SUNDERLAND’S 1-0 triumph over Orient at Roker Park on Saturday may not take high rating on entertainment value, but from their point of view it was a valuable exercise with, perhaps lasting benefits. This was the sharpest reminder of how tough and relentless the negative away-from-home team can be in the Second Division and they adjusted so capably that after the first quarter they were in a commanding position.
Striking the match-winning goal took a little longer and there was a lot of frustration as they tilted at a massed defence, which allowed a minimum of time on the ball and punished dalliance with sharp and vigorous challenge. Waiting for the break-through was a nerve-wracking experience for the onlooker with a Sunderland interest but it came with ten minutes to spare and there could be no denying that justice was served.
Orient were so intent upon spoiling for a point that they seldom allowed themselves the luxury of an attack in real strength. Bowyer and Downing, who use the wings well in an attacking pattern, were loaded with defensive responsibilities and it was ironic that Bowyer should give away the free-kick which led to Sunderland’s winning goal.
Unfortunately, there will be a lot of this sort of thing to come at Roker Park and it is to be hoped that Sunderland will be able to meet this challenge with the same resolution as they displayed on Saturday.
They should be well and truly tuned up before this theory is put to the test, of course, because they will be playing only one of their next five games at home.
Their next outing at Roker Park will be on Saturday week, then they are due to entertain Swindon Town, but before then they will visit Brighton and Blackpool and afterwards they will be away to Stoke City in the Football League Cup, followed by a visit to Millwall.
There are obvious disadvantages in such an unbalanced programme, particularly since they will be facing though tests on their travels, but there is a lot to be said for coming under these kinds of pressures at the start of a season. Fighting against odds can help to shape the pattern of their play,
There reaction to the type of challenge which Orient were going to press was certainly prompt enough on Saturday. Straight from the start, after the ball has been passed back, Porterfield dallied long enough to be bounced off it. Then Harris, Rofe and Bullock provided further examples of how tough it was going to be.
The advantage which Orient appeared to be gaining disappeared when Sunderland began to hit back. With McGiven, in a determined frame of mind, leading the way. The surge which was to give Sunderland a decided advantage in the balance of play started from that point and though punctuated by the odd break-out by Orient, was never checked.
With Watson leading the line intelligently and Malone providing an attacking bonus with a series of powerful sorties into the danger area, the trial of strength with a reinforced and extremely capable Orient defence became the standard pattern of the game.
Half chances were made and missed by Lathan, Porterfield, Tueart and Kerr, with Watson going close with headers. Then Porterfield hammered in a right foot shot which crashed against the bar and just before the break Kerr hooked in a fierce shot which brought a brilliant save from Goddard.
The all-out assault continued in the second half, first with Porterfield, Tueart and Watson combining to lay on a chance for Lathan, whose shot was well saved by Goddard, and then with a powerful shot by Watson, which was turned away for a corner.
During a quick Sunderland break from the clearance of an Orient corner, Harris pulled Kerr back to prevent the Sunderland skipper from going clear and was promptly booked.
There was an anxious moment when McGiven appeared to be hurt in delivering a solid tackle, but Hamilton’s warm-up on the track proved to be premature. He did eventually go into the game in the 64th minute as substitute for Lathan, but not before Kerr had shocked Goddard with a swerving drive after a corner had been turned to him.
Impatience over failure to translate so much command into goals had sections of the crowd disturbed, but the pay-off was not long delayed. When Tueart moved on the left he was brought down by Bowyer and Kerr went out to take the kick. Watson and Pitt challenged in the middle and it was Watson who nodded the ball down for Tueart to slam a right-foot drive through a massed defence.
Orient had to come out then and they did so with great determination, but without being able to apply the vital touches in front of goal.
The extent to which Kerr, Porterfield and McGiven were able to dominate the midfield was the biggest factor in keeping Sunderland on the attack. Watson produced a lot of great touches at the front and though, along with Tueart and Lathan, he found it a hard and punishing task at close-quarter with a no-nonsense defence, he battled on bravely.
Pitt had a tough time of it, too, against the hard-hitting challenge issued by Bullock, and his task was not helped by the fact that the referee was distinctly one-side in spotting the offences in this tense battle.
Star performers in the rear section were Horswill and Malone, though for different reasons. Horswill was the model defender working tirelessly and confidently to provide cover, while Malone turned on his attacking flair to shape a lot of opportunities for his team-mates at the front.
Bolton had first to overcome a certain diffidence in dealing with the type of opposition with which he was confronted, but when he settled down to his game he was well on top of his job.
For Montgomery it was a comparatively easy afternoon, with his mot anxious moments coming in the last few minutes.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on August 21 1972.