EXCITEMENT and big-time atmosphere returned to the Roker Park scene last night, when a 30,000 crowd spurred Sunderland on to a 2-0 triumph over Notts County in an FA Cup (Third Round) replay.
It was a fast and furious battle from start to finish, with Sunderland always having the edge, but kept waiting until the 54th minute for a brilliant Dave Watson goal to set them on their way to victory. And the goal which assured them of a place in the Fourth Round was delayed until the 90th minute, when Dennis Tueart’s initiative cracked a tiring defence.
Sunderland now wait for the outcome of tonight’s Reading v Doncaster Rovers tie, postponed from Saturday, to know who they will be entertaining in the Fourth Round on February 3. And if, as seems likely, Roker supporters turn out again in the same heart and voice, then they can feel that the waves of enthusiasm which they so desperately need are ready to reward the kind of offering which was made last night.
As in Saturday’s game at Meadow Lane, County were at their best in the first half; worrying Sunderland with their tight marking and using their twin strikers Randall and Bradd to pose problems to the home defence. But they were never on top at any stage, part from a 35th minute burst which should have given them the first goal of the game.
Saturday’s pattern continued in the second half, with Sunderland taking increasing command. And though from the chances created they could well have claimed a much more decisive win, two goals were a satisfying reward.
Manager Bob Stokoe was delighted with the performance of his side and the tremendous atmosphere created by a helpful Roker crowd. “This was a great night for the lads and for the fans. Again we did not do too well in the first half, but the second half always matters most and we solved it all then.”
He paid warmest tribute to the readiness of Watson to take on any role in service of the team. On this occasion Watson wore the No. 5, but went straight up into attack and led the line with enthusiasm and skill until the 83rd minute when he dropped back into a defensive position to safeguard the lead which he had established with a great goal.
There were anxious moments following the Tueart clincher in the 90th minute, for hundreds of young supporters swarmed on to the pitch and police joined in a the frantic effort to clear the area for the game to continue.
With the commitment of Watson to attack, Sunderland declared their intention of going at County from the start and both Kerr and Hughes had forced promising situation before an eight minute sequence which had Sunderland onlookers worried.
Bolton, pushing forward on the left, tried one of his blockbusters just outside the penalty area, but had the ball blocked at his right foot. A quick break by Nixon from the clearance had Horswill moving across to challenge and he was brought down. Both Bolton and Horswill were down needing attention and the County trainer had to come to Billy Elliott’s assistance.
Both were able to continue, but Horswill’s brave and resourceful play put him in line for further punishment which was eventually to take him out of the game.
Watson and Tueart were both off target from good positions and then Hughes, after making a strong break on the outside of Ridley paced a left foot shot within easy reach of Brown.
A quick break by Randall looked dangerous after he had beaten Horswill in cutting in from the right, but his drive into the middle was headed away by Tones.
A Horswill tackle on Carter conceded a free-kick at the edge of the penalty area and Masson was much too close for comfort with a fierce drive which just cleared the bar.
County gained their first corner in the 27th minute and Nixon’s kick was firmly headed away by Malone. When they came back again with Carter beating Malone to move the ball inside, Nixon shot narrowly wide.
Then came County’s purple patch after Kerr had lost possession midfield. Close range shots by Bradd, Randall and Carter were all beaten down before Mann headed behind. This was a lucky escape for Sunderland.
In the early seconds of the second half, Nixon raced away on the right to bring a diving save from Montgomery, but pressure was soon mounting at the other end.
Kerr and Malone exchanged passes in covering a lot of ground and Kerr’s cross was headed over the County bar by Needham. Porterfield’s kick was headed behind by Bradd from another corner.
Then in the 54th minute came the important break. Porterfield won the ball in midfield and passed in through on the left, when Kerr allowed it to run on to Watson. There was still a lot to be done, but Watson, taking on the defence himself, raced to the edge of the penalty area before slamming a right-foot shot which flashed across Brown inside the far post.
Malone, Tueart, McGiven and Hughes all went close as Sunderland pressed for the make-sure goal, but there was danger in leaving themselves stretched at the back and with seven minutes to go Watson replaced Tones.
Both trainers were on again after Horswill and Tueart had been injured and with three minutes to go Lathan came into the game as substitute for Horswill.
With only seconds of normal time remaining, Kerr played the ball though the middle and with Needham hesitant after intercepting, Tueart stormed in to whisk the ball goalwards and it travelled past Brown to go in off the foot of a post.
The referee allowed four minutes extra time to cover stoppages and though County looked a spent force, Randall still managed one threat with an off-target header from a Nixon cross.
Sunderland: Montgomery, Malone, Bolton, Horswill (Lathan), Watson, Tones, Kerr, McGiven, Hughes, Porterfield and Tueart.
Notts County: Brown, Brindley, Worthington, Masson, Needham, Stubbs, Nixon, Randall, Bradd, Mann and Carter.
Referee: Mr J Rice of Preston.
Attendance: 30,033 (£13,280)
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on January 17 1973.