BECAUSE they believed in each other and in themselves, Sunderland’s brave and skilful Cup fighters won a place in soccer’s hall of fame by wrestling the F.A. Cup from holders Leeds United in a magnificent 1–0 victory at Wembley on Saturday. They promised a Final to remember and they kept their promise to the letter, destroying indestructible United by going at them with so much confidence and courage that any other result would have been a travesty of justice.
For Sunderland supporters and the so-called neutrals who found themselves caught up by the sheer exuberance of the Sunderland team and their followers it was an emotional occasion ... and a wonderful sight. The underdogs who had the presumption to attack right from the start mastered star-studded Leeds so capably in those crucial opening minutes that everyone sensed that the threatened one-sided Final was going to be a match in every sense of the word. And so it was.
Experts who had read the game in advance and forecast an overwhelming Leeds win, quickly realised how seriously they had under-estimated the quality of a re-born Sunderland side which had been growing in stature with every game.
Manager Bob Stokoe’s heroes, played it unselfishly, cleanly, and bravely to a man, all the way through. And even when it became an agonising effort to keep going on the water-laden surface they still pushed themselves to the point of exhaustion to keep one move ahead.
Two miraculous saves by Montgomery within seconds of each other in the 65th minute spelt out the message to Leeds that they were not going to make it.
But over the 90 minutes there were eleven Sunderland heroes each grabbing a share of the glory by their readiness to work, challenge and attack ... especially attack.
Watson was supreme in policing the Sunderland goal front and a feared addition to attack when he moved up for such positions. And in the back four he had great working partners in Pitt, Malone and Guthrie.
The confidence and well organised play of Porterfield, Horswill and Kerr in midfield gave Sunderland the edge in this vital area while Hughes, Tueart and Halom were a non-stop action group fighting to exploit every chance to attack and yet so full of running that they were able to give valuable service in defence when their services were required.
The distinction of scoring the Cup-winning goal – a feat which earned him the sponsored presentation of a golden boot valued at £1,000 – fell to Porterfield.
But the glorious thrill of bringing the F.A. Cup to Roker Park for only the second time in 89 years of trying were shared by a team who won the undying admiration of the football world and a lot of warm and generous tributes from their beaten opponents.
And what of Leeds United? Potential match winner Gray, spluttered, faded, and was eventually relieved of the need to continue a distressing losing battle in the 75th minute when he was replaced by Yorath.
Midfield masters, Bremner and Giles were pressured into errors of judgement and given so little time and space that they could make little impact upon the play.
Clarke, Jones and Lorimer goal-hungry types worthily recognised as the most feared group of strikers in any League side were so restricted and so firmly marked that they were unable to bring their finishing art to bear in a desperate game saving challenge.
Only Madeley, Cherry, Reaney, Hunter, and Harvey turned in the kind of display expected of them. But it was not enough. Such was the decimation of their might that they were stripped of the rhythm which has won them the description of being the best club side in Britain.
In the first few seconds when the ball was played back to Hunter he sent it straight to Tueart and only the slippery surface prevented Kerr and Horswill from forcing an early break.
Lorimer made poor use of a chance when a Bremner kick just outside the penalty area was pushed square of him to try a shot and then Malone brought the first of a series of disappointments for Gray by coming out well on top in their first encounter.
Halom and Porterfield combined to provide a chance for Hughes whose shot just cleared the bar and then Horswill went only inches wide with a right foot drive.
A bold effort by Guthrie was halted by three defenders converging upon him and when Hughes beat Clarke as a free was cleared, was brought down and the Leeds player was booked for the offence.
Sunderland were making the better chances and the break which the play deserved came in the 31st minute after Gray had shot well wide from the 18 yard line.
The match-winning move started from a Kerr surge on the right with Halom wide of him and looking for a pass. But Kerr sent in a dipping shot which Harvey managed to turn over the top.
Hughes took the corner kick and when Watson was unable to make contact, the ball reached Halom who had moved in behind him. It was turned back to Porterfield who controlled it with his knee before hitting a right foot shot which brushed against Clarke before crashing into the net.
Horswill whose challenging play in midfield had proved an effective break was a target for tough tactics by Bremner and then Giles, but took it all in his stride.
Leeds continued to struggle in their efforts to build up attacks, but as the game moved into its second half they became increasingly anxious and sent extra men forward with both Reaney and Cherry storming into attacking positions.
A Reaney cross set up the attack which was to end in the draining of United’s hopes. A header by Cherry was pushed out by Montgomery – a great save in itself – but the ball went straight to Lorimer who had two thirds of the goal to go at from ridiculously close range.
He placed his shot firmly into the open space, but Montgomery’s astonishing reflexes enabled him to anticipate the line of the ball and he dived across to flick it against the bar with his left hand and Malone booted it out of the danger area.
Yorath proved to be an improvement upon Gray and brought a fine save from Montgomery as Leeds threw everything into attack in desperation.
They left only Madeley in their own half of the field to cover the break and with Sunderland always prepared to play the ball out of defence, the battle switched excitingly from end to end with Sunderland looking the more likely to score.
Halom was nearest with a second chance shot which had Harvey diving to make a brilliant save. The game ended seconds after Halom had bundled both Harvey and the ball into goal.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on May 7, 1973.