Sunderland 3 Bristol Rovers 2 – November 24, 1979
Sunderland did just enough to guarantee a winning finish to Billy Butterfield’s 29-year stint as Argus, the Echo’s football writer.
Billy – who had taken over the Argus byline from Jack Anderson in 1950, bade farewell to Roker Park on a positive note, though visitors Bristol Rovers fought back gamely from a three-goal deficit to go close to snatching an unlikely Second Division point.
Three magnificent goals in the first 42 minutes had the Roker crowd purring, but Rovers, so subdued in the first period, got huge encouragement from a strike early in the second half and went on to make life tough for their hosts, though Sunderland still carved out a host of chances.
Kevin Arnott was the driving force in Sunderland’s midfield, Argus’s man of the match despite another impressive display from recent signing Stan Cummins.
Argus enthused: “Arnott has the power to control the pace of the game and so rarely wastes a pass.
“One sure sign of class was the manner in which the opposition showed their respect for his genius.
“He laid on so many chances for his team-mates and was unlucky not to claim a goal for himself with a tremendous shot, which the goalkeeper saved so brilliantly.”
Shaun Elliott made the eighth-minute breakthrough with a left-foot piledriver, after Pop Robson stabbed a Mick Buckley free-kick back into the defender’s path.
Ten minutes later, Jeff Clarke stepped forward to play a delightful pass through for the lively Cummins, who beat the offside trap, smoothly rounded the keeper and shot into an empty net.
The third goal arrived shortly before the break, Robson showing his alertness to lob into an empty net after keeper Jones failed to gather Arnott’s cross when he bizarrely decided to go out to the edge of the box.
Parkinson cut the deficit on 54 minutes, hooking home after White nodded back Williams’ free-kick.
Rovers got within one goal with eight minutes left, scoring on the breakaway, with Aitken and Barrowclough providing the opportunity for White to net from close range.
Rovers pushed hard for an equaliser, and twice went close, but it would have been a massive injustice had Sunderland failed to record their eighth home win of the Second Division campaign.
Seventeen-year-old John Cooke made his debut up front for Sunderland, in place of groin injury victim Alan Brown, with Argus commenting: “Cooke undoubtedly has talent, which he displayed just as clearly as he has done in reserve games this season, but I think the call to league football came just a little too early for him!
Sunderland: Turner, Whitworth, Bolton, Clarke, Elliott, Buckley, Arnott, Cummins, Cooke, Robson, Dunn. Sub: Hughes.
Bristol Rovers: G Jones, Barrowclough, Williams, Mabbutt, Taylor, Aitken, Bater, Parkinson, White, Dennehy (V Jones 78), Pulis.