SUNDERLAND assured themselves of a happy atmosphere for their approach to the big FA Cup task at Manchester City at Maine Road by storming to a handsome victory over Middlesbrough at Roker Park on Saturday. It was the right kind of tonic and it could not have come at a better time, with a burst of three goals in five minutes early in the second half added to their first half goal to make it a conclusive 4-0 victory.
Points are important and Sunderland needed these to ease the strain of their not-too-happy position in the lower reaches of the Second Division. With this success came a big boost to confidence as they gear themselves for an all-out effort against City on Saturday. “We have nothing to lose and an awful lot to gain at Maine Road,” says Manager Bob Stokoe, who was delighted with the way Sunderland players expressed themselves after a half-time pep talk. City manager, Mr Malcolm Allison, on a spying mission in the stand, was suitably impressed, too.
But Mr Stokoe does not allow the issues to overlap. “Saturday was great” he said “but next Saturday is another day. It will be entirely different for us then. This is going to be a good week and it could just be a great one.”
It was Middlesbrough’s misfortune to be on the receiving end of such a hiding in a second half which had Sunderland fulfilling the promise which Mr Stokoe made for them shortly after he had taken over that they would go like a “bomb” in the second half of the season.
They had no warning of the decisive swing which was to come, for despite a well-taken goal by Horswill – his first since stepping up into League football – this slender lead was often at risk. And Middlesbrough perked up so strongly in the game’s second quarter that there was real danger of them taking over. It took a few well-chosen words by Mr Stokoe at half-time to inspire the effort which whipped Sunderland into match-winning form.
In the end, dispirited Middlesbrough had to be thankful that the goal count stopped at four, for Halom, who kept up that Roker tradition by making a scoring debut, Hughes, Tueart and Horswill were all close to further goals.
Prestige Value has too often made Wear-Tees “derby” games tough, slogging occasions in the past and this could well have been another in that vein on the evidence of the first half.
The first goal threat was posed by Middlesbrough, when Madden placed a powerful header from a Cragg’s free-kick just inside a post and Montgomery went down to make a fine, one-handed save.
Great work by Watson, capably assisted by Pitt, kept a firm grip on the twin menace of Hickton and Smith, but beyond a Halom pass which sent Hughes away on the left and had Platt covering up desperately as Kerr met the centre, Sunderland did not press home their attacks with any conviction.
Then in the 25th minute, Hughes broken again on the left and when his centre was pushed out by Boam, Horswill stormed up to crack a 25-yard drive and Platt, whose view was obscured by Boam, moved too late to reach it as it flashed inside the far post.
There was not the expected inspiration from this goal, however, and Middlesbrough, with McMordie, Smith and Craggs spurring them on, worked up to a level which gave them a slight edge in the last few minutes before the break.
And during this build-up they twice appealed confidently for penalties, without gaining any encouragement from the referee.
Sunderland’s take-over was launched in the early minutes of the second half, when they pushed up to force three corners and cause a lot of confusion in the Middlesbrough defence. Then they turned on an exciting flow of attacking football and within five minutes it was all over for Middlesbrough.
First in the 53rd minute, came Halom’s goal, which started with a throw from Montgomery to Malone, who played it through to Halom. Taking a return pass from Hughes, Halom went on to make space for an angled drive across Platt’s body and just inside the far post.
Two minutes later, Hughes was in a defensive position when he played the ball down the line for Porterfield, who moved it on to Kerr. By the time Kerr had the ball under control, Hughes was alongside to take an inside pass and go on to slam a right-foot shot wide to Platt.
The final blow fell when Kerr lined up the chance for Tueart to unleash one of his power-drive specials which Platt had no chance of reaching.
The closest of several further scrapes for the Middlesbrough defence came when Halom headed against the bar and a Tueart drive went behind from a post.
It was an extremely satisfying occasion for Sunderland and their supporters and while there were several outstanding performances, with Watson leading the hit parade, the player who received the biggest boost was Halom, who broke the ice on his home debut with a well-taken goal.
In every sense, Halom looks like another bargain buy by manager Bob Stokoe. He had the all-round attributes of a top-class centre forward and they were all on show in this game.
Guthrie’s sound defensive qualities have proved a big factor in a general tightening up in defence, while both Pitt and Malone gave good service, with Malone still adding forceful touches to his play.
Kerr, Horswill and Porterfield hit a new high as a midfield combination in the second half take-over and the dazzling play of Tueart and Hughes was the highlight of an attacking spectacle which promises to be repeated again and again.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on February 19 1973.