An underwhelming return to the second tier after Carlisle’s solitary top-flight season had seen manager Alan Ashman leave Brunton Park, with the legendary and long-serving trainer Dick Young stepping up.

Young was a somewhat reluctant chief but, after United’s 19th-placed finish in 1975/6, the veteran boss had some new goalscoring talent at his disposal for what was intended to be his first full season in charge.

Billy Rafferty had joined from Plymouth that summer and wasted little time in making his mark, scoring twice on his league debut at Southampton after another brace at Southport in the League Cup.

The Blues still retained many of those who had led them to their greatest height and their side in the opening weeks of 1976/7 included the likes of Allan Ross, Peter Carr, John Gorman, Bobby Parker and Dennis Martin.

With the returning winger George McVitie and the promising Scottish midfielder Phil Bonnyman also joining the previous campaign, there was some frustration when Carlisle struggled for winning form at the start of the new term.

By the time Charlton visited Brunton Park in October the Blues had chalked up just two league victories from seven games, while their latest outing, a 5-1 thrashing at Nottingham Forest, had brought strong criticism from supporters.

They answered at least some of those critics with an entertaining home showing against the Addicks, when a 4-2 victory saw goals shared through the side.

The game against the London outfit was more to the liking of Carlisle’s midfield men, who enjoyed more time on the ball as their opponents looked to defend.

That quartet – McVitie, Bonnyman, Martin and Mike Barry – set the tone in the first half. Bonnyman in particular stood out and Carlisle enjoyed early chances which Barry and Martin could not convert.

This pressure, though, told in the 11th minute and the opener was a tribute to Rafferty’s penalty-box skills as the striker rose highest to meet a McVitie corner and headed home.

Seconds later they almost made it two, Rafferty’s 25-yard chip over keeper Jeff Wood dipping just over the bar, while John Lathan also went close.

So irresistible was United’s attacking in this spell that they did add a second in the 14th minute. McVitie was again the provider with a corner, and this time it was Bonnyman who took advantage, hammering the breaking ball inside Wood’s near post.

Bonnyman’s afternoon, alas, was cut short midway through the half when he limped off after a challenge with Charlton’s Peter Hunt, Mike McCartney replacing him, while United survived a raid in the 45th minute, when Richie Bowman’s header was turned against the bar by keeper Ross.

This was a hint at Charlton’s attempted fightback which gathered pace beneath driving rain in the second half. Ross, in this period, excelled, defying Addicks danger man Derek Hales with a series of saves.

Also notable as the second half unfolded was a yellow card shown to visiting defender Jimmy Giles for a foul on Rafferty. This was the first season in which yellow and red cards were being used in the English game and Giles’ caution was the first such use in a Brunton Park fixture.

There were more goals than cards as the game’s defining period then arrived. Charlton, first, got in on the act when Mike Flanagan broke United’s offside trap to chip Ross.

Carlisle, though, quickly hit back when McVitie received a Martin cross and sent a left-footed volley low into the net.

Charlton grabbed another in the 89th minute, Hales poking home, but Carlisle swiftly restored their two-goal advantage when Gorman beat Wood from 15 yards.

It turned out that left-back Gorman only had five more league appearances left for United, with Tottenham poised to move for the talented Scot. Another player from across the border, Ross, was praised by Carlisle’s boss after the Charlton win.

“Rossy kept us in the game with those saves,” Young said. “I was worried that we were going to let it slip, but we came back to life in time.”

Further wins, though, proved beyond Young and United that autumn, and they went eight league games without victory. In that time the Blues opted for a managerial change, Newcastle great Bob Moncur arriving and Young returning to the coaching ranks.

It was not enough to save the Blues, and despite Rafferty’s 16 league goals, including a legendary four-minute hat-trick against Cardiff, they were relegated in third-bottom place.

United: Ross, Carr, Gorman, MacDonald, Parker, Bonnyman (McCartney), McVitie, Barry, Martin, Lathan, Rafferty.

Charlton: Wood, Berry, Warman, Hunt, Giles, Curtis, Powell, Hales, Flanagan, Bowman, Peacock. Sub: Campbell.

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