UNBEATEN in their previous nine League and Cup games, Sunderland flopped at the tenth hurdle on Saturday, when they failed to do themselves justice on a mud-laden Hillsborough pitch which was made to measure for Sheffield Wednesday’s strong-arm tactics. They gave proof of their quality and character by staging a storming finish against wind and slope in the last 15 minutes, which was quite an accomplishment in view of the mauling they had received. But it came too late to dodge the penalty for earlier failings.
Wednesday did not deserve to win and Sunderland had chances to assure themselves of at least a point. And the player who went nearest to carrying through the salvage operation was Chambers, a seventh minute substitute for Young, victim of the worst foul of the game, for which Wednesday full-back Rodrigues was given a severe lecture.
Chambers hit two of the best shots of the game and both brought top-class saves from Springett. But Wednesday’s goalkeeper had his biggest slice of luck nine minutes from the end when Hughes picked up a back pass by Prophett and found himself with only Springett to beat. Instead of shooting, Hughes tried to take the ball round the goalkeeper, but did not go wide enough and Springett was able to snatch it from his feet.
Whether the overall performance was influenced by a hangover from exertions in Wednesday night’s F.A. Cup replay at Reading is a matter for conjecture. The sluggish effort in midfield and on the wings suggested that this might have been the case. Certainly the level of form which they produced in their unbeaten run would have seen them through this tough, bruising game. But while everyone else struggled, consistent form came only from Watson, Guthrie, Malone and Chambers.
MANCHESTER CITY representatives, spying on Sunderland’s form with a view to shaping City’s plan of campaign in the Fifth Round tie at Maine Road in a fortnight’s time could not have learnt a great deal. Assistant manager Johnny Hart and chief scout Harry Godwin may well be reporting that City have nothing to fear.
Indeed, if Sunderland had been deliberately attempting to mislead their Cup opponents they could hardly have been more successful, for they will surely apply themselves with greater determination and skill at Maine Road.
THE RODRIGUES tackle on Young was warning of how Wednesday intended to tackle the game. There were several other examples before the referee booked Coyle in 25 minutes for a foul on Guthrie and Clements in 34 minutes for a foul on Kerr.
A clumsy tackle on Henderson led to Horswill being booked in the 45th minute and afterwards the young defender, impetuous in his resentment of niggling fouls, came under a lot of attention from the referee, with the benefit of the doubt invariably going against him,
New-comer Vic Halom could have wished for a happier occasion on which to make his debut. With Hughes and Tueart busy but ineffective, he was given little opportunity to shine. Yet in the first 15 minutes be brought two fine saves from Springett, headed just over the bar, and then directed a header wide of Springett only to see Prophett clear from the line.
And when he did manage to nod the ball into goal in the second half a linesman signalled that it had been over the line before the cross was made.
WITH WIND and slope in their favour in the first half, Sunderland had more of the play, but there was slackness in their attacking build-up which often simplified Wednesday’s task.
There was little pressure upon Montgomery, though he made one fine save from Sunley and dived out to gather a dangerous cross by Rodrigues. But the closest call of all came when a retreating defence allowed Sunley to reach a long free-kick and Montgomery must have been greatly relieved when the Wednesday striker shot over the bar from eight yards.
Wednesday had the edge for most of the second half, but found it hard going against a Watson-inspired defence. Henderson, switching from wing to wing, enjoyed little success against either Malone or Guthrie, though his skilful play earned him the greatest respect.
Then, in the 61st minute, a surprise break gave him a role of match-winner for Wednesday. A long ball down the middle by Springett bounced in the Sunderland half and with Horswill midjudging it, Henderson stepped in to dummy his way to the edge of the penalty area before hitting a rising shot which beat Montgomery and flashed just under the bar.
Potts was a lively newcomer for Wednesday when he took over from Joicey in the 80th minute and twice went close, but most of the action was at the other end.
After Hughes had passed up the best chance, Chambers hammered in a great shot, which had Springett diving along his line to finger-tip the ball away.
The end came before Sunderland’s mounting effort could force another break.
SUNDERLAND know that they can count upon a top-class performance by Watson in any position. On this occasion he took man-of-the-match for a fine display at centre half.
He would have been just as valuable at the front, but as Manager Bob Stokoe said “Losing Young so early was out big misfortune. We had no spare back-four man, so I could not push Watson up front.”
Watson was well supported by Guthrie, Malone and Horswill, while Chambers gave a good account of himself in midfield, but Kerr and Porterfield were no more effective than Hughes and Tueart, whose play lacked the sparkle of recent weeks.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on February 12 1973.