SUNDERLAND staged another second half take-over to come up with a heartening win over Millwall at Roker Park on Saturday before the biggest League gate of the season. And though the 22,781 onlookers, most of them with a Sunderland bias, may not have been entirely suited to the standard of play throughout the 90 minutes, there could be no denying that on chances alone Sunderland were worthy of their win.
Manager Bob Stokoe’s views on match patterns, expressed some weeks ago, were fully borne out here. “The second half is always the one that matters most” he said. “If you can’t sort things out then, the game dies on your hands.” This was the line of action which Sunderland followed, for after a first half in which defensive requirements were given top consideration, an extra man was thrown forward in the second to pave the way to an early goal and the promise of more to follow.
Millwall, on a revival course themselves, were an efficient side, particularly in defence. Whether they would have looked quite so efficient if John Hughes had not been brought down by Burnett after 30 seconds and left to struggle with a knee injury for the rest of the game is a matter of conjecture.
Under different circumstances, the Sunderland new-comer might not have finished the game, for there was a good case for taking him off. Mr Stokoe, thought so, too, but big John did not want drop out of his debut game and, with the dual handicap of pain and limited mobility, was allowed to stay on the to the finish.
Had he not been Cup-tied, a different decision might have been taken. But there must be a chance that the knee, considerably swollen after the game, will be cleared up in time for him to return for the next League game which could be at home to Carlisle United tomorrow week or against Sheffield on Wednesday at Hillsborough on Saturday week.
It was for him a disappointing debut in several respects, but there will be other opportunities for him to convince the Roker crowds that there can be a much more telling contribution from the power and experience which he brings to the attack.
Though Sunderland played their game only in snatches and were at times reduced to the role of ball-watchers as Millwall swung it around with disconcerting ease, there was still a lot of excitement, with Tueart and Billy Hughes taking leading parts.
Tueart’s eye for position and his enthusiastic challenge wins him a lot of shooting positions. On this occasion there was only one goal to reward his efforts and a brilliant assist for the second goal. This takes him to the top of the Sunderland scoring list with eight League and Cup goals, but that will seem like a modest output if he ever finds an outlet for his full potential.
Billy Hughes shows the same enterprise and there were several occasions in this game when he deserved better luck with brave efforts.
Kerr at his best in the second half, when the Sunderland attack won greater freedom, kept up a running challenge and had the satisfaction of driving home the goal which ensured that it was going to be a winning fight.
There was a lot to like about Porterfield’s work, but the top performer in midfield was Horswill, who became a big factor in the second half after acquitting himself well in defence in the first.
This was Horswill’s best performance in this area. There was a big pay-off from his ball-winning ability, because he used it quickly and without fuss.
Commanding figures in defence were Watson and Young, with Watson turning in a top-class performance and Young sweeping quietly and efficiently. And there were several Millwall players, who, quick to use physical advantage, were given sharp reminders of how determined Young can be when he means to reach the ball.
Guthrie, making his home debut and, like Young and John Hughes, still working at a settling in process, showed that he has a lot to offer, too. His defensive work is sound and he obviously enjoy going forward in much the same way as Malone, who would have had Millwall in a lot of trouble if he had been able to apply the right finishing touches to some bold running.
Montgomery won his major honour with a brilliant save from a Steve Brown header in the second minute. That was probably the most important save of the game, but there were other reminders of how well Sunderland are serviced in this position.
Apart from the early threat by Steve Brown, the better chances fell to Sunderland in the first half. Kerr had King diving to the foot of a post to save a 15-year drive, a deflected drive by Billy Hughes was pulled down under the bar by the Millwall goalkeeper, Tueart shot into the side-netting following a Billy Hughes challenge, and Tueart headed over from a chip by Kerr.
Millwall rarely moved up in strength and their nearest approach to a break came when a Bolland run through the middle was halted by a Malone tackle.
Millwall had to revisit their ideas from the 49th minute when Tueart, with characteristic dash, swooped as a Sunderland attack faltered on the edge of the Millwall penalty area to go in and slam a left-foot drive past King.
Wood should have had Millwall on level terms when he lifted a right wing cross over the bar from six yards and they appeared to have claimed their equaliser when Burnett rammed home a fine drive from 20 yards. Both Dumphy and Bolland were breaking into offside positions as he shot, however, and the referee decided to disallow the goal. This was a big relief for Sunderland and brought heated protest from Millwall.
Still chasing their make-sure goal, Sunderland were near again when Tueart shot inches wide after a great break on the right by Horswill.
But in the 80th minute the goal was duly claimed, with Guthrie taking a return pass from Porterfield in a deep defensive position before reaching Tueart with an accurate pass. Tueart switched inside and then made a slick reverse pass which had Kerr going through in the clear to hit a right-foot drive which glanced off King’s out-streteched foot into the net.
Yet Sunderland still had to live though an anxious finishing spell in which Montgomery saved well from Steve Brown and there were goal-line saves by both Guthrie and Horswill following corner-kicks.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on January 29 1973.