SUNDERLAND’S title dream died with a heartbreaking defeat at Huddersfield, leaving Portsmouth on course to retain the First Division championship.
The defensive problems which had hampered their bid for a first crown in 14 years showed up again, as hosts Huddersfield handed out a 3-1 beating – a costly third successive loss.
The Football Echo headline – “They’ve had it!” – said it all.
Sunderland, who had gone top two weeks previously, finished the game by slipping to fifth place, three points behind Pompey with just two matches to play. The three goals conceded meant that their goals against record was better than just five of the 22 top-flight teams.
It left Argus pitying keeper Johnny Mapson, and laying the blame at the door of Jack Stelling, Arthur Hudgell and Billy Walsh, the back three.
Argus moaned: “The covering simply did not exist and when Walsh was beaten down the centre there was only Mapson to beat. No one even stopped opponents challenging Mapson.
“No club which seems simply to depend on its forward line getting more goals than its defence loses can possibly be regarded as a championship side.
“Manager Billy Murray was on a scouting mission in a southerly direction. If they are going to buy a centre-half, nothing but a top-notcher can do much to help their defence.”
Huddersfield were in front after just 10 minutes at Leeds Road, Smith putting Taylor through to leave the visitors’ defence all at sea, with the centre-forward driving past a helpless Mapson.
It was 2-0 on 33 minutes, when Nightingale was felled by Hudgell inside the penalty area and Metcalfe convincingly beat Mapson from the spot.
Sunderland instantly pulled one back when Tommy Reynolds snapped up a pass to beat keeper Mills from close range, but Huddersfield quickly regained their two-goal advantage, McKenna sending over a teasing cross and Stelling criminally missing a header back to the keeper, allowing a surprised Metcalfe to smash home unimpeded.
Sunderland’s chances of a recovery were not helped by a jarred knee sustained by Len Shackleton, which forced a major reshuffle in the days before substitutions.
Argus commented: “Huddersfield were fighting for vital points to make themselves safe, but no one could have imagined, from Sunderland’s display, that there was a championship at stake.
“They just about touched rock bottom in every department, with the exception of goal. There was hardly a single Sunderland forward who had penetrative ability.”
H Argus began his Football Echo report by detailing the discomfort of an unusual view, given the recent gutting of Huddersfield’s main stand by fire.
He wrote: “This was the first time in my career that I had to bring my own desk to a football match. As a result of the destruction of the Huddersfield grandstand, I viewed this match writing on my knees from the scoreboard box at one end of the ground, and my viewpoint was through one of the openings in the front, where the numbers are put up. The front stand was completely gutted.”