Ha’way Back When: Stokoe’s Sunderland off to New Year flier in fabuous fashion

Sunderland forward John Lathan makes his presence felt against Brighton in 1973
Sunderland forward John Lathan makes his presence felt against Brighton in 1973
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Sunderland 4 Brighton 0 – January 6, 1973

Manager Bob Stokoe predicted – after this demolition job on Brighton to start 1973 – that Sunderland “would go like a bomb” in the second half of the season.

Boy, was he right!

Ha'way Back When in association with John Hogg Funeral Directors

Ha'way Back When in association with John Hogg Funeral Directors

Incredibly, four months later, the Red and Whites were toppling mighty Leeds at Wembley to lift the cup.

That capped an unbelievable turnaround in fortunes for the Rokermen, who had been heading for trouble at the wrong end of the Second Division when Stokoe was appointed as successor to Alan Brown in late November 1972, after four weeks under caretaker boss Billy Elliott.

A week ahead of the start of Sunderland’s dreamlike cup run, Brighton were put to the sword – suffering their 10th successive defeat – to give the Wearsiders a much-needed first home win since September, and a first victory in 11 games.

Argus commented in the Echo: “The winning margin could well have been doubled and this in itself was a measure of how well they applied themselves to the task of mastering Brighton’s strong-arm tactics and taking them apart.

“There was also the assurance that the three-week break enforced by the flu epidemic has not impaired the team’s fighting spirit, for in addition to the four top-quality goals, there were a lot of credit marks for individual performances.

“There should not have been a great deal between them, but the gulf demonstrated so convincingly supports the claim that Sunderland are indeed out of place in the lower reaches of the Second Division.

“Five points out of the last six is a help trend and while Mr Stokoe warns that no one should be carried away by the terms of the success, he found grounds for satisfaction in this spirited return to duty.”

Two off-target headers by Dave Watson warned Brighton of what to expect before Sunderland took the lead in the ninth minute.

Dennis Tueart and Ian Porterfield linked on the left before the ball was moved to the angle of the penalty area, from where Joe Bolton hammered in a left-foot shot which struck goalkeeper Alan Dovey in the face and bowled him over.

Billy Hughes pounced on the rebound to drive home a low shot.

Watson, Hughes and Tueart all took a hand in the shooting without being able to cash in, but, in the 45th minute, Sunderland finally managed to grab the second goal which had been on its way for a long time.

Hughes collected a pass from John Lathan and raced through the middle as Tueart moved just wide of him on the left. Timing his pass perfectly, Hughes edged the ball into line for Tueart to stride in and drive it home.

Brighton found the going tougher still in the second half.

Watson and Tueart were both off target with shots and then the Brighton goal had an incredible escape when the ball was scrambled away from the line with Hughes, Lathan and Tueart all on hand.

It was only a brief respite for Brighton, however, for in the 58th minute Sunderland were back again for their third goal. A free-kick against George Ley for pushing Tueart was taken by Kerr, whose well-placed drive to the near post was brilliantly headed into goal by Hughes.

Hughes was only inches short of a Mick McGiven cross which offered him the chance to complete his hat-trick.

Then, with eight minutes to go, Kerr led a break on the left before turning the ball to Tueart. Cutting inside, Tueart pushed the ball square just outside the penalty area for Bolton to storm up and hit the goal of the game – a right-foot drive, of such power that Dovey had no chance.

The last kick of the game fell to Hughes, who suffered one further disappointment in his quest for a hat-trick when his drive clipped the bar on its way behind.

Sunderland: Montgomery, Malone, Bolton, Horswill, Watson, Young, Kerr, Hughes, Lathan (McGiven 68), Porterfield, Tueart

Brighton: Dovey, Templeman, Ley, Boorn (Beamish 68), Goodwin, Piper, Howell, Bridges, Robertson, Bromley, O’Sullivan

Att: 12,573