Sunderland defence rocked by Brighton’s fighting come-back

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SUNDERLAND gave themselves a great start to the first game in a five-match sequence which allows them only one appearance at Roker Park when they played brilliant attacking football to take what appeared to be a decisive 2–0 lead in the first half against Brighton at the Goldstone Road ground on Saturday. Two goals, capably snatched by John Lathan were a modest reward from the chances created, still looked good enough to keep them in a command position.

Both teams were cheered from the field at half-time to put emphasis upon the quality of entertainment provided. They were cheered again at the finish, but this was an expression of delight that Brighton had been able to stage a fighting comeback with only eight minutes to go, claim the equaliser which brought them a totally unexpected point. In the closing minutes both goalkeepers made five saves to keep out shots which were good enough to have proved match-winners for either side.

Losing their grip on a winning position after playing so well was a big blow to the Sunderland players. Another awaited them when they prepared for their long coach journey back home after the game, for they found that a mob of teenage vandals had stoned the coach as it approached the official entrance and one of the large side windows was shattered. There was a lot if discomfort on the eight-hour trip before they arrived back on Wearside.

Two blows, then, and each was a chilling experience on different counts. But perhaps the one which bit deepest was realisation that they had failed to meet the desperate, physical challenge of a team which had nothing to lose and, with the backing of a fanatical crowd, found the spirit to keep on fighting.

The loss of control in midfield, so marked earlier, and the build-up of anxiety in defence were the main contributions to Sunderland’s falling away from the high standard they had set. They would never have found themselves in this position if they had managed to accept a bigger share of the chances which they created when the game as running so heavily in their favour. But they left themselves open and proof of whether this is a habit for which they need an urgent remedy will surely come when they face a much more severe test against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road tonight.

The ease with which Sunderland took charge in the first half, based on the excellent work of Watson, Kerr, Porterfield, and McGiven, always promised to shape a convincing win. There was, however, a brake upon their effort and it was never relaxed throughout the 90 minutes. This was an offside trap which Brighton operated doggedly, clumsily, and yet so successively that there could never be any doubt about it being well worth their while.

Sunderland had no answer to it and many of their attempts to attack in strength were trapped, often in midfield by their failure to read the situation. The number of occasions on which they were caught out ran well into double figures ... and there was not a single instance of a solo break to beat the trap.

McGiven, booked for a late tackle on Howell in the 60th minute, could count himself unfortunate in view of the type of tackles which the referee allowed to pass without comment. Certainly the knee-high tackle on Malone and a particularly severe foul on Lathan were of a much more serious nature. And to cap it all, Tueart was booked for tapping the ball about two feet to the spot from where he believed the kick should be taken after a free-kick had been signalled against Malone.

Montgomery, who had a splendid game, made one of his most important saves in the early minutes, when Irvine went clear on the middle. A scoring break then might well have set Brighton right up on their toes.

Instead, the first strike came at the other end in the eighth minutes. Coleman sent a long ball down the left wing to Watson, whose centre reached Tueart outside the far post. He forced the ball into the middle for Lathan to place a header well out of Powney’s reach.

Five minutes later, after Watson had gone close with a strong header, Sunderland were back for their second goal. Kerr laid it on by beating Howell on the right and moving in along the line before driving the ball into the middle. Tueart was wrong-footed at the far post, but the ball came back from him to be stabbed home by Lathan.

Watson and Tueart both went close before Lathan was only inches away from completing a “hat-trick” with a header which travelled just wide with Powney well beaten.

There was an occasional call upon Montgomery, but with Horswill in fine form Brighton gained few opportunities to get back into the game.

In the second half, when Brighton were playing down the pronounced slope, they showed sufficient improvement to stir up the crowd and, becoming tigerish in their play, they began to exert fierce pressure on the defence.

From the moment when Murray hammered in their first goal from the angle of the penalty area in the 62nd minute there was the warning that this frantic effort, if maintained could save the game for them. They managed to do it, too, though they first had to survive the shock of goal-worthy efforts by Kerr and Watson.

Pitt was repeatedly harassed into errors and the steadying influence of Horswill was not enough to stem the tide. But there was an element of luck when Irvine snatched the equaliser from a Lutton pass in 82 minutes, because Montgomery had the original line of the shot covered, but the ball was deflected off Pitt at close range and the goalkeeper was helpless.

In the last two minutes Mongtomery saved brilliantly from an Irvine header and Beamish shot wide of an open goal. But the final fling fell to Sunderland with Porterfield going through to hit a right-foot drive which brought a desperate diving save from Powney. There was scarcely time to take the resultant corner before the game ended.

Coleman, having his first competitive outing of the season, gave a good account of himself in place of Bolton. He timed his good use of the ball out of defence.

Like most of his team-mates, Malone was at his best in the first half. This applied to Pitt too. Montgomery and Horswill were king-pins in defence from start to finish.

There was a lot to like about the work of Porterfield, who played a big part in imposing first half command, while McGiven’s challenging play was an important factor in this period.

Kerr and Watson pushed themselves hard all the way through, but the swing in pattern took much of the effectiveness out of the work of Tueart and Lathan, while Hamilton’s introduction as substitute for Tueart seven minutes from the end came too late to make any impact.

Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on August 28 1972.