Sunderland 3 Birmingham City 0 – April 18, 1981
Mick Docherty made a magnificent start to his four-match reign as caretaker-manager as Sunderland swept away their relegation blues with a resounding victory over Birmingham City at Roker Park.
And amazingly it was Tom Ritchie, after a 10-game run without a goal, who was the Roker hero with a brilliant hat-trick.
Two goals in a 10-minute spell midway through the first half put Sunderland in the driving seat and when Stan Cummins was brought down by Sunderland-born Kevin Dillon, Ritchie rounded off the scoring from the penalty spot.
Victory took the Wearsiders up a place to 16th in Division One, and they finished in the same position thanks to a last-day win at Liverpool.
Shaun Elliott and Mick Buckley returned to the Sunderland side after recovering from injury, with Docherty moving Elliott into midfield.
Gordon Chisholm and Gary Rowell stood down aftert three successive defeats.
Before the teams came out, the crowd chanted “Ken Knighton’s Red and White Army” to express their feelings on the dismissal of the manager earlier in the week.
Chants were also directed against chairman Tom Cowie.
Birmingham won a corner with just over a minute gone when Joe Hinnigan deflected Ian Handysides’ cross from the line, but Sunderland quickly broke and almost took the lead.
Alan Brown looked lively and found Cummins, who moved the ball on to Elliott.
The England B international rode two tackles and, when his shot was blocked, Kevin Arnott lifted the rebound over the top from close range.
Seconds later, it took a timely interception by home left-back Joe Bolton to prevent Keith Bertschin from getting in a close-range shot.
Blues keeper Jeff Wealands had to dive out bravely at the feet of Cummins, and then denied Ritchie, pushing a header over the bar.
Arnott twice failed to beat the Birmingham rearguard with delicate chips before the visitors broke quickly through Alan Ainscow. His cross, although met by Dillon, was flicked aimlessly for Elliott to clear.
Sunderland took the lead in the 28th minute with a superb goal.
There appeared to be no chance of Ritchie finding his way though a packed Birmingham defence, but he turned to strike a brilliant 20-yarder that left Wealands groping as it flashed just inside the upright.
Poor control prevented Archie Gemmill from snatching an immediate equaliser, after he had broken through on the left, but it was not long before the home fans were cheering again.
Mick Buckley split the Birmingham defence for Brown to accelerate down the right and his cross was turned in from close range by Ritchie.
The second half almost opened in sensational style, with Brown trying to go it alon. When he lost possession, Ritchie promptly slipped the ball through for him. It took a brave save at his feet by Wealands to prevent Sunderland from going further ahead within five seconds.
The Sunderland goal had an amazing let-off in the 49th minute when Bolton misjudged his header to leave Tony Evans in the clear. When he elected to pass instead of having a go himself, Handysides came rushing in to blast the ball over the top from the six-yard line.
Two minutes later, Sunderland should have wrapped it all up only for Ritchie to head over the bar.
Ritchie was not to be denied his hat-trick though.
Dillon brought down Cummins to concede the penalty and the Scot made no mistake, taking a run from well outside the box before sending Wealands the wrong way in the 78th minute.
Sunderland: Siddall, Hinnigan, Bolton, Hindmarch, Allardyce, Elliott (Rowell 79), Arnott, Buckley, Ritchie, Brown, Cummins
Birmingham City: Wealands, Langan, Broadhurst, Dillon, Van Den Hauwe, Todd, Ainscow, Evans, Bertschin, Gemmill, Handysides. Sub: Lees