SUNDERLAND’S most successful season for years ended on a disappointing note last night when newly-promoted Queen’s Park Rangers won 3-0 at Roker Park in a gamed marred by some indifferent refereeing, bookings, crowd trouble and the sending off of one of Saturday’s Wembley heroes.
A night which started off in carnival atmosphere ended miserably with Sunderland suffering their heaviest defeat since the arrival of manager Bob Stokoe in November.
After their exhausting matches at Wembley and Cardiff in the past few days and their exciting emotional homecoming no one expected too much of Sunderland last night, and although they showed their best form only in flashes, they looked to be heading for a point which would have lifted them into fourth position in the league.
However referee Peter Reaves of Leicester, in his first season on the League list, failed to control the game and the match deteriorated into a bad-tempered niggling fiasco.
Two players, Kerr of Sunderland and Francis of Rangers, were booked in the first half, but the real trouble started mid-way through the second half when Mick Horswill was sent off two minutes after Thomas shot Rangers ahead in the 65th minute.
Horswill got his marching orders when he retaliated after a bad foul by Bowles. The referee duly awarded Sunderland the free kick but his decision to send the Roker player off particularly annoyed the crowd as previous offences by Bowles had gone unchecked.
After the match, Horswill, clearly disappointed by the sad ending to such an eventful season, had a bruised eyebrow and a swollen mouth.
In the 69th minute, Pitt was booked for a foul on Bowles and when Guthrie followed him into the book four minutes later for fouling Venables, a few youths invaded the pitch and attempted to strike the referee.
Mr Reaves threatened to abandon the game unless the trouble stopped and both teams left the field while a senior police officer and, more effectively, Bob Stokoe appealed for calm.
The teams returned after eight minutes, but Sunderland’s ten men had lost their edge and it came as no surprise when Bowles added two more goals in the 75th and 77th minute to complete the misery.
It was a pity the game degenerated as it did, for Roker Park’s biggest League crowds of the season turned out willing to cheer anything.
But they had as much to shout about before the kick-off when Bobby Kerr received the Giant-Killer’s Cup, donated to the club for keeps by a Sunday newspaper and when Bob Stokoe received the Division Two Manager of the Month award.
The FA Cup was also on show of course, and there was an exchange of gifts between clubs, Sunderland presenting Rangers with a miners’ safety lamp in recognition of their promotion success, while the visitors’ gift was a silver tray.
The biggest incident in a full first half came when a hasty clearance by Hazell sent the FA Cup off its pedestal by the players’ tunnel.
Sunderland’s best period came in the ten minutes after the interval. Halom had a great chance when put through by Hughes, but he hurried his shot and the ball went well over. Tueart sent a tremendous volley just over, then Parkes made two brilliant saves from Hughes and Kerr.
Queen’s Park Rangers’ first goal came against the run of play, Givens breaking on the right and hammering a low ball into the middle for Thomas to ram home though a crowded goalmouth.
Bowles’s first goal in the 75 minute was a fine opportunist effort, the former Carlisle forward shooting home after beating Guthrie and Watson and his second two minutes later came when he shot from close range following a mistake in the Sunderland defence. But by this stage few of the crowd cared – the night had already been spoiled.
Sunderland: Montgomery; Malone, Guthrie; Horswill, D Watson, Pitt; Kerr, Hughes, Halom, Porterfield, Tueart. Sub: Young.
Queen’s Park Rangers: Parkes; Clement, I Watson; Venables, Mancini, Hazell; Thomas, Francis, Leach, Bowles, Givens. Sub: Delve.
Referee; Mr P G Reaves (Leicester).
P W D L F A Pts
Burnley 42 24 14 4 72 35 62
QPR 42 24 13 5 81 37 61
Aston Villa 42 18 14 10 51 47 50
Middlesbrough 42 17 13 12 46 43 47
Bristol City 42 17 12 13 63 51 46
Sunderland 42 17 12 13 59 49 46
Blackpool 42 18 10 14 56 51 46
Oxford 42 19 7 16 52 43 45
Fulham 42 16 12 14 58 49 44
Sheffield W 42 17 10 15 59 55 44
Millwall 42 16 10 16 55 47 42
Luton 42 15 11 16 44 53 41
Hull 42 14 12 16 64 59 40
Nott’m For 42 14 12 16 47 52 40
Orient 42 12 12 16 49 53 36
Swindon 42 10 16 16 46 60 36
Portsmouth 42 12 11 19 42 59 35
Carlisle 42 11 12 19 50 52 34
Preston 42 11 12 19 37 64 34
Cardiff 42 11 11 20 43 58 33
Huddersfield 42 8 17 17 36 56 33
Brighton 42 8 13 21 46 83 29
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on May 10, 1973.