Sunderland face toughest test so far

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SUNDERLAND, aiming to make this their promotion season, will face their toughest home test so far tomorrow afternoon, when they take on a strong and experienced Sheffield Wednesday side at Roker Park. Indications are that these sides, relegated together two years ago, will be leading contenders for a return to the First Division.

Unlike Sunderland, whose financial situation has prevented them from recruiting costly talent to boost their drive, Wednesday have been able to spend freely in putting together a team of considerable quality, made up mostly of players who had established themselves with other clubs.

It is against this kind of opposition that Sunderland must prove their entitlement to a place in the front rank and, if they can reproduce the flow of attacking play which embarrassed Millwall at The Den last week, they can prove themselves before their own supporters.

Visiting sides are normally too intent upon game-spoiling tactics to worry about the drop in entertainment value. Roker Park crowds have suffered a lot in this respect and the weight of criticism usually falls upon the Sunderland team.

Tomorrow should be different. Wednesday favour attacking play both home and away and if they decide to keep it open then the Roker crowd will see Sunderland turn on the kind of form which has impressed onlookers away from home.

While Sunderland have been able to work at the task of preparing for tomorrow’s game without hindrance, Wednesday have not been so fortunate. The thigh injury which took Scottish international Willie Henderson out of last week’s home win over Portsmouth makes him a doubtful starter and it now seems unlikely that Peter Swan, on duty again after the rescinding of a life ban, will be able to hold his place in the back four.

He has been undergoing treatment for a back injury and though no decision has yet been taken, Swan does not fancy his Chances of being ready in time.

If Swan has to stand down, this could mean a recall for Colin Prophett, who is currently on the transfer list.

With Manager Derek Dooley’s final decision still awaited, the probable line-up is:

Sunderland: Montgomery, Malone and Coleman, Horswill, Ashurst and Porterfield, McGiven, Kerry, Watson, Lathan and Tueart. Substitute, Hughes

Sheffield Wednesday: Grummitt, Rodrigues and Clements, Swan (or Prophett), Holsgrove and Craig, Henderson (or Sunley), Eustace, Joicey, Prendergast and Sissons

Sunderland supporters will take particular interest in the home debut of 17-year-old Jackie Ashurst, whom they have seen develop steadily in the youth and Reserve sides. He will have a tough assignment in coping with Wednesday’s hard-hitting leader Brian Joicey, a North Shields player who arrived at Hillsborough via Coventry City.

This will be an intriguing contest, but the game as a whole promises to provide a lot of excitement.

Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on September 15 1972.