BILLY HUGHES became the last of Sunderland’s five casualties against Oxford United last week to obtain clearance for this afternoon’s game against Luton Town at Roker Park. It was not until shortly before the game that manager Alan Brown announced that Hughes was fit and would hold his place in an unchanged side.
Luton, who have several fine performances to their credit away from home this season, decided to field the team which dropped a home point against Blackpool last week.
There were about 15,000 present when Luton won the toss and Sunderland started the game attacking the Fulwell End.
Both goalkeepers were soon in action picking up long back-passes, but the first determined break-out of mid-field was staged by Sunderland, with Kerr winning possession on the right and Hughes hitting a long ball to Tueart on the other wing.
When Tueart charged down the clearance and went through to centre, Lathan headed against the foot of the near post and Barber had an anxious time before he brought the ball under control.
A foul on Porterfield by Halom gave Sunderland a chance of making progress from a mid-field free-kick, but Slough won possession after Faulkner had challenged Watson.
Porterfield showed up in Sunderland’s next attack with a right foot shot which went narrowly wide and then a Faulkner foul on Watson in mid-field had Sunderland back again. Horswill took the kick and sent the ball just wide of goal on the left where Faulkner headed behind for a corner.
Barber failed to gather the kick and in the desperate scramble to gain possession Kerr was there first, but his shot was within reach of Barber who was still on the ground.
When Sunderland came back again Porterfield was fouled just outside the penalty area.
A shooting chance was set up for Tueart from the free-kick and his drive was turned inches wide by Barber.
Luton made a good break on the left with Aston sent clear by Fern and from his centre Halom directed a powerful header well over the bar.
Lathan looked to be in with a chance when pulling down a Tueart centre, but his shot on the turn was blocked as the ball left his foot.
Malone’s determination in challenging for a cross created a promising situation, but the full-back’s centre was intercepted and there was a further push on the left before Luton gained relief from a free-kick.
An Aston foul on Malone just inside the Sunderland half gave Sunderland a free-kick which Malone directed well outside the far post for Watson to get in a header which had Barber going down smartly to save just short of the line.
Kerr showed up well in Sunderland’s next attack, creating an opening and then going through for a return from Watson.
Luton went ahead in the 25th minute when a poor clearance by Ashurst was picked up in midfield and Anderson set an attack in motion with the ball being floated over to the right of goal. Montgomery moved across his goal and a lazy looking header by HALOM dropped just inside the post at the other side of goal.
Sunderland had a lucky escape shortly afterwards when Horswill and Ashurst failed to clear a long ball down the middle and Montgomery rushed from his line to dive at Busby’s feet and block his shot.
Fern followed up to chip the ball towards an open goal and it was Sunderland’s good fortune that Coleman was able to get back on to the line and clear.
There was quite a lot of uncertainty in the Sunderland defence at this stage, but Luton were unable to turn it to advantage.
Barber pulled down a Watson free kick after Watson had been fouled by Faulkner.
Then in the 34th minute Luton went further ahead when a cross from the left found Halom in a lot of space at the other side of goal. When he was challenged he touched the ball into space for JIM RYAN to cut in and slam a fierce shot wide of Montgomery.
There was another close call, when a misunderstanding between Horswill and Montgomery nearly presented the ball to Busby just inside the penalty area.
Sunderland managed to get the ball in the Luton net, headed there by Tueart after Watson had headed on a Kerr throw, but it was disallowed for an infringement.
Two corner kicks followed and then came a free-kick for a foul on Tueart, but Watson was off target with his header from Kerr’s kick.
In the 40th minute Slough was lectured and “booked” for a foul on Watson when the Sunderland centre forward was going through on the right. From the free-kick Lathan headed narrowly wide.
Luton had a lucky escape when Lathan pulled down a through ball but was tackled and brought down as he turned. The ball rolled on towards the line and with Lathan and Watson joined in the charge by three defenders the ball was scrambled away.
Sunderland should have pulled a goal back on the first 20 seconds of the second half when Watson headed on a Montgomery kick and Tueart intercepted cleverly as John Ryan moved to the ball. Tueart went clear with only Barber to beat, but his left-foot shot was wide.
After Aston had been checked for offside, Sunderland built up another attack with Watson holding the ball through two tackles before hitting a right-foot shot from 20 yards which had Barber diving along his line to save.
There was another close call immediately afterwards when the ball was played wide to Tueart for Watson to get in a close-range header which rebounded from Barber and was cleared by Thomson.
All this action on front of the Luton goal in the first few minutes promised well and Sunderland kept it up, with Lathan forcing a corner on the right. Luton, however, still managed to look much more dangerous on the occasional break and after offside had checked one of their attacks they came back to gain a free-kick just outside the penalty area for a Horswill foul on Jim Ryan.
Anderson took the kick and his well directed lob was turned over the bar by Montgomery.
A Faulkner foul on Watson had Sunderland moving again but Watson was caught between two defenders when Malone’s kick reached the middle.
When Aston broke on the left Luton had three men up waiting for the cross which was blocked by Montgomery.
A strong run by Hughes was halted at the expense of a corner and after this had been cleared Sunderland hit back to force two more corners, but still without troubling Barber.
There was eventually a call upon Barber, however, when Faulkner misjudged a long ball by Coleman and Watson headed on for Lathan who brought Barber diving out to his feet to prevent a shot.
In the 75th minute Luton brought on Hindson as substitute for Aston.
Most of the action continued to be in the Luton half but there was a reminder of Luton’s menace when they carved out a goal chance but failed to turn it to advantage.
Busby was clear with Montgomery out of goal, but the centre forward completely missed the ball in his shot at an empty net and three chances were missed before the ball was scrambled away.
Then Sunderland pushed up again to force a corner on the right and once again Watson saw his powerful header blocked on the line.
Luton was near again when good work by Jim Ryan created panic in front of goal and when the ball was forced out to Anderson his well-hit shot was just over the top.
Sunderland should have pulled one goal back when Hughes cut in strongly from the wing to hit a powerful shot which was forced out to Porterfield whose follow-up shot was well over the bar.
SUNDERLAND: Montgomery, Malone, Coleman, Horswill, Ashurst, Porterfield, Hughes, Kerr, Watson, Lathan, Tueart. Sub: Hamilton
LUTON TOWN: Barber, Ryan (John), Thomson, Anderson, Faulkner, Slough, Ryan (Jim), Fern, Busby, Halom, Aston. Sub: Hindson
Referee: Mr G Hill (Leicester)
HOW THE GOALS CAME
HALOM 25 min.
JIM RYAN 34 min.
SUNDERLAND had no excuses to offer for this defeat. They had possession and chances on a big scale, but Luton were good enough to claim two goals from a minimum of chances.
There was uncertainty in the Sunderland defence which created a lot of anxiety and though the ball was moved forward to ensure that most of the second half play was in the Luton half, clear-cut chances were few and far between and the best of them were squandered.
The character of this game leaves Sunderland with a lot of problems.
Story taken from the Football Echo on October 14 1972.