The Lads are up against Wycombe Wanderers in League One this afternoon, and after our recent encounters it is fair to say there is a bit of edge between the two sides. There had been a similar level of bad blood between Sunderland and Crystal Palace following the 2003-04 Division One (now Championship) play-offs and so on this day in 2005 Mick McCarthy’s men were looking for revenge.
Both play-off semi final ties had been ill-tempered affairs, and matters were not helped when a group of Palace fans attacked the disabled section of the visiting support at Selhurst Park following the first leg. Even still, Sunderland looked to have battled their way through to the final until a hotly disputed goal late in the second leg brought Palace level on aggregate. Goalkeeper Mart Poom was clearly man handled by Neil Shipperley as he went to collect a cross, leaving Darren Powell free to nod home and set his team on the way to a penalty shoot out victory.
With Palace then overcoming West Ham United at the Millennium Stadium in Wales to secure promotion, it seemed as if Sunderland would have to go at least a season before they could get their own back, but the draw for the 2004-05 FA Cup Third Round handed them an earlier than expected chance. Paired together once more therefore, Iain Dowie brought his side back to Wearside and were met with a hostile reception in every sense.
Heavy storms the night before meant that a section of the North Stand had to be closed due to roof damage, but Sunderland were unfazed by this and played with an aggressive and determined edge. They played some good football too, and almost got the opener when Andy Welsh rattled the cross bar with an early shot. This was Welsh’s first start for the side following his recent arrival from Stockport County and the winger had a big impact on the final result with an impressive performance.
Welsh featured on the left, linking up well will full back George McCartney. The Northern Ireland international finished the season as Player of the Year and he too went close to putting Sunderland in front when his header mid-way through the first half went just wide. Despite being under severe pressure however, it was Palace that went ahead shortly before the half time break when a dangerous ball was put into his own net by Neill Collins.
Had Collins not looked to hook the ball clear Andrew Johnson would have almost certainly scored himself, but it was a shame for the young centre back who otherwise did very well marshalling the forward all afternoon. Johnson had earned himself a reputation as a bit of a workie ticket, and the sense of injustice at falling behind was only magnified when he appeared to make some derogatory remarks to Collins in the aftermath of the goal.
By now the bad feeling between the sides was only increasing further, but Sunderland used their frustration to fire them up even more. The response was rapid, and just three minutes later the scores were level when Welsh bent in a lovely cross from a right wing free kick that evaded everybody and curled just inside the far post. Whether his intention was primarily to find the head of a teammate or to whip the ball in directly is hard to say, but there was no debate over his next definitive involvement.
With an hour played Welsh played through a lovely through ball for Marcus Stewart, who ran into the box before being bundled over by Fitz Hall. It was a clear penalty, and Stewart brushed himself down before converting the resulting spot kick with a cool effort into the middle of the goal. Now 2-1 up, Sunderland continued to control things thanks in part to some lovely moments of skill from Sean Thornton and rather than face a late onslaught they closed the game out comfortably.
Victory offered Sunderland some closure following the play-off elimination, but more importantly it gave Mick McCarthy’s team the confidence to now move on. This was the first time the club had beaten a side from a higher division at the Stadium of Light and with only two more league losses suffered that season, they ended 2004-05 as winners of the newly named Championship. Crystal Palace meanwhile were relegated, and replaced by Sunderland in the Premier League.
Saturday 7 January 2005
FA Cup 3rd Round
Sunderland 2 (Welsh 44, Stewart 60)
Crystal Palace 1 (Collins og 41)
Sunderland: Myhre, Wright, Collins, Caldwell, McCartney, Thornton, Robinson, Whitehead, Welsh (Piper 75), Elliott (Bridges 83), Stewart (Brown 69). Unused: Alnwick, Lynch.
Crystal Palace: Kiraly, Butterfield, Granville, Leigertwood, Powell, Hall, Routledge, Hughes, Johnson, Lakis (Soares 62), Watson (Shipperley 66). Unused: Speroni, Boyce, Torghelle.
Stadium of Light, attendance 17,536