Ha’way Back When: Craig Russell strikes it so lucky with fluke opener to sting Hornets

Phil Gray and Richard Ord look on as Craig Russells corner flies straight into the net for the opening goal against Watford in 1994. Pictures by Peter Berry
Phil Gray and Richard Ord look on as Craig Russells corner flies straight into the net for the opening goal against Watford in 1994. Pictures by Peter Berry
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Sunderland 2 Watford 0 – March 19, 1994

Craig Russell confessed that he got lucky in securing a match-winning double for Sunderland as lowly Watford slipped closer to relegation in Division One.

Mick Buxton’s Rokermen consolidated their mid-table place with an ultimately convincing 2-0 victory – their 12th out of 18 at Roker Park.

Craig Russell fires in a shot

Craig Russell fires in a shot

But two-goal man of the match Russell admitted that his opener was a total fluke – an inswinging corner deceiving keeper Perry Digweed and sailing over him into the back of the net in the 68th minute.

Russell told the Echo: “I think it must be the flukiest goal scored at Roker Park for a very long time.

“I’m pretty embarrassed about it.

I just couldn’t believe it when the ball finished up in the back of the net.

Don Goodman battles to get away a shot in the Watford box

Don Goodman battles to get away a shot in the Watford box

“It caught in the wind and sailed straight over him.

“It’s not the first goal that I’ve scored direct from a corner – I got a few for the juniors at Whitburn, where the posts aren’t always straight.”

Russell showed his predatory instinct to kill off the Hornets with a well-taken second goal six minutes later.

Derek Ferguson’s delightful ball forward was headed on by Don Goodman and Russell raced clear to beat Digweed with aplomb.

Ferguson enjoyed one of the best performances of his Sunderland career, prompting from midfield, ensuring almost complete first-half control – and he was given a rousing send-off by fans when substituted 10 minutes from time.

One of the biggest talking points came just before half-time when Gary Bennett clashed with Watford striker Paul Furlong.

Hornets chief Glenn Roeder insisted that the Sunderland defender should have been sent off for an elbowing offence.

Roeder said: “The referee claimed he was on the blind side and the linesman must have had his eyes shut.

“Everybody else on the main stand side must have seen it.

“I have to be careful what I say, but as soon as you step off the coach at Sunderland you know what to expect.”

Bennett admitted to making contact, but said there was no malice and he did not intend to injure the 16-goal frontman.

“I didn’t elbow him,” said Bennett.

“If I had, he wouldn’t have got up.

“Both of us used our hands as we battled for the ball, but, as far as I’m concerned, it was six of one and half a dozen of the other.

“He made a meal of it.

“For people to say I was lucky to stay on the pitch is simply not true.

They kept getting away with murder, while we tried to play football.

“We aren’t a dirty side, but we can look after ourselves.” Boss Buxton, delighted with the victory – a seventh in eight home games to spark hopes of a late surge up the table – had to calm his men down at the break.

He admitted surprise that no action had been taken by referee John Key.

Buxton said: “Some things happened which shouldn’t have happened.

I will be talking to Gary, but I won’t fine him.

“I told him at half-time that he could have been sent off.

I don’t want to see anything like that from my players.”

Sunderland: Chamberlain, Kubicki, Ord, Ferguson (Rush 89), Bennett, Melville, Atkinson, Ball, Goodman (Smith 76), Gray, Russell. Sub: Norman

Watford: Digweed, Lavin, Drysdale, Hessenthaler, Dublin, Watson, Johnson, Ramage, Furlong (Bazeley 57), Porter, Mooney. Subs: Page, Suckling. Att: 16,479.