Retro SAFC: 1977 – Arnott, Rowell team up to end barren Sunderland run against Millwall

Roy Greenwood congratulates Kevin Arnott on his goal against Millwall in 1977
Roy Greenwood congratulates Kevin Arnott on his goal against Millwall in 1977
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Sunderland 2 Millwall 0 – October 15, 1977: Sunderland were never at their best, but manager Jimmy Adamson was heartened by a Roker Park victory over Millwall – ending the club’s run of eight Second Division matches without a win.

The Wearsiders had slipped to fifth bottom spot, having failed to win for almost two months going into Millwall’s visit.

Kevin Arnott drives in a shot against Millwall in 1977

Kevin Arnott drives in a shot against Millwall in 1977

Though Sunderland struggled to get out of first gear, they still did enough to send the Lions home to London without a point.

Adamson told the Echo: “The performance was not as important as the result.

“We desperately needed to win this one to bring back confidence and flair.

“I think it could do just that.” No doubt the pressure played its part in Sunderland’s nervy display, especially after a bright start did not bring the reward of a goal – Mick Henderson going closest with a fierce 20-yard strike which forced a superb save out of Nicky Johns.

Roy Greenwood takes on the Millwall defence in front of the Clock Stand in 1977

Roy Greenwood takes on the Millwall defence in front of the Clock Stand in 1977

But, as anxiety increased among the 22,000 crowd, the home side finally made the breakthrough midway through the second half.

Wilf Rostron’s persistence was the key factor in the opening goal.

He refused to give up on a ball which looked destined to go behind for a goal-kick, chasing it down and stabbing over a first-time cross, low and hard, into the middle.

Though Millwall had defenders back, the ball travelled through to Kevin Arnott, who forced his far-post shot over the line, despite the valiant attempt of impressive goalie Johns to keep it out.

Sunderland threaten the Millwall defence

Sunderland threaten the Millwall defence

Rostron was also involved in the killer second goal eight minutes later.

The home-grown Wearsider sent over a corner – won when Johns made a fine save to keep out a Roy Greenwood header – and Jackie Ashurst headed on for Gary Rowell to sidefoot past the helpless keeper.

Greenwood won praise for his efforts.

Argus wrote in the Echo: “There was further confirmation for the Sunderland manager’s belief that Greenwood, a player right out of the running for consideration three months ago, has, in three games, played himself into an important position in the scheme of things.

Sunderland go close against Millwall in 1977

Sunderland go close against Millwall in 1977

“He had a hand in a lot of Sunderland’s best work, helped to create the position which led to the first goal, and went close on two occasions.

“More than that, though, he linked up well and gives extra pace to an attack which struggles quite a bit on that account.” Victory was a big boost, but it was still a worrying time for Sunderland, who had been installed as pre-season promotion favourites following their excellent second half of the previous First Division relegation campaign.

Deputy manager Dave Merrington went on record, saying: “We haven’t got a squad yet capable of getting us into the First Division.” Argus commented: “It’s a valid assessment.

With a quarter of the season gone, the league table indicates that they are six points from a promotion position and only two points clear of the relegation zone.

“That is precisely where they belong on the season’s form so far.” The Millwall win did spark Sunderland into life, the first of four victories in five games, but 1977/78 was a dismal campaign, brightened only by an impressive late run of five wins in the last six games to finish the season in the unlikely heights of sixth – albeit a chastening 12 points adrift of Tottenham, promoted in third place.

SUNDERLAND: Siddall,Henderson, Bolton, Kerr, Elliott, Ashurst, Rostron, Arnott, Greenwood, Lee, Rowell. Sub: Holden.

Millwall keeper Nicky Johns makes a spectacular save to deny Sunderland in 1977

Millwall keeper Nicky Johns makes a spectacular save to deny Sunderland in 1977

MILLWALL: Johns, Donaldson, Walker, Brisley (Seasman 75), Kitchener, Hazell, Hamilton, Pearson, Alexander, Murphy, Chambers.

Ref: Trelford Mills (Barnsley) .

Att: 22,181.

WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON?

* Newcastle were beaten 3-2 at Manchester United.

Steve Coppell, Jimmy Greenhoff and Lou Macari put United in total control, but the Magpies fought back with goals from Micky Burns and debutant Dennis Martin, who netted with a super left-foot half-volley from 25 yards.

* Boro drew 0-0 at Chelsea, Tony McAndrew and Graeme Souness going closest for Boro.

* Malcolm Poskett scored as Hartlepool drew 1-1 at Southend. Tommy Gibb and Dick Malone starred for Pools.

* Usworth, the unbeaten Sunderland C.I.U.

League leaders, maintained their goalscoring form by beating Silksworth Comrades 5-2 with goals coming from John Tinney (2), Vin Clements, Kevin Murray and Peter Leonard.

They had now scored 28 goals in eight games.

ENTERTAINING WEARSIDE

TV: Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul starred in Starsky and Hutch; The Basil Brush Show; The Dick Emery Show; Dad’s Army; William Franklyn and Jenny Lee Wright appeared in The Masterspy; Bamber Gascoigne preesented A Question of Faith.

MUSIC: No.1 – David Soul (Silver Lady); Others – La Belle Epoque (Black Is Black); Baccara (Yes Sir I Can Boogie); Danny Mirror (I Remember Elvis Presley); Rod Stewart (You’re In My Heart); The Emotions (Best Of My Love); Elvis Presley (Way Down); The Stranglers (No More Heroes); Meco (Star Wars Theme); Patsy Gallant (From New York To LA); Ram Jam (Black Betty).

CINEMA: Monty Python and The Holy Grail; The Spy Who Loved Me; Dangerous Game; Exorcist 2: The Heretic; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Charles Bronson and James Coburn starred in The Streetfighter; Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson appeared in A Star is Born.

NIGHTLIFE: The Mayfair and Genevieves, Newcastle Road, held a progressive night with Radiator appearing on stage, which featured former Lindisfarne member Alan Hull; Flyer appeared at the Doxford Park Social Club; Whispering Wind performed at the Southwick Social Club.