Nineteen-year-old Raich Carter had made his first team debut a couple of weeks earlier, in an away defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. He retained his place away at Middlesbrough the week after – emerging victorious on this occasion – and the following weekend he lined up for his home debut in a game against Bolton Wanderers.
In Carter’s first couple of games, Scottish striker Benny Yorston had played. The 5’ 5” striker had joined from Aberdeen (where he had scored 101 goals in 143 games) in the January, after injury had ruled Bobby Gurney out for a prolonged period with a knee injury. Yorston netted 12 goals in 17 for Sunderland during the remainder of the 31-32 season, helping the club to 10 wins in the campaign’s final 17 games, and lifting the team from 20th to 13th place.
For the visit of Bolton, however, Yorston was ruled out, with Gurney – who’d struggled to regain form since his injury – taking his position at centre forward, rather than inside right, where he’d been deployed in the previous game.
There were concerns about where the goals would come from in Yorston’s absence.
Those concerns were allayed, however – in spectacular style – as Sunderland and Bolton played out record-equalling 11-goal thriller at Roker Park.
Sunderland: Thorpe, Murray, Shaw, Thomson, McDougall, Edgar, Temple, Gallacher, Gurney, Carter, Connor.
Bolton: Jones, J. Griffiths, Finney, Nicholson, T. Griffiths, Howarth, Butler, Gibson, Milsom, Westwood, Cook.
The game was played in torrential wind and rain, which put off many supporters – 10,182 supporters turned up to a Roker Park that, of course, didn’t have a roof on the Fulwell End at this point; a marked decrease from the 20,000+ crowds that had been in attendance for home games earlier in the season.
Sunderland skipper McDougall lost the toss, and we were forced to defend the Fulwell End goal – and the wind – in the opening 45.
Bolton had the best of the initial exchanges – Jimmy Thorpe making a good clearance from Milsom – before Sunderland took an early lead on five minutes. Gurney was instrumental in the goal, crossing the ball in for Connor who drove the ball home.
Sunderland attacked down both wings, and moments later scored a second, with Gurney scoring only his second goal of the season.
The ball was played into the Silksworth-born striker who controlled the ball and, with the keeper expecting a cross, turned and shot home. Seven minutes gone, 2-0.
And, before quarter of an hour had elapsed, Sunderland made it three – and Raich Carter, who had shown some ‘fine touches’ in the early stages, scored the first of his 128 goals for the club.
A free-kick, awarded for handball, on the edge of the box was tapped to Carter. He feigned to pass the ball to Connor, but instead fired towards the goal – beating Jones with aplomb.
Carter almost scored again a minute later, forcing a fingertip save from Jones.
Sunderland, despite the conditions, were playing ‘irresistible football’ and made it 4-0 on 25 minutes.
Carter and Connor cleverly combined to beat two Bolton defenders near the corner flag - they worked their way into the box and Connor beat his man and shot past Jones, just inside the post.
Just before the half hour, it was 5-0 – Temple dribbling through the defence and scoring with a left foot finish.
Bolton pulled one back shortly after, Gibson chesting down Milsom’s cross from the right and tapping home.
That only served to fire up Sunderland, who were playing ‘some of the best football of their season’, and Carter fired in a shot which just shaved the Roker End crossbar, before Gurney made it 6-1 on 39 minutes,. latching on to a mis-kick and firing a ‘real scorcher into the top of the net’ to claim his hat-trick.
Just on half time, Gibson pulled one back for Bolton from a corner, and at half time it was 6-2.
The second half was a far more sedate affair – on 57 Gurney got his fourth, Bolton’s Butler replying two minutes later, and after the game the local lads were all the talk. With five ‘Durham-born’ players in the line up, it put to bed the notion – said Argus in the Echo – that only Scotsmen were welcome at Roker Park.
Yorston, ‘Argus’ said continued, would never have scored some of the goals Gurney did – and Gurney showed form reminiscent of ‘a year or two back’.
As for Carter, after his first goal for the club, a bright future was predicted.
Carter gave his finest display so far. There was evidence of quick thinking on his part. Moreover, he brought into the game the very thing Sunderland have been wanting – ability to ‘gull’ the opposing defence. A grand footballer, this Hendon boy – one who, in the seasons to come, will make his name in the old colours, playing for the club which to a Sunderland-born lad should be regarded as the greatest of all clubs.
The talent and promise of Gurney and Carter was, of course, more than fulfilled over the coming seasons – cruelly interrupted by WW2. As for Benny Yorston, after two years (49 games, 25 goals) he departed for Middlesbrough, where he played 152 games, scoring 54 goals.