SUNDERLAND wanted nothing more than to start the new season on Saturday with a win ... and a “derby” win over Middlesbrough at that. But they let themselves down badly by falling away from a level of form which had earlier demonstrated that they were good enough to win. In the end the Ayresome crowd cheered a 2–1 victory for Boro and there could be no denying that it was well-deserved, because they ran Sunderland off their feet in the last half hour.
The illusion that Sunderland were going to give themselves and their supporters a much-needed boost lasted no longer than 33 minutes. At that point they were one up and looking good. The McGiven, resentful over what he considered to be an injustice by the referee after a sharp brush with McMordie, showed dissent by throwing the ball away and was promptly booked. They lost their lead following the free-kick which marked McGiven’s indiscretion and thereafter Middlesbrough boomed at the same rate as Sunderland declined.
Level for half an hour and behind for the last 25 minutes Sunderland supporters must have felt that there was always the chance of grabbing a game-saving goal. Indeed, when Tones going on as substitute for Hamilton with 11 minutes remaining, had stumbled through the early minutes of his first taste of League football he twice went close first with a header and then with a shot.
One goal should not be too tall an order, but there was never a great deal of encouragement for the belief that Sunderland were going to break back into a commanding position. In the vital closing stages when they should have been piling on pressure, they had lost their “legs” and, instead, were given a demonstration of how it should be done by Boro’s hard-running youngsters.
Dave Watson’s absence, because it was decided not to risk him so soon after his recovery from an ankle injury, may have accounted for a general lowering of standard in attack but it excused nothing. Boro were without their leading striker, John Hickton, who was starting a three-game suspension but that did not appear to apply the slightest brake upon their attacking play.
Tueart who promised more than he fulfilled and Kerr were the pair who lasted longest in the chase to turn the tide of events. Tueart went close once or twice and gave good service to the middle including the pass which opened up the Middlesbrough defence for the first goal. Kerr tried to breath life into a midfield section which had lost much of its drive before the game was halfway through.
But the task of lifting this Sunderland side back to a more acceptable like of play was beyond them. There is always a game or two like this every season and Sunderland should perhaps be pleased that they got this one out of their systems on the first day of the season.
McGiven and Porterfield were the disappointments. In the first half hour there was no brighter pairing in the game. McGiven was the ball-winning expert taking on everyone with an easy confidence and Porterfield’s happy knack of shaping attacks quickly from midfield were big features of the early play which had Roker supporters looking hopefully for a decisive win.
But McGiven stopped winning the ball and Porterfield’s running tapered off dramatically. When the job goes wrong in midfield everyone suffers and this was a day on which no one could should an extra burden.
Certainly Lathan and Hamilton had so much trouble of their own against a no-nonsense defence that they needed better support than they received. And the player who suffered most in defence was Bolton who too often was placed in the impossible position of taking on two opponents. Yet Bolton gave a good account of himself and was certainly more prominent in overlapping moves than Malone on the other flank.
Although there was one or two anxious moments Pitt could feel that things had not gone too badly for the fact that Boro’s No. 9 chalked up both of their goals was not entirely Pitt’s responsibility.
But there were no reservations on the performances of either Horswill or Montgomery, who were both in excellent form.
Montgomery was particularly safe in picking out high balls into the middle, while Horswill’s close and effective marking nipped a lot of dangerous moves in the bud.
I liked Horswill for his self-control on the many occasions when he was provoked by on or two Middlesbrough players who invited retaliation by barging and pushing when the referee’s attention was focused elsewhere. Horswill was level-headed enough to take it all in his stride and get on with the game. This in itself is an indication of the extent to which this impressive young player has matured since he took over the Martin Harvey role last season.
The game itself was a joy-day for deputies, for all three goals were scored by stand-in centre forwarded. 18-year-old Malcolm Smith celebrating his first full game for Boro by cracking home the match-winning pair.
Porterfield helped to create the chance from a Tueart pass for Sunderland’s opening goal in 21 minutes. His attempted break was checked, but the ball ran loose for McGiven to try a shot and when the ball rebounded Lathan stepped in just ahead of Hamilton to ram it home.
Boro’s equaliser was shaped from the free-kick which followed McGiven’s booking. McMordie’s kick was headed out to Maddren, who hooked the ball back into the middle, where Smith hit a close range shot which Montgomery could only palm into the roof of the net.
The winning goal in the 65th minute was better-designed goal altogether. Stiles slipped past a Bolton challenge to send the ball on to Smith, who took a well-timed return pass from McMordie in his stride and close in along the line to prod the ball home between Montgomery and the post.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on August 14 1972.