Last Saturday’s OTD article looked at a win over Oxford United that helped put Sunderland on their way to the 1992 FA Cup final. This week we feature another game against the same opposition, and whilst this fixture was over a year before Sunderland’s most famous FA cup story the team that would eventually take Wembley glory was taking shape.
Seven of the side that would beat Leeds United in the 1973 final featured 50 years ago on this date, and a comfortable victory gave a taste of what they were capable of on their day. Sunderland controlled the game for large parts and were full value for their eventual 3-0 win, with several players catching the eye along the way.
The majority of the action was towards the Oxford goal and their keeper Roy Burton was kept busy throughout. Burton made good saves from Mick McGiven and Ian Porterfield in the early stages but he had no chance with Sunderland’s opener, which came courtesy of Dennis Tueart following a quick free kick.
Coming just before the half hour mark, the ball was laid off to Tueart who, faced with a wall of defenders closing in, elected to deftly chip the ball just inside the far post.
It was a quality finish, and the goal was fully deserved. The Lads looked to build on their advantage too, although they did get away with one at the back when John Evanson missed an open goal from six yards out.
The pattern of the game may have changed had Oxford levelled, but there was to be no second chance; Tueart made it 2-0 with a header early in the second half and a certain Len Shackleton, writing for The People the day after, felt it was game over at that point.
Shack highlighted Tueart’s enthusiasm in his match report, and whilst there was to be no hattrick for the forward he did the next best thing by setting up Sunderland’s third.
Porterfield had celebrated his birthday the day before and Tueart’s gift was to play him in for an easy finish in the final minutes. Unsurprisingly then, Shackleton made Tueart the star performer, giving him a mark of 9 out of 10 in his ratings.
Burton meanwhile was Oxford’s best-ranked player, which gave an indication of just how much the Rokerites had dominated.
Sunderland boss Alan Brown was a happy man and he too wanted to single out some of his players, with Richie Pitt and Dave Watson both drawing praise. Young full back Keith Coleman, who had debuted earlier in the season, was another player that had a strong game according to reports but for all the afternoon’s positives few would have believed you if you’d said at this point that the club was destined for glory.
The 1971-72 season saw a series of high scoring games and the side were one of the top scorers in the division, but they also had the joint-worst defensive record in the top ten and the accusation was that Brown was stifling Sunderland’s attacking flair in search of a more organised unit.
He wasn’t a million miles off in his efforts to get the balance right and the team finished the campaign in 5th place, but it wasn’t until he was replaced by Bob Stokoe that things really clicked.
Oxford’s next trip to Wearside came four days after the game that would be voted the best ever played at Roker Park, an FA Cup 5th round replay thrashing of Manchester City.
By that point fans were well and truly aware that something special was starting to grow, and it was in games such as the one played half a century ago today that the seeds were first being sewn.
Saturday 12 February 1972
Football League Division Two
Sunderland 3 (Tueart 27, 54 Porterfield 88)
Oxford United 0
Sunderland: Montgomery; Malone, Harvey, Pitt, Coleman; McGiven, Chambers, Porterfield, Hughes (Lathan 65); Watson, Tueart.
Roker Park, attendance 15, 368