STAN Cummins grabbed a debut goal to help inspire Sunderland – and relished a new midfield role.
The £300,000 arrival had only lined up front for former club Middlesbrough, but he took to his new surroundings in sensational style as the Rokermen produced an outstanding all-round performance to send Notts County packing.
After he sealed Sunderland’s win with a decisive third goal, Cummins – who dropped a division to join the Red and Whites – told the Echo: “I have just realised what I’ve been missing all this time through playing up front.
“It was great coming through from midfield. Right now, I am delighted to be with Sunderland.”
The team display was a big boost to boss Ken Knighton, who was on the brink of completing a £450,000 swoop for Argentinian Claudio Marangoni.
Though fit-again forward Pop Robson took top billing for his well-taken double, Knighton hailed the influence of Cummins alongside Mick Buckley and Kevin Arnott in Sunderland’s midfield.
He said: “He is an exciting player with good speed, skill and technique. I have spent a lot of money on someone who could become one of the best players in the North East.
“He enjoyed playing in midfield and that could be his future role – it is something we will have to think about it.
“I was very pleased with the overall performance.
“Conditions were very difficult, with the ball swinging about in the wind, but we played extremely well.”
Argus, writing in the Echo, was impressed with Cummins, too, but reserved special praise for Buckley and Robson.
He wrote: “Buckley, always a busy and brave player, made a big impact with his strong running and ball-winning in a midfield set-up which was probably the best they have had for a long time.
“Buckley had a hand in most of the attacking moves and went at the opposition with such zest that his enthusiasm was reflected in every other position.
“Robson chose the occasion to stage a return to the goalscoring habit which he enjoys so much and makes him such a valuable player.”
Defender Jeff Blockley missed a good chance for an 11th-minute Notts goal, somehow heading Gordon Mair’s cross wide from close range.
Cummins had a shot cleared off the line by Richards, with keeper Avramovic well out of position, before Sunderland grabbed a 40th-minute opener.
Buckley surged forward on the left and had his cross forced behind by Stubbs for a corner, swung in with precision by the influential Kevin Arnott, from which Robson nipped in smartly at the far post.
Robson notched again five minutes after the break – but he had to “score” twice. Defender O’Brien clearly handled a Barry Dunn centre, but Robson smashed the ball home, only for the referee to insist upon a spot-kick. Robson coolly converted for a 2-0 lead.
Then came Cummins’ big moment, as he picked up Alan Brown’s pass, sidestepped challenges and bypassed the keeper to tuck home a tremendous goal.
Don Masson headed home a McCulloch cross to give Notts hope two minutes later.
The former Scotland man fired a free-kick over the bar in the visitors’ best chance to further cut the deficit, but Sunderland were deserved winners.