Ha’way Back When: Tom Ritchie the unlikely hat-trick hero as Sunderland secure precious survival points against Birmingham City

Tom Ritchie celebrates his hat-trick in Sunderland's 3-0 win over Birmingham City at Roker Park on April 18, 1981
Tom Ritchie celebrates his hat-trick in Sunderland's 3-0 win over Birmingham City at Roker Park on April 18, 1981
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Sunderland 3 Birmingham City 0 – April 18, 1981

Mick Docherty made a magnificent start to his four-match reign as caretaker-manager as Sunderland swept away their relegation blues with a resounding victory over Birmingham City at Roker Park.

And amazingly it was Tom Ritchie, after a 10-game run without a goal, who was the hero with a brilliant hat-trick.

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

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

Two goals in a 10-minute spell midway through the first half put Sunderland in the driving seat and when Stan Cummins was brought down by Kevin Dillon a penalty enabled Ritchie to round off the scoring.

Shaun Elliott and Mick Buckley returned to the Sunderland side after recovering from injury, with Docherty moving Elliott into midfield.

Gordon Chisholm and Gary Rowell were the players to stand down with leading goalscorer Rowell taking over from Rob Vincent as substitute.

Before the teams came out, the crowd chanted “Ken Knighton’s Red and White Army” to express their feelings on the dismissal of the manager earlier in the week.

Chants were also directed against chairman Tom Cowie.

Birmingham won a corner with just over a minute gone when Hinnigan deflected Ian Handysides’ cross from the by-line, but Sunderland quickly broke and almost took the lead.

Alan Brown was certainly looking lively and found Cummins, who moved the ball on to Elliott.

The England B international rode though two tackles and when his shot was blocked Arnott lifted the rebound over the top from close range.

Seconds later, it took a timely interception by Boldon to prevent Keith Bertschin from getting in a close-range shot.

Blues keeper Jeff Wealands had to dive out bravely at the feet of Cummins, and then denied Ritchie, pushing a header over the bar.

Arnott twice failed to beat the Birmingham rearguard with delicate chips before Birmingham against broke out quickly through Aan Ainscow.

His cross, although met by Sunderland-born Kevin Dillon, was flicked aimlessly for Elliott to clear.

Sunderland took the lead in the 28th minute with a superb goal.

There appeared to be no chance of Ritchie finding his way though a packed Birmingham defence but he turned to strike a brilliant 20-yarder that left Wealands groping as it flashed just inside the upright.

Poor control denied Archie Gemmill from snatching an immediate equaliser after he had broken through on the left, but it was not long before the home fans were cheering again.

Buckley split the Birmingham defence for Brown to accelerate down the right and his cross was turned in from close-range by Ritchie.

The second half opened incredibly with Brown trying to go it alone and when he lost possession Ritchie promptly slipped the ball through for him.

It took a brave save at his feet by Wealands to prevent Sunderland from going further ahead within five seconds.

The Sunderland goal had an amazing let off in the 49th minute when Bolton misjudged his header to leave Tony Evans in the clear and when he elected to pass instead of having a go himself, Handysides came rushing in to blast the ball over the top from the six-yard line.

Two minutes later Sunderland should have wrapped it all up only for Ritchie to head over.

Ritchie was not to be denied his hat-trick though.

Dillon brought down Cummins to concede the penalty and Ritchie made no mistake, taking a run from well outside the box before sending Wealands the wrong way in the 78th minute.

Sunderland: Siddall, Hinnigan, Bolton, Hindmarch, Allardyce, Elliott (Rowell 79) Arnott, Buckley, Ritchie, Brown, Cummins.

Birmingham City: Wealands, Langan, Broadhurst, Dillon, Van Den Hauwe, Todd, Ainscow, Evans, Bertschin, Gemmill, Handysides. Sub: Lees

Att: 20,158