Goal-front failings keep Sunderland waiting for success

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WHEN Sunderland are able to accept a modest proportion of the scoring chances which they are good enough to make, they will string together convincing victories over most of their Second Division rivals. The goal-rush should have started on Saturday, when they went to Hull City with tremendous zest, much to the delight of the smallest Roker Park crowd of the season (11,141). But the end product was only a single goal, brilliantly scored by left back Coleman, and Hull City snatched a lucky equaliser ten minutes from the end to take one point in a 1-1 draw.

Not for the first time this season, both at home and away, Sunderland outplayed the opposition without being able to translate command into goals. Enthusiastic effort, liberally spiced with attacking skill in every position, is their distinctive trade mark and it was on show in good measure. But when the time came for the play-off punch they found the breaks going against them through a combination of desperate though often lucky defence and their own wild finishing.

City’s player-manager Terry Neill shared the popular view that Sunderland deserved to come out on top, though his natural bias showed through when he said: “I thought the result should have been 10-8”. Still, his concession that Sunderland might well have reached double figures was realistic enough in view of the amount of pressure applied on the City goal. And it was still mounting when the game ended.

The result means that City retain their distinction of being unbeaten at Roker Park in League play, having won on their three previous visits. And it also had the effect of extending Sunderland’s sequence without a win to seven games.

The manner in which this latest victory chance eluded them does nothing to discount the believe that on their current form Sunderland are out of place in the lower reaches of the Second Division. But the fact that they are just two bad results away from the bottom position is real enough and anxiety will persist until they can add scoring power to their determination to succeed.

They will find it tough going in their next two games, which brings a visit to Bristol City followed by a home game against League leaders and promotion favourites, Burnley.

City had the edge in physical power and they used it to advantage in the early stages. Their hard-running twin strikers Pearson and Holme demonstrated why they are attracting so much attention from other League clubs, including Newcastle United, who had two representatives at the game.

The first real chance of the game fell to Holme, who headed over following a free kick against Coleman. But Sunderland were quickly on their way to punching gaps in the City defence.

Wealands made the first of his many fine saves when Kerr, taking a free-kick after Chambers has been pulled down at the edge of the penalty area, tapped the ball between Porterfield’s feet for Tueart to move in and crack a right-foot drive. Then Watson headed on a corner and Lathan’s back-header seemed bound for the net, until Beardsley popped up to head over.

The scoring break came after 25 minutes when Coleman and Porterfield exchanged passes and the ball was crossed to Chambers at the far side of goal. Chambers promptly lobbed it back into the middle and after it had been headed on, Coleman hammered in a half-volley which Wealands had no chance of reaching.

Malone, who had made two strong runs which broken down through fouls, through mainly because he was attempting too much, made the well-judged pass out of defence which looked like setting Sunderland on their way to a second goal. An even better down-the-wing pass by Kerr had Lathan turning smartly for a clear run on goal. His 35-yard sprint carried him right in, but by the time he was ready to try a shot Wealands was diving on to the ball.

A string of four corners in quick succession followed and the best effort from these were produced by Watson, whose header was cleared from the line by Kaye with Wealands beaten.

Just before the break, Butler was well placed on the left, but this shot struck Horswill and lifted over the bar.

In the early minutes of second half, City twice had to resort to strong arm tactics against Tueart and then Hughes, but there was the reminder of how dangerous they could be when a Knighton free-kick rebounded to Lord, whose powerful drive was brilliantly saved by Montgomery.

Hughes was booked, apparently for dissent, after Holme had forced a corner against challenges by Watson and Malone.

Sunderland pressing eagerly for the second goal to kill off City’s hopes, were near to it when Hughes touched on a Lathan pass for Tueart to shoot wide.

Then Tueart beat an offside trap by going through to send a strong shot against Wealands and Kerr, following up, saw his shot turned away for a corner by Banks. When Wealands failed to cut out the kick, Lathan was offered a good chance at the far post, but sent his header over the top.

City’s desperation mounted and though Banks was unlucky to be booked for a tackle on Lathan, Beardsley’s tackle on Tueart certainly looked a bookable offence.

Next came Sunderland’s great chance to jump further ahead, with Hughes chipping the ball over from the left to give Chambers a clear sight of goal, but he snatched at it to send his drive over the bar.

Within seconds City were level. Horswill sliced a clearance and the ball was picked up by Lord and pushed to McGill, who hit a strong shot from the edge of the penalty area. Montgomery had the original line covered, but the ball was twice deflected before it flashed past him into the net.

Tones took over from Chambers as Sunderland began their all-out drive for a match-winning goal. Kerr, Lathan, Tueart and Watson all went close and Tueart had a shot headed over by Banks. With last kick of the game. Malone sent a shot against the bar, but the whistle had sounded before the moment of impact.

There must still be some uncertainty about whether Watson has most to offer in attack or defence in the present Sunderland side, but there could be no doubting the excellence of his work on Saturday. Not only in defence, where his anticipation and coverage were first-class, but also in pushing forward to prompt and support attacks.

Malone, Coleman and Horswill all improved upon their substandard effort at Carlisle, while Porterfield and Kerr gave excellent service from midfield, with Porterfield the more effective player.

Chambers was again caught up in a lot of indecision which at time had him giving the ball away.

There was a lot of strong determined running by Hughes and Lathan’s challenging play often promised reward, but Tueart emerged as the striker with the brightest approach in front of goal.

Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on November 20 1972.