Sunderland could lay claim to being one of the finest clubs in the land during the early years of the Football League, but despite being at the forefront of the game they struggled to make any real headway in the FA Cup during those halcyon days.
After first entering the competition in 1884 the side reached three semi-finals in the 1890s but would not get as far again until 1913, when, still seeking a maiden appearance in the final, they were drawn against Burnley. Being paired with a Division Two club looked on the face of it as the ideal opportunity for league leaders Sunderland to break their duck, but a tense 0-0 draw at Sheffield in the first game meant the tie would have to go to a replay.
Coming just four days after the original, and 109 years ago today, the second match saw boss Robert Kyle name an unchanged starting XI. The side had been restricted somewhat at the weekend so knew that Burnley could once again pose a threat, and following a frantic start to the action they took some time to gain full control of proceedings.
Not even an early goal for Charlie Buchan gave Sunderland any real advantage, and with less than 20 minutes played they found themselves behind. Even before the opener, a close range header following smart work from Harry Martin on the left wing, the Clarets had been close to drawing first blood and after seeing two ‘goals’ ruled out for infringements, they did then get on the scoresheet when Tommy Boyle converted a penalty awarded for a foul on William Husband.
Bert Freeman soon made it 2-1 when he reacted quickly to a rebound, and despite the poor conditions Burnley looked good for their lead.
The match was held at St. Andrew’s, with heavy rain in Birmingham before kick-off making the pitch greasy and whilst the sun had since come out there were blustery winds to contend with also. Burnley were playing fast, skilful football though and it was only as the half wore on that the Lads’ class started to tell.
Jackie Mordue and Harry Low both had efforts on goal and with the wind picking up again just before the interval the fact that Sunderland had won the toss proved vital.
Joe Butler had nearly been caught out towards the end of the first half when a Husband shot swerved in a gust, but after seeing their goalkeeper scramble to keep the ball out Sunderland began picking up the pace after the break.
Jimmy Richardson went close, and although Mordue missed a second opening his influence was starting to grow; the England international had been well shackled by Burnley up to that point but he would soon be on target.
His equaliser came from the spot after Buchan had been fouled with the goal at his mercy, and by now it only seemed like a matter of time before Sunderland would go back ahead. That was soon proven to be the case when Buchan pulled the ball back from the byline for George Holley to tuck away, and with influential captain Charlie Thomson holding a tight grip at the back the side were, at last, going to an FA Cup final.
In their match report, the Coventry Evening Telegraph suggested that some of those in attendance had claimed Sunderland’s performance was the finest display of ‘stylish and effective football’ seen at the host ground since it had opened seven years earlier.
Birmingham’s second city neighbours Aston Villa had already booked their spot at Crystal Palace, and perhaps they had some judges in the crowd as come the time of the final later in the month they were well prepared for their opponents.
Villa and Sunderland were already battling it out at the top of the first division and with the chance of a double now on the table, the final was a hotly anticipated affair. Having waited so long to get there however the Lads were unable to match expectations and the two prizes had to be shared; Villa took the cup and a week later Sunderland took the league title.
For their part, Burnley would gain promotion at the end of 1912-13 and 12 months later secured their own Palace appointment, getting there after they had earlier exacted revenge on Sunderland in the 4th round.
Not only that, but they went one better and won the competition against Liverpool, whereas Wearside would have to wait for more than two decades before eventually tasting success in an FA Cup final – for now, they had to be content with just reaching one.
Wednesday 2ND April 1913
FA Cup semi-final replay
Sunderland 3 (Buchan 7, Mordue 55, Holley 78)
Burnley 2 (Boyle 12, Freeman 17)
Sunderland: Butler; Gladwin, Ness; Cuggy, Thomson, Low; Mordue, Buchan, Richardson, Holley, Martin.
St. Andrew’s, attendance c. 30,000