SUNDERLAND have to fight all over again the battle to stride over Reading into the Fifth Round of the F.A. Cup. This was the astonishing outcome of one of the most one-sided second halves seen at Roker Park for years. They pounded away at a tightly-packed Reading defence without being able to force a scoring break and when Lathan finally got through during injury time there was the disappointment of having the goal disallowed on a linesman’s signal after the referee had been prepared to let it stand.
There is a balance to be struck somewhere between good defence on Reading’s part and Sunderland’s failure to cash in on chances created by inventive approach. But if Wednesday’s game allows the same pattern, then Sunderland must be rated the hottest of favourites to win through, because, it is inconceivable that so much pressure will again be unrewarded.
Sunderland could hardly avoid a sense of disappointment over their failure to make it a win at first attempt. This was their target, though they did not really begin to chase it until the second half, after looking not a great deal better than their Fourth Division rivals in the earlier period.
When the difference in status eventually began to show, however, Sunderland emerged as the much better equipped side. The Elm Park setting may add considerably to Reading stature, but after what they went through on Saturday they will surely be prepared to regard Sunderland’s challenge with the greatest respect.
Manager Bob Stokoe, though hopeful that his hard-working side would clear this obstacle at first attempt, was not at all despondent afterwards. “A lot of teams lost today,” he said “but we’ve got another chance and we have everything to look forward to. I do not think our finishing was all that bad. One has to give credit to their goalkeeper who had a magnificent game.
“I think our supporters saw a great tie. We really opened them up in the second half and created chances galore. With a bit of luck we could have saved ourselves this extra game, but we are still in there fighting.”
A goal in the early minutes might have spared Sunderland and their supporters much of the anxiety which gnawed at them for most of the first half. The chances of a quick break-through were there, but Hughes, Porterfield and Kerr all had shots saved by Death, later to become the hero of Reading’s rearguard action.
Kerr suffered for his enterprise, because after making his shot he was tackled by Habbin and the injury which he received was to take him out of the game in the 77th minute, when he was replaced by Ashurst.
Montgomery dived out bravely to Bell’s feet when Reading pressed home a strong attack and then a free-kick for handling against Young enabled them to press again and force a corner on the left.
Cumming’s first kick should have been a warning. He made it an inswinger to the near post, where Malone edged in front of Chappell to head behind. The second kick was identical, but this time Chappell was clear and his backward pass was over the line when it was booted by Watson, with Montgomery arriving too late from the far post.
This goal came in the 13th minute and set Sunderland in search of an equaliser.
This looked to be on its way when Kerr produced a brilliant touch by lobbing the ball over Youlden’s head and going after it to pin-point an accurate pass to Guthrie, who had raced through in anticipation at the other side of goal. Guthrie’s powerful shot was cleared from the line by Dixon and Guthrie’s follow-up drive cleared the bar.
A 25-yard drive by Porterfield had Death diving to the foot of a post to make a fine save and Sunderland were near again when Tueart was pulled down by Barry Wagstaff just outside the penalty area. Kerr sent the kick wide for Malone to hit a rising shot just over the bar.
Then in the 38th minute Lathan’s persistence won the ball from Hulme and Hughes stepped in to centre. The ball was returned to him and he crossed again. This time Death, backing away to the far post, got both hands to the ball but could not hold it and Tueart rammed home the equaliser.
Indications that Sunderland were quickening their attacking game were confirmed in the early minutes of the second half and Malone was unlucky not to shoot them into the lead with a fierce shot from the angle of the penalty area which crashed against the underside of the bar and was promptly driven behind for a corner.
Tony Wagstaff went off injured in the 54th minute and was replaced by regular defender Butler, with Sunderland’s pressure mounting all the time. Tueart and Hughes linked on the right for Death to pull down a Tueart shot from under the bar and then it was Hughes and Lathan, hemmed in by defenders, making desperate effort to get the ball moving goalwards from a goal-front pile-up.
Dixon headed narrowly wide off his own goal from a Horswill cross and Tueart skilfully wriggled past three defenders for Hughes to touch the ball on to Porterfield, who shot wide, Tueart was back again from a Horswill chip only to see Death pull his drive down from under the bar.
The tempo quickened again when Kerr went off and Ashurst moved into the back four with Watson switched into attack. Death made great saves from Tueart and Hughes and watched a Horswill drive go narrowly wide.
Corner followed corner as Reading fought desperately to keep the ball away from goal and after the Lathan goal had been disallowed Death was in action again gathering a header from Watson.
The referee allowed five minutes extra time to cover injuries and stoppages, but for all their effort Sunderland found that it was not long enough.
Watson, Tueart and Hughes were the outstanding performers for Sunderland, with Watson spreading his talented effort over the full 90 minutes.
Young gave an excellent account of himself in defence and both Malone and Guthrie worked tirelessly to add impetus to attacking moves.
The midfield industry of Porterfield and Horswill was not always productive, with Horswill running into a lot of trouble.
Lathan, too, had little to show for his non-stop effort, though he did have the satisfaction of winning the ball for the move which produced the equaliser.
Kerr had his bright moments, although labouring under a handicap, while Ashurst had little opportunity to warm up with so much of the action at the other end of the field.
Montgomery has the quietest of games, for apart from a call or two in the first half he was virtually a spectator. Indeed, the second half was half an hour old before the ball was pushed back to give him his first touch.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on February 5 1973.