IN VIEW of the fact that they were together again for the first time in five games, it was perhaps not surprising that Sunderland’s Cup Final heroes were a little short of rhythm in their 1–0 win over Blackpool at Roker Park on Saturday. They needed the work-out and Manager Bob Stokoe, who had said he wanted to have the full side out so they could start gearing up for Wembley, could be well pleased with the overall performance.
It would be remarkable if the Sunderland players were completely unaffected by the knowledge that the coveted Wembley appearance is only a week away. A play-safe attitude in tight situations must come easily enough to a player looking ahead to the Cup Final. But there has been no excess of it within the Sunderland team and there were several occasions on Saturday when onlookers were astonished by the risks which Sunderland players were prepared to take.
Sunderland are indeed prepared to hang back with Wembley in view, then this can be construed as another tribute to their potentiality as a side, for they have been “hanging back” in seven games played in three weeks since their Semi-Final victory over Arsenal .. and have won five of them.
Mr Stokoe would have welcomed the chance of giving them another full-scale work-out in competitive play against Orient at Brisbane Road tonight. This was his intention, but the 65th minute injury which took Tueart out of Saturday’s game and the injuries suffered by Montgomery and Porterfield will lead to changes.
Leeds United had Sid Owen at Saturday’s game carrying out another vetting mission. He cannot have found it a very rewarding occasion, though it was never easy to assess the full quality of a team which is prepared to do more than enough to win.
Blackpool, who have been in the leading group throughout the season, should not be denied credit for the capable manner in which they took up Saturday’s challenge. They made a fight of it from the start and, after they had fallen behind early in the second half, they never gave up hope of saving at least one point.
The big opportunities which fell to them were open goal chances. The first came in the opening minutes, when Suddick shot wide, and the second near the end when Tully shot tamely wide from a few yards. They had two goals disallowed for offside and both were such fine decisions that one had to be well-placed to judge them.
But if Blackpool looked capable and methodical, Sunderland always appeared to have more flair and resource, even though these were not on constant show.
Blackpool maintained their challenge well in midfield and mounted their share of attacks, too, but they seldom managed to trouble Montgomery, who provided the biggest scare when he went over on an ankle and had to receive attention. This was the injury which keeps him out of tonight’s game.
The need to go at the opposition a little harder had clearly been stressed to the Sunderland players when they took up the running again in the second half. Within seconds Wood was diving to make a fine save from Tueart and did well to grab a neat flick by Hughes which sent the ball past him from a low Kerr pass.
The match-winning goal was not far away. This came when Porterfield placed a low pass through the middle and as Blackpool defenders hesitated in the vain hope that he might be offside, Hughes broke clear to crack home a right foot shot from the edge of the penalty area.
This could have been the signal for Sunderland to step up their play on a broad basis. Perhaps it would have gone that way if they had not lost the services of Tueart in 65 minutes, when he was fouled by Bentley, who was booked for the offence.
Halom and Hughes kept on fighting at the front, but there were to be no more breaks.
The only good chance still to come fell to Blackpool, when Hardcastle, who had substituted for the injured, Suddaby from the 70th minute, beat Guthrie on the right and hit an accurate centre. Montgomery dived out, but could only palm the ball to Tully at the other side of goal and the youngster pushed it wide of an open goal.
Although Watson and Pitt appeared in the early stages to be showing signs of their three-game absence from competitive football, they adjusted quickly enough and with Malone and Guthrie already in full stride, the back four quickly took on an impressive appearance.
Kerr had an extremely good first half in midfield and kept up the challenge well, but Porterfield, back again after recovering from injury, was rather less convincing, while Horswill’s game was a marked improvement upon his outing against Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.
Though they only had one goal to show for their efforts. Sunderland’s strikers Hughes, Tueart and Halom all showed flashes of the form which is going to worry Leeds United on Saturday.
In the crowd
A spectator in the crowd at Roker Park where Sunderland beat Blackpool 1–0 on Saturday was nine-year-old Alan Smith of Wilson Terrace, Silksworth.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on April 30 1973.