MANAGER Bob Stokoe was afraid he might have problems in getting his players away from the heady atmosphere of Cup football to do the down-to-earth job of work so necessary in League football. He was not there to see it happen at Craven Cottage on Saturday, because of player-vetting missing took him up to Scotland, but he would have been proud of the manner in which Sunderland demolished a Fulham side thirsting for a win which would have taken them into third place. And 2-1 was only a modest reflection of their superiority.
There were one or two slack moments when he would not have liked, but overall it was a thoroughly professional effort, played out with a confidence which brought the best out of everyone. George Male, present on a spying mission for FA Cup Semi-Final opponents Arsenal, would surely take back the warning message to Highbury that they have had rather less luck than they imaged in drawing Second Division opponents.
Spurs manager Bill Nicholson was there, too, having joined the band of First Division managers who now realise that Sunderland have several very good players. He is entitled to admire as much as he likes, but the “hands off” notice which Mr Stokoe issued a week ago still stands.
Trainer-coach Arthur Cox, who took charge in Mr Stokoe’s absence was clearly delighted with the winning effort.
“They played some great stuff,” he said. “It was a team effort all the way, played with a lot of skill. I was asked how long we had been playing one-touch football and you don’t play that way unless you are relaxed and confident. That’s how good they were.”
Fulham certainly had no illusions about the quality of the side which took them apart. Their promotion hopes have been receding for a while and they are now concentrating their efforts upon gathering in enough goals to qualify them for next season’s Watney Cup competition.
A tremendous goal by Mullery in 14 minutes must have been encouraging for them, but they never looked like adding to it and the only occasion on which they were in with the chance of another goal was when a misunderstanding between Watson and Montgomery nearly conceded an own goal.
Sunderland’s back-four operation, which was the basis of their Sixth Round triumph over Luton Town a week earlier, was again a big factor. And that, in itself, is a triumph to the contribution of 18-year-old Joe Bolton who took over at No. 3 when Guthrie was ruled out by injury.
He lined up well with Malone, Watson and Pitt to put an effective brake upon one of the most feared attacks in the Second Division. And, like Malone, he used the wing well to provide support for attacking moves.
The defensive task was in good hands, with Montgomery in fine form, to, but all the excitement came at the front from the deft touches of Tueart and Hughes and their frontal challenge of Halom. This combined operation gave Fulham no end of trouble, with Tueart and Hughes applying themselves brilliantly in fast-moving raised and Halom fighting for every ball in the middle.
Halom absorbed a lot of punishment from Went, who could do no wrong in the eyes of the referee until four minutes from the end, when he shifted his rather crude attentions to Tueart and was booked for a dangerous foul on the Sunderland forward. The outburst was some indication of the sense of frustration felt by Fulham defenders in the face of endless pressure.
The midfield battle was capably controlled by Kerr, Porterfield, and Horswill, who were not too heavily committed defensively and were able to give close support in attack. Both Kerr and Horswill could well have been on the scoring list and there should have been a bigger end product from Porterfield’s prompting.
There were early shocks for Fulham as Sunderland carved out goal chances in the first few minutes. Kerr tapped the ball wide from close range and then had a header scrambled away for a corner by Mellor. Hughes had the Fulham goalkeeper in action gathering a header shortly afterwards and from a Kerr corner, Horswill shot just over the bar.
Barrett missed a good chance in Fulham’s first attack and when he came back again a well-timed challenge by Pitt prevented a shot at the expense of a corner. Barrett took this himself and when his kick was headed out to the angle of the penalty area, Mullery volleyed it home with tremendous force.
Sunderland went over to attack in a big way and Mellor was frequently on call as Kerr, Tueart and Hughes piled on the pressure, through he made his beat save from a header by Halom. Against such a spirited onslaught the equaliser could not be long delayed and it duly arrived in the 15th minute.
A fierce angled drive by Hughes was misjudged by Mellor and Callaghan going in behind his goalkeeper handled to prevent the ball from going under the bar. It was a clear enough penalty and Tueart made no mistake from the spot, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way as he placed a low drive just inside the right hand post.
Overlapping full-backs brought the next thrills, with Montgomery diving to save from Cutbush and Bolton bringing a good save from Mellor.
There was a little uncertainty in the Sunderland defence in the early stages of the second half and the closest call came when Watson moved ahead of Montgomery to intercept a corner. The ball lifted from his chest and over Montgomery’s head, but fortunately Malone was in a covering position and cleared from the line.
Sunderland went ahead in the 56th minute with a typical high-speed move, which had Tueart breaking on the left to hammer in a left-foot shot. Mellor covered it but was unable to hold the ball and Halom was there in a flash to slam it into the roof of the net.
Apart from a well-directed cross by Earle, which had Montgomery diving out to make his best save of the game, it was one-way traffic on the Fulham goal, with Tueart and Halom often close to increasing the lead.
Sunderland, strongly supported in the crowd and warmly encouraged throughout the game, were given a great reception at the finish.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on March 26 1973.