BOTH Sunderland and Oxford United elected to find unchanged sides for their game at Man or Road this afternoon. Sunderland had to wait until yesterday before they could be sure that their leading scorer, John Lathan, would be able to hold his place. He gave complete satisfaction in a full-scale training session.
United did make one change in their party, naming Derek Clarke has substitute in place of Geoff Bray, though Bray gave a good account of himself when called into their losing home game against Preston North End last week.
Announcements before the game directed at the large party of Sunderland supporters who had made the trip, told them that all arrangements to stay on after the game had been cancelled and the coaches would leave immediately after the match. This was described as a police instruction.
It was a sunny day and extremely warm with about 10,000 present when Kerr won the toss for Sunderland and decided to kick up the pronounced slope in the first half.
Sunderland made the first move, with Porterfield bringing in Coleman on the left, but the full-back’s overhit centre went out of play on the far side of goal.
When they came back again with Porterfield receiving from Tueart the Oxford defence was cracked when Porterfield sent a great ball out to Watson. The centre forward cut in from the angle of the penalty area to hit a right-foot shot which travelled just outside the far post.
After three minutes Hughes was brought down by a severe Roberts tackle and needed attention before resuming.
A great tackle by Kerr halted Skeen, and when United came back again to a free-kick on the left, Montgomery was violently brought down by Curran. The referee spoke to the centre forward while Montgomery received attention.
Ashurst intercepted well when a long ball by Shuker was pulled down in front of goal and tapped in the direction of Curran by Cassidy.
Malone took a free-kick for a foul on himself and after this had been headed out, Lathan prevented a break with a well-timed challenge. United were in trouble when Lucas misjudged the spin of a pass from Ashurst and Tueart, who read it much better, was able to find Watson in a useful position.
Two shots were beaten down before United managed to get the ball away. Then in the 14th minute came a lucky escape for Sunderland when Curran broke on the right to hit a long centre which was picked up by Sloan outside the far post and the ball was twice cleared from the line before it was sent behind for a corner. Before this was taken Horswill had to receive treatment.
At this stage Sunderland were doing their full share of attacking up the slope, but they were still not stringing their passes together accurately enough.
The first time they did so, with Tueart joining Kerr and Lathan, Tueart’s final pass reached Lathan in an offside position. An Ashurst foul on Cassidy enabled United to build up an attack from a short free-kick.
Evanson went wide on the right before sending a good ball into the middle where Watson headed clear, and Watson was still there to make another appearance when the ball was returned to the goal-front.
Sunderland went ahead immediately after this clearance in the 23rd minute. An attack was halted on the edge of the Oxford penalty area and Porterfield snapped up the clearance. Immediately Oxford defenders began to move out to lay an offside trap, but Porterfield, spotting Kerr moving forward from a deep position, lobbed the ball over the wall of defenders and KERR, bursting clear, controlled it quickly enough to slam a right foot shot past Burton.
Oxford appealed for offside but the referee insisted that the goal should stand.
When United hit back, Curran went close with a left-foot drive from a difficult angle.
A foul on Malone by Cassidy sent them moving again but a through ball on the right was out of play before Lathan could reach it.
Sunderland had the ball in the United net shortly afterwards through Lathan, but the referee ruled that Tueart had fouled Burton in winning the ball.
When Sunderland came back again, Tueart was pulled down outside the penalty area, but there was a free-kick against Lathan when Porterfield’s kick reached the middle.
The United trainer was on the field to Skeen after he had started a promising attack on the right. United protested against a free-kick for a Watson foul on Skeen because Skeen had recovered from the tackle and was going clear with the ball under control.
Sunderland went quickly on the attack again, but when Kerr tried to collect an awkward ball on the right wing with Evanson protesting, a linesman flagged against him.
Then came a tremendous burst which put United on level terms and might well have produced another two goals.
First the equaliser in 47 minutes Aylott hit a long cross from the left and Skeen, picking it up wide on the right, hammered it into the middle when CASSIDY turned it home at close range.
Immediately afterward, Cassidy was there again shooting over the top from close range after another strong right-wing move.
The next chance fell to Curran, and his left-foot drive from ten yards had Montgomery well beaten and finished inches wide.
Montgomery who had absorbed a lot of punishment so far, took another hammering when Cassidy followed through as the goalkeeper came through to gather the ball.
At first it appeared that the referee’s intention was to book Cassidy, but he eventually settled for a lecture. Pressure continued to mount and after Cassidy had shot over from a Curran centre Montgomery went up to clear a fierce shot by Evanson which just cleared the bar.
When a badly-judged header by Hughes gave away a corner, Sunderland had everyone back except Lathan to meet United’s continued challenge.
After 60 minutes Oxford took off Cassidy and brought on D. Clarke. The substitute made a promising start, for his first touch of the ball was in an open-goal position 12 yards out. Though he played wide of Montgomery the goalkeeper dived across to make a brilliant save.
Sunderland came back into the picture again when Kerr lobbed the ball forward and Tueart broke quickly to go in, with only Burton to beat. By the time he was in position to play the ball, however, the goalkeeper was right on top of him was able to smother the shot.
Then in the 65th minute United went ahead. They protested against a free-kick which halted the flow of their play, but it was the direction of this kick which enabled Skeen to get the ball over into the middle for SLOAN to score with a rising header.
Sunderland were near to an equaliser when Porterfield was fouled by Shuker as he cut in towards the middle. Kerr took the kick and Watson rose above everyone to direct a powerful header just under the bar, which was brilliantly turned over by Burton.
United went further ahead in the 79th minute when Hamilton lost possession in midfield and Lucas hit a through ball to send CURRAN clear and leave him with the simple task of placing his drive wide of Montgomery.
Hamilton’s determination in holding the ball had Sunderland moving well, but Tueart sent through the middle, was crowded out before he could reach a shooting position. Then United were back again for a fourth goal.
When United pushed forward strongly on the right and the ball came over into the middle the best bet Montgomery could do was palm it straight to CURRAN, who had the easiest of tasks in sending through into an empty net.
Montgomery made another brilliant save from Skeen when Oxford found another gap in the Sunderland defence.
Over the 90 minutes Kerr was the most consistent Sunderland performer but once the tide had turned it was a losing battle all the way.
OXFORD UTD: Burton, Lucas, Shuker, Roberts, Clarke C, Evanson, Sloan, Skeen, Curran, Cassidy, Aylott. Sub: Clarke, D
SUNDERLAND: Montgomery, Malone, Coleman, Horswill, Ashurst, Porterfield, Hughes, Kerr, Watson, Lathan, Tueart. Sub: Hamilton
Ref: Mr J Wrennal of Chorley.
HOW THE GOALS CAME
KERR 23 mins.
CASSIDY 47 mins. SLOAN 65 mins.
CURRAN 79 mins.
CURRAN 81 mins.
CURRAN 89 mins.
In a promising first half which has Sunderland on top and deservedly ahead there was no hint of the hiding to come, Oxford played uphill like storm troopers throwing so much physical effort into their challenge that Sunderland faded away.
Curran was the destroyer, not such much by his physical challenge but by his brilliant sense of position and the skilful use which team-mates made of that.
Everyone in the Sunderland side had to be prepared to absorb punishment and Montgomery received more than his share.
Through the second half storm there were still gold chances for Sunderland, but Tueart, Watson and Lathan all failed to get the ball past Burton.
Story taken from the Football Echo on October 7 1972.