Sunderland 1 Ipswich Town 1 – December 3, 1983
Shaun Elliott won unexpected praise from boss Alan Durban after inspiring a tremendous effort to help Sunderland secure a 1-1 Roker Park draw against Ipswich Town.
Elliott, who impressed at left-back, and right-back Barry Venison were the star turns, barely putting a foot wrong in a hotly-contested First Division showdown.
Durban spoke of Elliott to the Echo after the match, saying: “That was his best game for the club since I came here.
“That is worthy praise for him as he knows any praise I give is fairly reluctant.”
Up front, Sunderland found life difficult against Ipswich, who had obviously done their homework on the hosts, shutting down the supply line to Leighton James and seeing the Rokermen quickly run out of ideas to turn their gritty display into goals.
Sunderland produced a typically hard-grafting display, coming from behind to make their point – though Durban believed that his men had the better chances to take all three points.
He said: “We are making progress slowly and quietly, but we are not a Real Madrid.
“Ipswich had a bit too much knowhow for us in certain positions.
“We are the sort of side who have to be at their maximum to win matches.
“We are always going to struggle if someone is not firing on all cylinders.”
Both goals followed moments of controversy.
Ipswich made the breakthrough in the 14th minute, capitalising when a lively surge forward from Nick Pickering was halted.
The England Under-21 international was clearly obstructed by Ipswich skipper Terry Butcher, but referee Keith Hackett allowed play to continue and the visitors swept the ball to the other end for Paul Mariner to hold off Gordon Chisholm’s challenge.
Mariner squared the ball to Eric Gates, whose chipped shot from 25 yards dipped under the bar, with keeper Chris Turner left stranded.
Sunderland tried gamely to find a way back into the game, but they never got close to testing keeper Paul Cooper until Gary Rowell equalised a minute before half-time.
James curled a free-kick, awarded for a foul on Colin West, to the far post where Rowell flung himself at the ball.
He failed to connect cleanly – and Ipswich boss Bobby Ferguson insisted that Sunderland’s leading marksman had handled the ball – but the ball rolled across the face of goal and crept just inside the post.
Both sides had chances for a winner.
Mich D’Avray and Steve McCall both passed up good chances for the visitors, while Cooper made a tremendous, one-handed save to defy West.
A point apiece left both clubs in lower mid-table, level on 22 points from 16 games.
Durban told the Echo of a shortlist of five players he had drawn up as potential forward signings to put pressure on Rowell and West, but he ruled out a move for Ally McCoist, who had been sold to Rangers in a £200,000 summer deal but was struggling to get a game at Ibrox and was reportedly available for half that fee.
Sunderland: Turner, Venison, Pickering, Atkins, Chisholm, Elliott, Bracewell, Rowell, West, Proctor, James. Sub: Atkinson
Ipswich Town: Cooper, Burley, Barnes, Parkin, Steggles, Butcher, Wark, McCall, Mariner, Gates, D’Avray (Turner 65)