LAWRIE McMenemy’s half-time roasting helped turn Sunderland’s fortunes around – after a first-half performance described as “a disgrace” by Echo writer Geoff Storey.
The day was memorable solely for a magnificent double from full-back Alan Kennedy, who rose to the occasion as acting captain to save the day for the Rokermen against Bob Stokoe’s visitors.
Carlisle, adrift at the bottom of the Second Division, were on the brink of an upset success, with Storey commenting: “The half-time roasting dished out by manager Lawrie McMenemy could go a long way to save Sunderland from crashing into the Third Division for the first time in the club’s long and proud history.
“Make no mistake about it, Sunderland were a shambles and a disgrace in the opening period, when Carlisle gave them the runaround and but for the upright could have been two goals ahead and very much in the driving seat.”
The Cumbrians had two former Sunderland players in fine fettle – Jackie Ashurst as dependable as ever in central defence, with Storey commenting: “It remains a mystery why he was ever allowed to leave in the first place”, while John Cooke caused problems up front.
Cooke looked to have won a penalty under a challenge from David Corner, but made such a meal of it that the referee waved his appeal away.
Cooke also hit the post in the 10th minute, and the woodwork again came to Sunderland’s rescue again eight minutes before half-time when Andy Hill’s header went behind off the outside of the upright.
Incredibly, despite the paucity of Sunderland’s play, it remained goalless at half-time, but Kennedy, fired up by McMenemy’s strong words, gave Sunderland the lead three minutes into the second half.
The former Liverpool defender popped up on the right wing and cut inside before hitting a fierce, left-foot drive just inside the post, despite being surrounded by Carlisle players.
Dave Swindlehurst was close to a second goal before Carlisle deservedly levelled on 58 minutes, with a helping hand from the home defence, who failed to take the chance to clear.
Cooke gained possession to find former Roker trialist John Halpin, whose low cross was steered home by Scott McGarvey from close range, though keeper Bob Bolder did get a hand to it.
Sunderland got lucky when Paul Atkinson blocked an Ian Bishop shot, and Gordon Armstrong cleared, just as Lomax looked to apply the finishing touch.
Cooke had another penalty claim turned down, after appearing to be felled by Reuben Agboola, but Carlisle were ahead from the resulting corner. the ball went back out to Halpin, and the left-winger’s centre was flicked home, via the post, by Bishop.
Sunderland, though, spared their blushes with a 79th-minute leveller, with Kennedy again on target.
Mark Proctor’s cross was headed out by Ashurst and Kennedy pounced to send a magnificent 25-yard first-time drive into the net before impressive keeper Endersby could even move.
Though a dismal day all round for the hosts, it was at least memorable for Kennedy, who said: “I only once scored two goals for Liverpool in a match, and that was a European Cup tie about four years ago when we were already four up.
“The last time I scored was in my last match for Liverpool – in my own goal against Oxford – but I don’t think I have ever scored a better one than the second against Carlisle.
“The boss had a right go at half-time, at certain players, and I was one of them. We went out with a different attitude and were never second best.
“We were a disgrace in the first half – we allowed them to dominate and it should have been all over, but, in the end, it could have gone either way.”