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Top Five: Terraces, goals & local derbies - Sunderland’s greatest early-round FA Cup games!

Ahead of today’s FA Cup visit to Port Vale, we look back at five of Sunderland’s greatest games in the early stages of this famous competition.

Newham Recorder

8/1/12 - 3rd Round - Peterborough 0-2 Sunderland

What a day this was. It may seem strange to rekindle my love for a FA Cup third round tie at Peterborough, but if you were there you’ll remember how much fun it was!

We were in the middle of that incredible three month period under Martin O’Neill - you know, the one where we scored screamers every week and won games in the last minute - so we were all in damn good spirits.

We were live on Sky and situated on terracing for the first time in decades! A free kick from Seb Larsson and a bullet header from James McClean sealed our passage through to round four.

Yes - the win was pretty routine but impromptu renditions of “Oh Tommy Tommy”, “Super, Super Kev” and “Martin Smith running down the wing” matched with terracing, a good few drinks and progress into the next round made the day something of a dream for supporters.

Remember when James McClean was good?

14/11/87 - 1st Round - Sunderland 2-0 Darlington

We’ve only ever played this early in the FA Cup once - the last time we were in the third tier.

However, last time we had to navigate our way to third round proper, we were handed a tasty little local derby as Darlington came to Roker Park in mid-November.

A good crowd of near 17,000 fans saw young centre forward Paul Atkinson grab his only two goals of the season, as he replaced Eric Gates to partner top scorer Marco Gabbiadini.

Sadly, we couldn’t replicate our league success into the FA Cup as we were knocked out away to Scunthorpe in Round 2.

Marco in action against Darlington in 1987.
Sunderland AFC

3/1/18 - 3rd Round - Rotherham 1-5 Sunderland

Peter Reid’s team were on the run of their lives when they turned up at Millmoor back in 1998.

The likes of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips were scoring for fun, with Summerbee and Johnston providing inch perfect ammunition from the wings. At this point, we were simply unstoppable - and so it proved as we mauled Ronnie Moore’s side.

Super Kev opened the scoring from twelve yards and went on to help himself to a further three goals, before Quinny rounded off proceedings with a late finish.

We’d go on to lose only four of our last twenty five games, ultimately losing out in the heartbreaking penalty shoot-out against Charlton come the end of the season.

Kevin Phillips of Sunderland
Super Kev hit four goals at Rotherham

6/1/96 - 3rd Round - Manchester Utd 2-2 Sunderland

Despite both teams competing for their respective league titles, a third round glamour tie at Old Trafford didn’t fill many Mackems with hope for progress in the FA Cup, such was the strength of an Eric Cantona-led Manchester United.

However, in one of our greatest games of a fantastic season, we almost upset the apple cart as we came minutes from knocking out Sir Alex Ferguson and his side at the first time of asking, only to be pegged back in the final ten by the aforementioned Eric Cantona.

Despite going 1-0 down to a bizarre Nicky Butt goal in the early stages, Peter Reid’s fearless side took the game to the Red Devils and equalised through baldy midfielder Steve Agnew before top scorer Craig Russell hit United on the break and finished beautifully in the bottom corner to send the travelling fans wild.

United would go on to win the replay and the FA Cup itself, as well as overcoming a 12-point gap to win the Premier League.


4/1/92 - 3rd Round - Sunderland 3-0 Port Vale

We weren’t to know it at the time, but the last time we met The Valiants in an early stage FA Cup tie we’d go on to reach the final under caretaker manager Malcolm Crosby.

An early goal from Brian Atkinson coupled with a Peter Davenport strike just before half time effectively cemented our place in the fourth round of the competition in the first forty five minutes, but the man who would go on to become the star of our cup run - John Byrne - made sure our name was in the hat with the type of finish we’d come to expect in the 72nd minute, sending a crowd of 16,000 home happy.

We marched onto the Oxford United in round four and the rest, as they say, is history.

Chelsea v Sunderland - FA Cup Sixth Round - Stamford Bridge
John Byrne was our FA Cup hero back in 1992.
Photo by John Stillwell - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images