Sunderland 2 Darlington 0 – November 14, 1987: Sunderland manager Denis Smith described winger Paul Atkinson as a “luxury” player, but he showed his match-winning potential to send Darlington crashing out of the FA Cup.
Down to the Third Division for the first, and, only time in their history, Sunderland were reduced to starting their cup campaign earlier than ever before – in the first round proper.
But the lively Atkinson’s influence, with a second double inside a month, ensured that the Rokermen did not suffer a shock exit to their Fourth Division visitors.
Sunderland were the better side throughout, and the Quakers were lucky to escape with just a 2-0 defeat – top scorer Marco Gabbiadini could have had a hat-trick, his worst miss coming then he fired wide of an open goal after getting past under-pressure keeper Jeremy Roberts, while Gordon Armstrong, Gary Owers and Eric Gates all passed up good opportunities.
Darlo also had chances, with home keeper Iain Hesford denying ex-Middlesbrough striker David Currie and bravely dived at the feet of Kevin Stonehouse to prevent a certain equaliser.
Atkinson, a former England Youth international, grabbed the 24thminute opener, as David McAughtrie made a hash of trying to head John Kay’s cross clear, allowing the winger the chance to angle a left-foot drive just inside the post.
But he had a stroke of luck for his second just before the hour as a speculative centre from the left touchline deceived Roberts and bounced into the net off the far post, with Owers ready to tap in had the ball bounced out.
Smith hailed Atkinson, saying: “Paul is starting to feel part of the team.
This is probably the longest run he’s had and it’s doing his confidence a world of good.
His work-rate against Darlington was impressive, and that’s important for a winger.”
Sunderland should have won by a bigger margin, with McAughtrie clearing desperately off the line to defy Gates, but one of the high points for Smith and assistant Viv Busby was the tremendous performance of 17-year-old Richard Ord in central defence.
Ord revelled in a confident display, with Geoff Storey writing in the Echo: “He has a long way to go before he reaches the standard of Gary Bennett, but he clearly is a gem for the future.” Manager Smith was equally effusive, commenting: “He can handle it.
He has tremendous confidence and in the three matches he has played in we have kept two clean sheets.”
Keeper Hesford – heavily criticised for his performances in the previous campaign’s relegation – was on top form, with Smith insisting: “Iain’s confidence is back and that’s why he is playing so well.
He has shown tremendous character to fight back the way he has.
“I always believed that Iain could do a job for me.”
Sunderland went on to suffer their earliest FA Cup exit in modern times, crashing 2-1 at Mick Buxton’s Scunthorpe in round two.
Sunderland: Hesford, Kay, Agboola, Ord, MacPhail, Owers, Armstrong, Doyle, Gates, Gabbiadini, Atkinson. Subs: Lemon, Gray..
Darlington: Roberts, Outterside, Morgan, Hine, Robinson, McAughtrie, Bell, Ward, McDonald, Currie, Stonehouse. Subs: Hinchley, Worthington.
Ref: J.L. Watson (Whitley Bay).
WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON?
* Peter Shilton, on his 800th league appearance, helped Derby County to a 0-0 draw with Newcastle United at St James’s Park.
* Middlesbrough beat Hull City 1-0 at Ayresome Park to move second in Division Two behind leaders Bradford City.
* Hartlepool United beat Chorley 2-0 to progress into the second round of the FA Cup.
quakers shakenByatkinson TURNING INSIDE AND OUT: Sunderland’s Paul Atkinson gives the Darlington defence the run-around.
* Sporting Club Vaux were left as the last remaining Vaux Wearside League club in the FA Vase when they beat Leeds side Garforth Town 2-0 with goals from Gary Cooke and Tom Owens.
* Belford House cruised back to the top of the SavaCentre League with a 6-3 win over Deneside.
Jim Hayden (3), Bobby Lye (2) and Gary Pickering scored for Belford.
TV: Blankety Blank; Cilla Black presented Blind Date; Dempsey and Makepeace; Cagney and Lacey; The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross; Noel Edmonds’ Telly Addicts; St Elsewhere; Ted Rodgers presented 3.2.1.; Home to Roost; Ever Decreasing Circles.
MUSIC: No.1 – T’Pau (China In Your Hand); Others – George Harrison (Got My Mind Set On You); Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes (I’ve Had The Time Of My Life); Rick Astley (Whenever You Need Somebody); The Communards (Never Can Say Goodbye); George Michael (Faith); Nina Simone (My Baby Just Cares For Me)
CINEMA: Michael Caine starred in The Whistle Blower; Robert Englund returned in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 – Dream Warriors; Christopher Reeve took the lead role in Street Smart; Madonna appeared in Who’s that Girl; Full Metal Jacket.
NIGHTLIFE: Partners in Crime appeared at The Dagmar; Winner of New Faces Freddies Beano was on stage at Doxford Park Social Club; Ex Cash and Carrie comedian Mike Cash put on a show at Farringdon Social Club.