If you had to name Monty’s best ever game for Sunderland, there’s one obvious answer isn’t there?
And that game at Wembley is presumably high up on the list.
But ask Jimmy Montgomery what his best ever game for the lads was, and he’ll point you in the direction of a game that took place 59 years ago today, at the old Huddersfield ground Leeds Road.
Alan Brown’s team were fourth in Division Two heading into the fixture with Eddie Boot’s Huddersfield, and having been bolstered by the signings of Johnny Crossan and George Mulhall, the team were surging up the table – spearheaded, of course, by the irrepressible Brian Clough.
Going into the game, Clough had scored 26 in 28 appearances, and the team had netted 57 in 29 games so far, while at the other end we’d conceded 32 – entertaining stuff.
Keeping goal was 19-year-old Jimmy Montgomery, who’d made his league debut in February, after a solitary league cup appearance in 1961. Monty had ousted keeper Peter Wakeham and subsequently retained his place; Wakeham departing for Charlton.
And, this fixture at Leeds Road was destined to be one Monty remembers forever!
In truth, Sunderland could have been two down before Jimmy had time to limber up – former Newcastle stalwart Len White hit the underside of the bar before Colin Nelson hooked the ball away from the line, and then Nelson again came to Sunderland’s rescue, again clearing the ball from the line.
It was all Huddersfield and Sunderland were hanging on for dear life for the majority of the first half, with only Monty standing in between Huddersfield and a handsome lead.
Two efforts from White, two from Derek Stokes, and another from O’Grady all seemed destined for the net, only for Montgomery to pull out save after save. The pick of the bunch were a save from Stokes’ header and another from a White shot from just inside the box – both of which left the Huddersfield players shaking their heads in disbelief.
So much so, in fact, that Stokes waited for Montgomery as he made his way off the pitch for half time to congratulate the keeper on what was a stupendous performance.
In the second half, Sunderland came out inspired by Monty’s performance, and within the first minute went into the lead.
Herd broke clear from halfway, and played in McNab who slotted the ball through to Clough. The striker took full advantage of defender Ken Taylor’s momentary hesitation and drove the ball past keeper Wood.
One became two in quick succession, Clough firing home again after being set up by Herd. 2-0, and the Huddersfield contingent both on and off the field were simply stunned.
A feature of Sunderland this season had been that they tried to defend leads when they were gained, with indifferent success (sounds rather familiar!) but on this occasion, the lads kept piling forward: Herd, Crossan and Clough all missed excellent chances before Mulhall volleyed home after being set up by Herd’s excellent cross.
Monty was relatively untroubled in the second half compared to the first, however, he did make another two excellent stops – one from Massie and another from McHale.
But his work in the first half was what truly mattered – and it meant Sunderland ended up comfortably winning a game they simply shouldn’t have been in at half time.
The Journal’s match report on the Monday summed it up beautifully:
If it is true to say that Brian Clough’s goals put Sunderland on the path to victory over Huddersfield on Saturday – and it is – it is even more true to say that had it not been for 19-year-old goalkeeper Jimmy Montgomery, the opportunity would never have presented itself.
Since this youngster won a senior place last February, he has won acclaim all over the country – and rightly so – but I have never seen a better display from anyone than that which he put up at Leeds Road.
Huddersfield 0-3 Sunderland • Leeds Road, Huddersfield. • 21,260
Sunderland: Montgomery, Nelson, Ashurst, Harvey, Hurley, McNab, Davison, Herd, Clough, Crossan, Mulhall
Huddersfield: Wood, Atkins, Wilson, Saward, Taylor, Dinsdale, McHale, White, Stokes, Massie, O’Grady.
Goals: Clough ‘46, ‘49, Mulhall ‘62