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On This Day (2nd October 1993): Birthday boys present Sunderland with three points against Posh!

There was a ‘Posh’ birthday do for Phil Gray and Gary Owers 28 years ago today, with the pair both marking the occasion by getting on the scoresheet in a comfortable 2-0 win over Peterborough United.

With Phil Gray turning 25 on the day of the match, and his teammate Gary Owers doing the same the day after, there was plenty to celebrate for the pair as their goals put the seal on a commanding performance over Peterborough United.

Manager Terry Butcher had selected several familiar names for the game and whilst both teams started the day in the relegation zone it was apparent come full time that Sunderland were a level above.

Sunderland: Chamberlain, Ma. Gray, Bennett, Melville, Ord, Owers, Ferguson, Armstrong, Russell (Mi. Gray 82), Goodman, P. Gray. Unused Subs: Norman, Howey.

The visitors meanwhile boasted Sunderland-born forward Tony Philliskirk in their ranks, but it was goalkeeper Ian Bennett that caught the eye. Giving him nine out of ten in his player ratings, the Sunderland Echo’s Geoff Storey felt Bennett’s series of impressive saves were all that prevented a big win for the Lads, who had 15 efforts on target.

Geoff Storey’s player ratings, from the Sunderland Echo publication ‘Roker Reviewed’

It took a move of real quality to eventually find a way past Bennett.

Derek Ferguson’s showing also drew praise from Storey and it was his perfectly judged slide rule pass on the stroke of half time that created the opener, with Phil Gray running onto the ball in front of the Fulwell End and firing it home precisely.

Subsequent editions of the Roker Review had several images of the game

Unperturbed by having to shoot towards the Roker End in the second half, Sunderland remained on the front foot. It was not until the 79th minute that they scored the second goal however, when after Don Goodman laid the ball off Owers’ low drive was deflected in past a completely wrong-footed Bennett.

Whilst the goal itself came via a slice of luck nobody could deny that the Rokerites (remember that nickname anybody?) fully deserved the victory.

Prior to that Michael Gray had seen a shot cleared off the line, Gary Bennett had gone similarly close and Owers himself had hit the post.

Although still relatively young Owers had already clocked well over 200 first-team appearances and this was another typically energetic performance from one of Sunderland’s most consistent players. Gray however was more of an unknown quantity, being a relative newcomer still following his £775,000 summer move from Luton Town.

Featured in that day's Roker Review ‘Profile’ feature though, fans were starting to learn about the Belfast-born striker. He had opened his account with a winning Coca Cola Cup goal against Leeds United a week and a half before but that had been a tap-in – his strike against Peterborough gave an even better indication of what he was about.

Another image from the 1993-94 series of the Roker Review

After the game, Posh were still above Sunderland on goal difference but only for another week and they ended the season at rock bottom. As for the Lads, who themselves had been bottom of the table earlier in the campaign, it would be a season of fluctuating form.

This win made it fours game unbeaten; a run that had started with that impressive win over Leeds, and bar a drubbing at Middlesbrough results continued to improve for a period.

Another nosedive in form came following elimination in the next round of the Coca Cola Cup however and changes were made with Mick Buxton replacing Terry Butcher as manager. Although the party was soon to be over for Butcher then, it was a birthday to remember for Phil Gray and Gary Owers on this weekend in 1993. All the best lads!

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