During the 1982-83 season Sunderland rotated a small selection of stock images on the front covers of the Roker Review.
Fan favourite and top goalscorer Gary Rowell would regularly feature on these, and it was fitting that a shot of him celebrating a goal would be used on this day in 1983 as it was his brace that proved to be the difference against a handy Everton side.
The victory was the fourth successive time Sunderland had beaten the Blues at Roker Park, with Rowell having also scored twice the last time Everton had been on Wearside 11 months earlier. This time the match would be a lot closer though, and the visitors went away feeling unlucky not to have got something from it.
Everton boss Howard Kendall, himself a County Durham lad, was putting together a squad that soon become the best in the country and in Kevin Richardson, Andy King and Adrian Heath he selected three players for this fixture that would all go on to work for Sunderland in various capacities in later years.
The side then enjoyed the better of the early exchanges, although the biggest chance did fall to the hosts who saw Frank Worthington’s goal-bound flick cleared off the line by John Bailey.
Buoyed by that opening Sunderland did begin to play themselves into the game a little more, and just after the half-hour mark took the lead with Bailey once again involved.
Under pressure from Leighton James the full-back handled the ball in front of the Roker End and from the resulting penalty Rowell scored with trademark coolness – he had converted another spot-kick at Manchester City a week earlier and was now halfway through a run of six goals in four games.
The match was played amidst strong blustery winds and to top off a hectic few minutes for Bailey he then went close to an immediate equaliser with a long-range effort, but whilst that shot was tipped over by Chris Turner it wouldn’t be long before Everton did score.
The leveller came from inside the six-yard box and came via the unmarked Graeme Sharp, who had the easy task of heading home Heath’s inch-perfect cross.
Kevin Sheedy then had the ball in the net again after he struck a superb volley, but the effort was ruled out due to David Johnson creeping into an offside position as it was hit. It was a let-off for Sunderland who continued to be tested throughout, and yet they regained the lead following a slick move down the right-hand side.
With the Lads struggling to get into a rhythm Barry Venison, Stan Cummins and Jimmy Nicholl suddenly combined well to earn a corner. It was taken by James and met by Rowell, who timed his darting run perfectly to beat goalkeeper Jim Arnold from a similar position as Sharp had scored from earlier. Back ahead once more, Sunderland had to work hard to make sure of the win and although they were not at their best, they showed plenty of guts.
A tackle by Iain Munro on King had some people calling for a red card, and Everton flashed a late effort just wide, but the side stuck to their task and did what they had to do. It meant Sunderland had now gone over three months without losing on home soil, but not everybody was entirely happy with how the afternoon had gone.
As was the case at Everton, the club was making strides under their manager. Although keen to praise the work of boss Alan Durban however, chairman Tom Cowie OBE (he did not become Sir until nine years later) did not feel the supporters were following suit and in the aftermath of the game spoke of his disappointment over how many were attending games.
Given the economic climate at the time his infamous comments in the Sunderland Echo prior to the next home game against Swansea City did Cowie few favours, with many feeling the comparisons with Newcastle United and other general suggestions were extremely imbalanced.
An in-form Rowell lifted the mood slightly with a late equaliser in that game though, proving as he had done against Everton that he was always a player the fans were happy to see in action.
Saturday 5 March 1983
Football League Division One
Sunderland 2 (Rowell 32, 56)
Everton 1 (Sharp 36)
Sunderland: Turner; Nicholl, Atkins, Chisholm, Munro; Venison, Pickering, Rowell, Cummins; Worthington, James (West 80).
Roker Park, attendance 16,051