There was a strong breeze moving across Wearside when visitors Oldham Athletic arrived at Roker Park on this day in 1921, but by full time it was Sunderland that had swept to a handsome victory.
Facing the wind in the opening half, the Lads initially struggled to find their rhythm. Robert Kyle’s side looked nervy at the back in the opening stages and were lucky to get away with a couple of defensive mix-ups, and whilst another stroke of fortune at the other end led to an early goal it did little to improve matters.
The opener came when Charlie Buchan fed Jimmy Stephenson, who in turn pulled the ball back for Bobby Marshall – it was a slick move, but Marshall’s shot only just evaded goalkeeper Ted Taylor’s full-length dive after taking a decisive deflection off an Oldham defender.
Rather than spur Sunderland on though, it prompted a backlash from the Latics and despite some fine defensive work from Charlie Parker and Joe Kasher they were soon level.
With the conditions making even basic ball control difficult the pair had to be switched on.
Both defenders had very good games, but neither could do anything to stop Reuben Butler from equalising from Charlie Wallace’s low ball into the box.
Sunderland had gone close in between the goals – a sudden gust blew Paul Stannard’s attempted cross just over the bar - but in truth, they were pleased to go in level at half time and a big part of that was down to Parker and Kasher.
Things took an unusual turn in the opening moments of the second half when the ball ‘gave out’, with several reporters commenting on Oldham’s refusal to accept the replacement that was offered up by the Sunderland management.
It was only when another alternative was produced that the match resumed, but there was to be the chance of further inspection for Taylor and co when they then had to pick the ball out of their net four times in quick succession.
With the gales still an issue many observers felt that the Lads had been far from their best, but after retaking the lead with a little over ten minutes to go the team sensed blood.
Playing with the wind behind them as they attacked the Roker End, fan favourite Buchan put Sunderland ahead once more after he turned Billy Ellis’ pass into the goal and seconds later he extended the lead from Stephenson’s cross.
After waiting so long to click, the Rokerites now went for the kill.
It was claimed that the Latics let their heads drop at this point, and they certainly seemed to have switched off when Marshall found space for a close-range finish. Parker then rounded off his good afternoon when he blasted home from distance after Bert Hobson rolled a free kick into his path.
It was a fifth victory in a row for Sunderland and it temporarily put them second in the league, level on points with leaders Burnley but behind them on goal average. It was an encouraging development, but whilst the result had been impressive the performance itself was not – as was reflected when seven days later Oldham gained revenge with a 3-0 success in the return fixture at Boundary Park.
Kyle’s men slowly started to drop out of the championship race after that and would end the season in midtable, closer in fact to bottom in terms of points than the top. Over a century later though there is an achievement that remains - the 5-1 scoreline recorded by Sunderland in 1921 is still their biggest winning margin ever for the 5th of November.
Saturday 5 November 1921
Football League Division One
Sunderland 5 (Marshall 7, 83, Buchan 78, 79, Parker 87)
Oldham Athletic 1 (Butler 21)
Sunderland: Scott; Hobson, England, Parker, Kasher, Poole; Stephenson, Buchan, Stannard, Marshall, Ellis.
Roker Park, attendance c. 25,000