Much has been made of Sunderland’s lack of strikers recently, although the goals have kept coming without the presence of the preferred centre forwards. It was the same story 90 years ago, when even without first choice number 9 Benny Yorston in the side the Lads put seven past Bolton Wanderers.
The goals came as part of a crazy 7-4 glut on a day of intriguing stories elsewhere too.
With the county in the grip of an early winter storm several games reported difficulties, with Blackburn having to pause their fixture against Sheffield United due to the referee collapsing and Chelsea ending their fixture at Blackpool with only six men after several players fainted.
There were ten goals between Arsenal and Leicester City, the conditions in the capital presumably not helping in that one either, but it was still Wearside where the highest Division One aggregate was reached.
Understandably, the weather resulted in several clubs recording lower than average crowds on this day. The prevailing economic situation didn’t help with that either, and with mass unemployment being felt in the region Sunderland was feeling the pinch in every sense.
Those that were able to turn up were at least rewarded with goals – and they didn’t have to wait long either.
Yorston had only just returned to Johnny Cochrane’s starting XI after overcoming an injury, but after a record of two goals in three games illness meant he had to drop back out.
That caused a reshuffle in the forward line with Bobby Gurney being pushed back into the middle – Sunderland’s eventual record scorer had endured what by his standards was a barren run in the build up to the match, but he quickly made up for it, scoring after just 7 minutes.
That wasn’t even the opening goal of the afternoon though as Jimmy Connor had put the Lads 1-0 up even earlier, driving home after a smart six man passing move.
That had been a superb team goal, whereas the third was down to the individual brilliant of Raich Carter, who dummied two defenders, swerved inside and blasted the ball in from distance.
The goals kept coming too, and within half an hour Sunderland had amassed a remarkable 5-0 lead – Bolton not just being battered by the wind, rain and snow, but their opponents too, with Carter setting up a second for Gurney and Jimmy Temple producing his own run and left foot finish.
Gurney had now found his scoring touch and by half time had completed his first hattrick since a 3-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday in December the previous year.
His third was sandwiched between a George Gibson brace, but was eye catching nonetheless, Silksworth’s finest holding off Alex Finney and smashing a shot past onrushing goalkeeper Bob Jones and into the corner of the net from well outside the box.
Things then settled down after the break, the now heavy pitch making things even harder by that stage, but Gurney did take his tally to four when he reacted quickest to the rebound after Carter struck the post.
Bolton responded again with a similar effort when Billy Butler tapped in after Ray Westwood had hit the bar, and the one time England cap got his second of the match to round off a hectic day which just over ten minutes left – the weather once again playing a part when his header squirmed past an otherwise solid Jimmy Thorpe.
The two goals put a veneer of respectability of the scoreline but make no mistake, Sunderland had been much the better side and were more than deserving of the points; ‘Mirror’, writing for the following day’s Sunday Sun, was mightily impressed for one and felt that the Trotters were never truly in with a chance.
After what they had felt was a run of bad luck in front of goal in previous weeks, the reporter suggested that things had started going for the Rokerites; Gurney’s third and Temple’s solo effort for example were both speculative attempts that on another day could have missed, yet suggested a growing sense of confidence amongst the team.
It is no surprise Sunderland were feeling self-assured however, with Gurney producing a showing of “international calibre” and there being “nothing better in the game than the work done by Carter”.
With The Mirror already putting him down as a star of the future, his words proved to be very apt. The 18 year old was making only the third appearance of his career, and that wonder goal would prove to be the first of many in red and white.
There were the early signs too of what would prove to be a devastating understanding with Gurney, meaning that not only did those hardy souls on the terraces witness a goal fest, but they also saw the first signs of a burgeoning relationship that later in the decade would help deliver the league and FA Cup.
Yorston’s absence proved therefore to be a bit of a blessing in disguise – fingers crossed the situation in 2022 will turn out in a similar way…
Saturday 29 October 1932
Football League Division One
Sunderland 7 (Connor 4, Gurney 7,24, 39, 57, Carter 14, Temple 28)
Bolton Wanderers 4 (Gibson 33, 44, Butler 59, 77).
Sunderland: Thorpe; Murray, Shaw; Thomson, McDougall, Edgar; Temple, Gallacher, Gurney, Carter, Connor.
Roker Park, attendance 10, 182