IN A WIND-SPOILT game, which had both sides running into a lot of trouble over control and accuracy, Sunderland appeared to be coasting to a deserved win over Bristol City at Roker Park on Saturday. Their 2-0 lead, established in the 50th minute, had been pulled back to 2-1, but chances were still being created freely enough to encourage the belief that they could make sure of a fourth successive League win. Then with only two minutes to go, City snatched an equaliser as the result of poor marking and a precious point had slipped away.
The strong, blustery wind applied its own brake to the quality of entertainment, but a fiercely-fought game never lacked incident. Sunderland did not fall for the temptation of trying to save themselves for the Hillsborough Semi-Final. They did not shirk physical challenge against a side which played it really hard and there were several instances of the referee turning a blind eye to tackles which are supposed to be top target in the clean-up campaign.
There was a lot to like about the spirit in which Sunderland maintained their challenge and Manager Bob Stokoe could not be disappointed on that score. “I don’t want to be too harsh” he said, “because there was a lot of good effort and we created more chances than we have done for a week or two. But when you have a game well won it is disappointing to throw a point away as we did through a certain lack of professionalism.”
Both of City’s goals came from identical moves and there were other instances of the Sunderland defence being particularly vulnerable to this line of attack. Right wing corners were knocked on from the near post to unmarked men in scoring position. Two successes made it an extremely profitable exercise from City’s point of view.
Merrick, who had to accept responsibility for both of Sunderland’s goals was lucky indeed not to have another credited against him, for only the referee and his linesman appeared to miss the tackle which sent Tueart sprawling at the angle of the goal area, after Tueart’s agility on the ball had carved our a great opening for himself. Tueart was entitled to feel aggrieved when comparing this incident with the one for which he was booked in the 48th minutes.
Watson, switched into attack in place of the injured Halom, gave a first-class account of himself. He won everything in the air and showed a lot of imagination in his use of the ball. There was a lot of spirited work around him, too, but neither Tueart nor Hughes found the finishing touches which have been such a feature of their recent play.
Tueart was wearing strapping on his left thigh, but this was not, as many onlookers assumed to support a muscular injury. The object of the dressing was a protect a grass burn received in training.
Challenge was well maintained in midfield, where Kerr received strong support from Porterfield and Horswill, but there was often a lack of purpose in the end products. Horswill was the biggest offender in this respect, through he did lay on one great chance for Porterfield which should have produced a third goal near the end and killed off City’s hopes.
Guthrie came back in good form and there was a lot of intelligent defensive work from Young, but top honours in the back four were shared by Malone and Pitt, who got through a lot of work in confident style.
Montgomery had a little chance with either of the goals, and through not too severely tested, he made two fine saves from Gould and Gow.
City had twice been close to goals before Sunderland took the lead in the 35th minute. Gould had an angled drive from wide on the left pushed away by Montgomery and in the next minute. Gould ended a brisk run on the left with a hard-hit centre which was first-timed narrowly wide by Fear.
Then Merrick nearly put through his own goal after a Malone free-kick had been back-headed by Hughes and from Kerr’s corner, which was pushed back, Malone cracked the ball into the middle. There was a deflection at the near post and the ball went on into goal, Merrick accepting responsibility for the own goal concession.
In the early minutes of the second half, Tueart raced between two defenders in chasing a long ball towards the corner flag on the left. He played the ball too, but Rodgers went down. The referee awarded a free-kick, but was called over by the linesman and after consulting him he took Tueart’s name.
Then in the 50 minute a quick decision was required from Merrick when Malone hit a long ball down the middle. He tried to head back to Cashley, but Watson had spotted what was coming and nipped past Merrick, to lob the ball over Cashley’s head into the net. It was an opportunities goal of rare quality.
City’s first scoring break came after Guthrie had conceded a corner in his challenge on Gould. Fear took the kick and with Guthrie, Pitt and Montgomery drawn to the near post, Merrick was in a clear position when the ball was knocked on to head into an empty goal.
Hughes, Tueart, Watson and Porterfield all had chances to make the game safe for Sunderland and then Cashley had to make one of his best saves of the game when Tueart beat Rodgers on the left and cut in to hit a powerful shot.
But this was to be the final flourish, for with only two minutes left another right wing corner by City was driven to the near post, knocked on, and Emanuel was ideally placed at the edge of the penalty area to hit a drive of such power that Montgomery had no chance of reaching it.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on April 2 1973.