IN six games since their most convincing win of the season – 4–1 against Nottingham Forest – Sunderland have failed to come out on top and have claimed only two points from the 12 at stake in drawn games.
That disastrous sequence has cost them a lot of prestige and pulled them down into the bottom section of the Second Division where they are completely out of place on earlier form.
The overdue break-through to climb back to a position more in keeping with their ability could have started at Brunton Park last week, had they tackled the whole game with the same zest as they showed after allowing Carlisle United to take up a 3–1 lead.
Defeat was due punishment for a depressing first half effort, but later events acted as a reminder of what can be achieved by working at the pattern which won them warm tributes on their visits to Millwall, Blackpool, Aston Villa and Queen’s Park Rangers.
And if they strike out in the same form against Hull City at Roker Park on Saturday, they can begin to pull away from the danger zone.
They owe the Roker crowd and themselves a good result in this game, because in their last two visits City have managed to steal 1–0 triumphs.
Caretaker-manager Billy Elliott will not be naming Sunderland’s line-up for the game until tomorrow morning, but it must be everyone’s guess that he will be relying upon the team which hit the right form too late against Carlisle United.
This would mean that home supporters will be able to have their first look at Dave Watson in the centre half role for which he was originally groomed before being switched to centre forward.
In a game where so much went wrong, Watson applied the strength and industry which has brought benefits to an immature attack since his arrival at Roker Park. The same boost to defensive strategy can solve a lot of problems, too, though perhaps the biggest impact on the overall team performance will come from greater output from the midfield section, where most of the troubles started last week.
City, always attractive visitors to Roker, have laid out a lot of money in pulling together a side which if firmly-based on experienced player like Terry Neill, John Kaye, Ken Knighton, Ken Houghton and Ian Butler, with new-comer Stuart Pearson setting a hot pace in the goal-scoring line.
They cannot be too badly placed for players when an all-rounder like Ken Wagstaff has to play a waiting game on the side-lines.
The 18,000 turn-out for Sunderland’s last home game against Aston Villa was, in some respects, a disappointment. There is the promise of a much better following on Saturday and it is up to the Sunderland team to press home to the crowd the conviction that they are all set to launch themselves into a happier sequence of events.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on November 16 1972.