Sunderland’s point against such odds was fine performance
IT is uncommon to find the odds stacked quite so high against any team as they were against Sunderland at Leeds Road on Saturday, where opportunity was encouraged to knock for Huddersfield Town. A team with less character and resolution would have folded in such circumstances, but to their credit – and the delight of their large following – Sunderland defied a string of adversities to claim the point which was their due in a 1–1 draw.
The scales of justice were weighted so heavily against them that their chances of survival hardly seemed worthy of consideration. It was bad enough in the first 20 minutes, when Huddersfield, leading by a sixth minute goal, looked good enough to stay on top. But it was not until Sunderland had broken their grip and were going at them in lively fashion that the bad breaks began to flow.
There was an element of luck about Porterfield’s 20th minute equaliser, but it was strictly against the collar from then onwards. The cheers for the goal had hardly died away when McGiven, who had earlier been the victim of an over-the-ball tackle which left him limping, was booked for showing dissent over the award of a free-kick.
Then just before the break, Lathan hammered in the best-looking goal of the game from a Kerr pass only to be ruled offside.
The most controversial decisions which could well have had a killing effect were still to come and Lawson, the former Middlesbrough player, was a central character in both incidents. A spectacular dive when tackled by McGiven led to the Sunderland player being ordered off in the 63rd minute and 12 minutes later Lawson was diving again over a Horswill tackle to gain a penalty award.
With Sunderland already down to ten men, that looked like the end of the road, but inspiration to believe that the game could still be saved – or even worse – came when Montgomery, diving to his left, made a brilliant save from Gowling’s kick.
Ten minutes from the end, the referee could not ignore the one-way nature of the strong-arm tactics any longer when Lyon sent Watson hurtling on to the track with a dangerous tackle and he had no option but to book the centre half.
But when the defence was repeated shortly afterwards there was only the mildest rebuke and the referee saw neither intention nor violence in the Hutt challenge which sent Tueart over the track and into the wall in the last few minutes.
Maybe Sunderland should count their blessings to come through such a serious injury, though the sending off of McGiven was a heavy enough blow, It could have been much worse and they were understandably furious over the way the game had been controlled.
In these days of official assessors and confidential reports, this surely could not have been an average performance by Mr T W Dawes, of Norwich. I have not seen anything so bad for years. That could be counted a biased view, of course, and bias no doubt accounts for the impression that Huddersfield had been specifically excluded from the “clean up soccer” campaign.
Under such circumstances, one point was a notable triumph. It proved, if proof was necessary, that Sunderland have grit to go with their skills and since it extends their unbeaten away sequence to four games and keeps them up to one point a trip, they are still firmly on course for promotion this season.
Although Huddersfield were able to exert the greater pressure of the 90 minutes, there was an even break on goal-scoring chances, with Sunderland always ready to break quickly out of defence. Indeed, they were to be feared most when they were down to ten men and might well have snatched a winning goal in the last few minutes.
They were near to doing so when Watson headed on for Tueart, who was chopped down from behind when going clear two yards outside the penalty area.
Hard-won chances were squandered by both sides and it was ironic that neither of the goals was of great quality.
Huddersfield struck first in the sixth minute. Ashurst had halted Gowling firmly in one attack but then the centre forward came again on the wing, he was able to win space for a cross. Chapman snapped up the ball two or three yards outside the penalty area to hit a firm shot which Montgomery never looked like reaching.
Sunderland’s equaliser came when Watson sent the ball back to Porterfield on the left and his drive into the middle looked to be well covered. But Lyon failed to intercept and with Pierce and Pugh leaving it to each other as Kerr ran in, the ball travelled on into the net.
Manager Alan Brown could not have asked for more from any of his players. They all fought like heroes and, after a difficult first quarter, contributed much of the game’s brightest football.
Kerr’s endless store of energy and inventiveness was a big factor in midfield, where Porterfield and McGiven put all-out effort into their specialist roles. Malone was an exciting performer, too, with determined challenge in defence and a lot of hard running and support in attacking positions.
But perhaps the greatest satisfaction must come from the display given by teenagers Horswill and Ashurst. It was a grim ordeal for them to cover the centre of defence in such a game, but they came through with flying colours. Ashurst proved a match for Gowling and Horswill’s general coverage was of the highest standard.
Montgomery’s claim to fame on the day rested on a good deal more than the brilliant saving of a penalty kick, for he came under a lot of direct pressure, while Coleman took on a full load and acquitted himself well.
Praise, too, for Tueart, Watson, and Lathan, who absorbed a lot of punishment and still kept on fighting to force breaks. And when Hughes took over from Lathan in 66 minutes he showed himself just as willing to take the knocks and keep on trying.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on September 25 1972.