SUNDERLAND sprang a pleasant, exciting surprise upon their supporters at Meadow Lane on Saturday, when they shook off the terrors of a near-disastrous first half against Notts County to earn a 1–1 draw and the right to fight again in a replay at Roker Park tomorrow night. It was a game of contrasting halves, with Sunderland lucky indeed to be only one goal down at half-time and County luckier still to concede only one goal in a second half which had their goal under constant siege.
The ten-minute break was the key to it. County were tickled at the prospect of easy progress and Sunderland supporters were fearing the worst. But the tactical repair job carried out by Manager Bob Stokoe worked liked a charm and the player who had the distinction of snatching the vital goal was Dave Watson, switched to his former role in attack, for a last desperate surge.
All the hesitation and misunderstandings which could have cost Sunderland so dearly in the first half dropped out of their play in the second. In the first 12 minutes Porterfield, Tueart (twice), Hughes and Kerr had all gone desperately close to give County fair warning that the order of things was changing.
Then McGiven took over as substitute for Ashurst in the 71st minute and when Horswill dropped into the back four with Watson moving into the attack the scene was set for the great revival.
From the moment that Watson popped in the equaliser, the big question was whether Sunderland could carry it right through to a winning come-back. They very nearly did and County had to thank goalkeeper Brown that there were no more breaks.
Delighted with the fighting recovery and the spirit shown in carrying it through, Mr Stokoe said “On the two halves it could not have been a fairer result. They played the better type of cup-tie football in the first half than we did and we were fortunate to be only one goal down at half-time.
“We sorted a few things out at half-time and it certainly made a big difference when Watson moved forward.
“The second half is always the one that matters. If you don’t solve your problems then the game dies on your hands. But Dennis Tueart was feeling an injury and we had to see how he went. I did not want to use our substitute too soon.
“We left ourselves stretched at the back, but we had to go for it,” he said, and paid the warmest of tributes to Montgomery for a brilliant save and to Porterfield for an important tackle in the last few minutes. But he marvelled at the save which Brown made in keeping out a shot from Hughes two minutes from the end. “They had to thank their goalkeeper for saving them,” he said.
Mr Stokoe added that he was very pleased for the large band of supporters who had been right behind the team throughout the game. “They were wonderful ... really tremendous.
Warnings that Sunderland would find problems in County’s tough, physical approach were well founded. Losing this particular battle contributed as much as anything to their disjointed effort and allowed twin strikers Randall and Bradd to pose endless problems from the service which sprang from the midfield dominance of Masson and Mann.
Sunderland’s attacking play faltered and flopped as they found themselves increasingly involved in a rearguard action against all-out attack.
There were odd glimpses of Tueart and Hughes in promising positions, but County showed all the authority and it was no surprise when they went ahead in the 29th minute.
Masson, County’s man of the match, started it with a well-judged pass out to Randall, who controlled the ball well before ramming in a fierce angled drive. Montgomery managed to push out the shot, but Bradd was handy to ram it home from close range.
Sunderland’s best move of the half came just before the break, when Hughes held the ball cleverly in a run from midfield before crossing it to find Tueart in the clear on the left. Tueart moved in quickly but his well-hit shot was gathered by Brown.
County’s poise was shattered by Sunderland’s aggressive start to the second half and a booking for Bradd after a foul challenge on Montgomery rattled them still further.
Five chances were created with Brown finding a brilliant answer to each. Then Hughes, going on from an Ashurst pass floated over a long centre and from Tueart’s header Brown dived to his left to make a fine save.
Kerr and Hughes both went close as Sunderland built up steadily for their grandstand finish, which was sparked off by the switch of Watson into attack following the substitution of McGiven for Ashurst.
They drew inspiration from Montgomery’s save of the match when he dived back along his line to make a brilliant one-handed save after a fierce Bradd header had flashed past him.
This came in the 78th minute and one minute later Tueart, wide on the right to receive a well-judged ball from McGiven, put over a great centre and Watson, timing it better than Needham, went up to send a powerful header well out of Brown’s reach.
Neither side settled for a draw and there was a lot of stirring action in the last ten minutes, with Sunderland going nearer to a win at first attempt.
Apart from Montgomery, who was in great form throughout, and odd individual flashes, Sunderland had little to commend them in the first half. They were denied space and could do little about it, while Tones and Watson were hard pressed to hold County’s towering strikers.
It was a different story when the odd rhythm returned in the second half. The Watson switch was the decisive kick, but before that Hughes, Tueart, Kerr and Porterfield were up to peak form and though Malone continued to have trouble with Carter, the defensive action was firmly controlled by Watson, Tones and Bolton with Horswill and Ashurst taking a stronger grip in midfield.
F.A. CUP (Third Round): Notts County 1. Sunderland 1.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on January 15 1973.