EFFORT was not enough to see Sunderland through against well-organised Burnley at Roker Park on Saturday. It won them more of the play and a few half chances against a side which defended in incredible depth. And there was so much determination in their challenge against a superior side that with three-quarters of the game gone they looked like claiming a point to reward their courage. But with 18 minutes to go a defensive slip presented Burnley with a match-winning goal. An all-out effort to dislodge them from a winning position went close ... but not close enough.
So it is now nine games without a win and perhaps the ninth one was the biggest disappointment, because there was obvious keenness to give Manager Bob Stokoe a winning start in his new appointment. Victory over Burnley would have been a rare achievement, because they are very much the team of the moment in the Second Division, with only one defeat in 20 games. That was their target and the hope that they might make it was never allowed to die.
How did Mr Stokoe feel after his first inside view of the team? “They did not disappoint me,” he said. “They gave everything they had I thought they did well enough to get a point. I was disappointed for them and for the fans, because this was a tremendous effort against a very good team.
“I’m quite confident we can work one or two things out and get the job going well. We’ll go like a bomb in the second half of the season.
“Everyone says we need a couple of players. If we do then it will have to be players with a lot of service ahead of them, but I am not rushing into anything. Mick McGiven comes back into the scheme of things now that his suspension is over and he could make a difference.”
Did he feel any anxiety about the team’s position in the League table? “Obviously I don’t like it, but I am not worried. We are completely out of place in the bottom section. I can put things right and then we’ll prove it.”
Tonight Mr Stokoe will see his youth team in action against Hull City in a Northern Intermediate League Challenge Cup game and by the time he has watched the Reserves in action against Barnsley Reserves on Wednesday night he will have seen nearly every player on the club’s books in competitive play. Both games are at Roker Park.
There was the early warning that Sunderland would be finding it hard going against a Burnley defence in which Waldron quickly established himself as master in the air. But they developed their attacks eagerly, with Tueart and Hughes chasing everything at the front and Kerr working hard to prevent Burnley from taking too firm a grip in midfield.
After shots by Tueart had been beaten down, it looked as though Hughes was going to make the first call upon Stevenson when a pass from Malone sent him racing through the middle.
He held the ball through a couple of tackles, but was beaten by weight of numbers by the time he had reached a shooting position.
Burnley, content to play a holding game without leaning too heavily on attack, were able to weather the furious effort which Sunderland threw into their play and though they were pressed into giving away a few corners their command in the middle allowed little danger to develop.
Montgomery was the first goalkeeper in serious action, going down smartly to cover a close range shot from Nulty. He must have been relieved shortly afterwards when Fletcher beat Horswill on the edge of the penalty area, but squandered a good chance by shooting well wide.
Malone, stretching to reach the ball for a half volley when a Chambers corner was headed out, saw his shot swing wide and when he lobbed the ball into the middle in Sunderland’s next attack James, four yards from the line, headed over his own bar.
Then Tueart went on from a Chambers pass to hit a shot which bounced in front of Stevenson as he went down and he did well to get it away for a corner.
Burnley hit back to force three corners and the biggest threat here came when Waldron won a shooting position to the left of goal and saw his drive deflected for a corner.
Fletcher was booked for a foul on Hughes in 41 minutes and shortly afterwards Hughes was going through in another strong burst, only to see his shot turned away for a corner.
An indirect free kick inside the penalty area for a Docherty challenge on Tueart had Sunderland pressing forward hopefully in the early minutes of the second half. And there was appeals for a penalty when Tueart, having switched inside from a Lathan pass, was brought down by Waldron just inside the area. Lathan did not wait for the referee’s “play on” signal and his sharp drive had Stevenson diving to save.
Although Burnley had begun to show more enthusiasm in attack, Sunderland continued to chase every chance of cracking an impressive defence.
They had the crowd with them when Malone shot narrowly wide from a partial clearance and then Kerr went in from a Chambers pass to be just off target with his first-time drive.
The swing appeared to be on its way, but in the 72nd minute Collins won space from midfield for a cross which was misjudged by Horswill and when Nulty pulled the ball down Fletcher promptly hammered it wide of Montgomery
Watson was up to lead Sunderland’s fight back with a drive which was deflected for a corner and he stayed up in attack from the 75th minute when Tones, substituting for Lathan, went into the back four.
Stevenson had to hold headers from both Watson and Tones as Sunderland fought out a desperate losing battle to save a point.
Montgomery gave a good account of himself, but Watson was the strong man in a defence which had Malone at his best going forward and both Horswill and Coleman uncertain under pressure.
Kerr was the impressive player in midfield, with Porterfield and Chambers finding a lot of problems, while Lathan’s willingness to challenge at the front did not carry the same promise of penetration as the efforts of Tueart and Hughes.
In the 15 minutes at his disposal Tones shaped extremely well, both in defence and in pushing forward.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on December 4 1972.