Sunderland 0 Coventry City 0: September 22, 1984 – Angry Sunderland boss Len Ashurst fumed at his strikers after an insipid display allowed Coventry to depart Roker Park with a point.
The Sky Blues’ run without a win on Wearside extended to six games, but Sunderland failed to maintain their encouraging early-season form, as a third successive draw saw the Rokermen slip to 13th place in Division One.
Coventry were belligerent from the start, their tactics of playing for a draw obvious to everyone in the crowd of 16,308.
But Sunderland were their own worst enemies, producing a lacklustre display of attacking intent which allowed the visitors to garner the point they sought – as the Bennett brothers, Sunderland’s Gary and Cov’s Dave, shared the spoils.
The lack of goal threat was a major concern, wrote Geoff Storey, in the Echo, who said: “It is an injustice that Sunderland and Coventry pick up the same point apiece, from this uninspiring draw, as QPR and Newcastle for sharing a 10-goal thriller at Loftus Road.
“Whether it was the pre-match rain which knocked a couple of thousand off the gate will never be known, but if many more teams attempt to follow Coventry’s example, there will be gaping gaps on the Roker terraces.
“The pattern was set from the start, with needles back passes to goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic.
Yet, when the Sky Blues ventured forward, they looked capable of claiming their first away win in 15 matches.” Howard Gayle was the one Sunderland man to show the required pace and aggression, but his efforts came to nothing, and Clive Walker was guilty of missing the hosts’ best chances.
Twice in the first half, the former Chelsea winger created an opening for himself only to finish weakly, though he was very close to a breakthrough right on half-time with a crisp volley inches over the top, with Ogrizovic beaten.
Not even the 72nd-minute arrival of super sub Rodger Wylde, the point-saving hero from the previous week’s draw at Liverpool, could help turn the game Sunderland’s way.
It was an afternoon of struggle for centre-forward Colin West, whose season’s tally was two goals – both penalties – in seven games.
Boss Ashurst was left pondering changes, saying: “I had a chat with the three strikers on the day before the game and I told them the time has come for me to put professional pressure on them for their places.
“Maybe the time has come to make a change up front.
I have five players to consider for three places up front and we have not scored enough goals up front despite our reasonable start to the season.”
Coventry’s lack of ambition matched that of West Brom in the previous home match, when Albion scrapped – in defensive style – for a 1-1 draw.
Sunderland keeper Chris Turner had a quiet afternoon against the Highfield Road men, though the visitors did have the two clearest chances of the game.
Turner pushed a low, close-range effort to keep out Brian Kilcline’s effort in the first half, then Terry Gibson missed a sitter after being set up by Mickey Gynn’s positive run from deep.
Footnote: Ashurst did make changes for the following week’s trip to Stoke, with West dropped and Wylde installed, and the alterations had an instant impact in a 2-2 draw.
Sunderland added 12 more goals in the following five games to climb to seventh – amid the foundations of the run to the Milk Cup final – but, as all fans of a certain age will remember, the league form disintegrated.
Despite a memorable 3-2 win over Manchester United in November, Sunderland managed just four more victories to slide to an ignominious relegation.
SUNDERLAND: Turner, Venison, Pickering (Wylde 72), Bennett, Chisholm, Elliott, Daniel, Gayle, West, Proctor, Walker.
COVENTRY CITY: Ogrizovic, Spring, Adams, Hibbitt (Butterworth 88), Kilcline, Peake, Bennett, Gynn, Latchford, Gibson, Platnauer.
Ref: I. Hendrick (Preston).
WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON:
* Newcastle famously drew 5-5 with QPR at Loftus Road, after being 4-0 up at half-time, and 5-3 ahead with just five minutes to go.
United had Neil McDonald, Chris Waddle (3) and Kenny Wharton on target, but QPR responded through Gary Bannister, John Gregory, a Wharton own goal, Steve Wicks and Gary Micklewhite, who notched a lastgasp equaliser.
* Middlesbrough lost 2-1 at Fulham after leading with David Mills’ 45th-minute penalty.
*Southwick SC, who had gone more than a season-and-a-half without defeat in the Sunderland and District League, surrended their record against the Jolly Potter.
Steve Alcock scored the winner when he tapped in a cross from a Graham Flaxen cross.
* In the Over-40s League, South Hylton beat Southwick 10-0 with goals from Ritchie Allan (2), Gerry Donoghue (2), Mickey Reeves (2), Lincoln, J.
Ferguson, Peter Ould and an own goal.
TV: Bob Monkhouse in Bobs Full House; The Paul Daniels Magic Show; The Noel Edmonds Late Late Breakfast Show; Anna Carteret stared in Juliet Bravo; The A-Team; Ted Rogers stars in 3-2-1; Terrahawks; Jim Bowen presents Bullseye.
MUSIC: No.1 – Stevie Wonder (I Just Called To Say I Love You); Others – Ray Parker Jr (Ghostbusters); U2 (Pride (In The Name Of Love); Sister Sledge (Lost In Music); George Michael (Careless Whisper); Black Lace (Agadoo); Bronski Beat (Why?); Miami Sound Machine (Dr Beat).
CINEMA: Harrison Ford stars in Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom; Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone; Police Academy; Barbra Streisand in Yentl; Angel; Star Trek 3 – The Search for Spock; Exterminator 2; Young Warriors.
NIGHTLIFE: Fine ‘n’ Dandy at the Farringdon Social Club; The Christie Brothers at the River Wear Social Club; Penny Charade at the Red House WMC, Double Take and R.P.M at the East End Social Club; Main Street played at the Silksworth Comrades Club.