tony Caig kept things safe, meanwhile, as he kept out a Graham Alexander attempt, Sam Goodacre later shooting wide for the Iron.

United’s midfield also saw a debut for former Rangers and Bristol City man Shaun Rouse, who had joined on non-contract terms. His Blues bow lasted an hour before an injury cut short his afternoon.

Enter Conway, initially to boos from some fans who had not been impressed with his handful of previous United outings. This time, though, it was dramatically different, for within half a minute he had started and finished the move which put Carlisle ahead: feeding Joyce on the right, and then pouncing to send Reeves’ header high into the net.

United were now unshackled and two minutes later extended their lead, centre-half Valentine on hand to score after a Tony Gallimore shot was deflected into his path.

The Iron then fought back, reducing the deficit through Goodacre, but home nerves were settled in the dying seconds – and again it was their USA hero who supplied the clincher, Conway latching onto Simon Davey’s through ball and running half the length of the pitch to shoot past keeper Mark Samways.

The 23-year-old Conway’s best day yet in blue was hailed after the 3-1 win by player-coach Mervyn Day. “We have always thought Paul had ability but by his own admission he didn’t play well in the last home game,” Day said.

“He is an American who is not used to the competition and pressure we play the game under here, but there is no reason why he can’t improve.”

Conway himself felt the boos he faced were “a little strong” but accepted he was serving his “apprenticeship” in England. As for Carlisle, they almost graduated to the third tier thanks to a storming finish which saw them snatch the final play-off place.

They were, though, beaten by Wycombe over two legs – and suffered the same fate in the Trophy, despite an agonising second leg against Huddersfield; a 2-0 win that featured a wonder goal by Joyce.

These near-misses proved a platform for greater things – for, in 1994/5, Conway was part of an outstanding side that won the title and this time reached the Auto-Windscreens final at the home of football.

United: Caig, Joyce, Gallimore, Walling, Valentine, Robinson, Thomas, Rouse (Conway), Reeves, Davey, Reddish. Not used: Burgess, Elliott.

Scunthorpe: Samways, Alexander, Mudd, Hope, Knill, Carmichael, Goodacre (Sansam), Bullimore, Juryeff (Henderson), Thornber, Smith. Not used: Heath.

Crowd: 4,076.