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Six-goal routs, SuperKev & Denis Smith’s revival; 3 classic Sunderland v Bristol City clashes

It’s been almost two decades since we played at Ashton Gate, but it’s been the scene of some important - if mostly unspectacular - victories over the years.

Palace v Sunderland/Phillips celeb Photo by Tom Hevezi - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

Bristol City 1-6 Sunderland - Ashton Gate - 09/10/90

A look back through the archives shows us a list of fairly standard results in our rare forays to Ashton Gate - but one victory in particular stands proudly head and shoulders above the rest.

Away-day thrashings of our opposition isn’t something you often relate to when it comes to following the lads, but that’s exactly what Denis Smith’s newly promoted Sunderland did to Bristol City during a League Cup second leg tie on a cold October evening in 1990.

The Division Two outfit actually came into the game with a 1-0 lead after a Nicky Morgan strike sealed an upset at Roker Park two weeks prior, but a goal within the first sixty seconds from German striker Thomas Hauser levelled the scores on aggregate in the return leg at Ashton Gate. Jimmy Lumsden’s side did level through Morgan only four minutes later - although that only seemed to anger the Lads, as goals from Kevin Ball and Gary Owers rocketed us into a 3-1 lead with barely fifty minutes on the clock.

Star man Marco Gabbiadini added gloss to the result with half an hour to go before adding his second - sandwiched in between a Tony Cullen fifth - nine minutes from time.

Sadly for us though, we received a dose of our own medicine as Derby County put six past us in the next round - only Sunderland eh?

Bristol City 0-1 Sunderland - Ashton Gate - 13/02/99

Whisper it quietly, but despite dominating the Nationwide League Division One in the 98/99 season, the media began to question if the wheels we’re falling off our title challenge after suffering three straight defeats (two cup losses and a defeat at Watford). A win at home to Swindon the week prior had allayed fears, but slight pessimism had entered our thoughts during an otherwise perfect campaign.

Of course, the wheels where firmly in place and remained that way throughout - but this win on the South West coast was an important one that silenced any doubt about the mentality of Peter Reid and his team, who saw out the season with relative ease.

Despite sitting bottom of the league, those little tinkers from Bristol had managed to nab a point from the fortress that was the Stadium of Light - peroxide blonde (I’m told it’s natural) striker Soren Anderson nicked a last minute equaliser in front of the Sky cameras all the way back in September of that year. Kevin Phillips had scored that day, and he would do so again, picking himself up off the floor to convert the penalty he had won with seconds left on the clock. Glorious.

Bristol City remained rock bottom of the table that season, whereas any pessimism that had crept in was dissolved almost instantly the moment that SuperKev stuck away one of his trademark spot kicks. We marched on towards the title, eventually winning twelve of the next fifteen games - conceding only seven along the way.

Bristol City 0-1 Sunderland - Ashton Gate - 20/10/87

Winning the league, Denis Smith, Gates and Gabbiadini - was the third tier really that bad or am I just subconsciously preparing myself for the potential of residing there next season? Whatever your thoughts on our solitary stint in England’s third division, it brought with it plenty of good away days - and Ashton Gate was the scene for one of them!

Much like our 6-1 win mentioned earlier, we managed to score straight from the kick-off with Gary Owers putting the league leaders ahead with the clock yet to hit the sixty second mark.

Although the game was an unremarkable one in terms of quality, it was the type of win a previously demoralised Sunderland would need to grind out over the course of the season. Some would call it character building.

Denis Smith is remembered well on Wearside for his successful job in resurrecting the club following the disaster of the - *shudders* - Lawrie McMenemy era, and games like this one were seen as building blocks which helped us on our way back to the top flight of English football.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a certain Mr Coleman managed to carve a similar hard fought victory today, sowing the seeds of recovery almost thirty years later? We can only hope.

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