For many United fans the 1994/95 season stands out to this day as one of their favourites.
Long-suffering supporters felt a corner had been turned as they watched their side take advantage of what was a near perfect storm to grip the league by the scruff of the neck, and to secure a first ever appearance under the twin towers at Wembley Stadium.
The ending to the 1993/94 campaign had set the tone nicely, with the Blues having won their last four league games in some amount of style – Simon Davey’s goal against Shrewsbury is one that will live long in the memory – to earn them a place in the end-of-season play-offs for the first time ever.
A whopping 10,862 fans turned out to watch the home leg against Wycombe, but it was ultimately to end in disappointment as the Chairboys backed up their 2-0 victory at Brunton Park with a 2-1 win on their own turf.
Despite that two-legged defeat optimism was high heading into the summer of 1994 and chairman Michael Knighton who, by now, had been in charge for two seasons, tapped into the feeling of goodwill further with the release of an eye-catching deckchair away strip that captured the imagination and flew off the shelves.
Average attendances had doubled under his early tenureship, and the play-off campaign which had been ended by Wycombe had been ably backed by a march to the area finals of the Autoglass Trophy, where Huddersfield Town had denied United their big day out with a tense, keenly fought two-legged northern area semi-final win.
The scene was well and truly set.
In terms of transfer movement, player-coach Dave McCreery moved on with Joe Joyce stepping up to take the player-coach role. Manager Mick Wadsworth pulled off a real coup when he snapped up talented playmaker David Currie on a free transfer, and jaws dropped when another big name walked into the building to put his name on a contract.
Everton legend Derek Mountfield, who had won two league titles and an FA Cup with the Toffees through what had been an illustrious top-flight career, endeared himself to the fans immediately when he made it clear that he wasn’t in Cumbria for the sightseeing alone, stating that the ambition shown by his new gaffer – promotion and silverware being the main buzzwords – wasn’t something he could ignore.
Pre-season came and went, with an enjoyable testimonial for Mervyn Day against Leeds United and a trip to play in the Isle of Man Tournament amongst the highlights, but a series of indifferent results did little to prepare the Cumbrians for the delights that lay in store.
Fixture release day was met with an inward groan from many hardened United supporters when it was revealed that the first game was at home, with Wigan Athletic the visitors. For some reason, and nobody can ever explain why, the Blues just didn’t or couldn’t find a way to win a game when they kicked their season off here at Brunton Park.
Indeed, the last time they had managed to do so was way back in August 1965, a Division Two 4-1 home success over Norwich City, with Ron Simpson (2), Chris Balderstone and Frank Large on the scoresheet.
But records, good or bad, are there to be broken, and broken it was as United signalled their intentions right from the kick-off. David Currie received it from Shane Reddish on the centre spot, strode forward a few paces and slid what was just a millimetre away from being a wonderful through ball into the path of David Reeves, who had made a beeline for the edge of the box the moment the whistle was blown.
Not to be thwarted, the pair combined again when Currie clipped a wonderful free kick into the mix, and Reeves set off on his celebrations as he neatly guided a header into the bottom corner.
The advantage was doubled in the second half when Dean Walling shook off his marker to thunder a header from a corner into the roof of the net, but United had to hold their nerve through the closing stages as Walling turned a cross from deep over his own goal line as he came under pressure.
As a side note – this was a young Scott Mathieson’s first ever game in charge as a match referee.
United – Caig, Joyce, Walling, Mountfield, Gallimore, Davey, Edmondson, Currie (Thorpe), Reddish, Thomas (Pearson), Reeves.
Watch the highlights from the game here: