Nathan Broadhead’s last-gasp winner, to secure a vital three points against Gillingham on Saturday, was the latest in a long line of dramatic, last-minute goals scored by Sunderland during the twenty five years we have played at the Stadium of Light.
In the spirit of snatching the points when a draw looked the most likely outcome, let’s take a stroll down the avenue of injury-time drama, and look at five classic ‘OH THEY’VE DONE IT’ goals.
Niall Quinn vs Wolves, 20th February 1999
It was testament to the strength of character that our promotion-winning team of 98/99 possessed that we could bounce back from a semi-final exit in the League Cup, only to record a priceless and gutsy victory in our next league fixture.
Allan Johnston got us off to the perfect start, slotting home after a Niall Quinn flick-on, before Andy Melville and Thomas Sorensen, whose copybooks during that season were rarely blotted, miscommunicated, and Melville stabbed the ball past a flat-footed and helpless Sorensen, resulting in Peter Reid almost spontaneously combusting on the touchline.
Deep into injury time, however, Sunderland won it.
The ball went wide to Nicky Summerbee from Lee Clark, and his cross was half-cleared and smashed back into the area by Johnston. After a brief game of penalty-box pinball, it dropped to Quinn, who shovelled it home despite being off-balance, sparking euphoric scenes inside the ground.
Liam Miller vs Derby, 24th February 2007
The sadly-missed Miller, who passed away aged just 36 in 2018, was one of the players signed by Roy Keane when he arrived at the club in 2006. As the season unfolded, the ex-Man Utd man became a key player for us, with his energy and work rate valued highly by Keane, and his professionalism earning him the enduring respect of the fans.
In a game played out against the backdrop of a feverish & expectant atmosphere, we went ahead via a David Connolly penalty, only for Giles Barnes to equalise with a stylish finish, and give that noted wind-up merchant Billy Davies a reason to jump up and down with gusto, as he so often did.
As the clock ticked down, Grant Leadbitter played the ball into the box, and Miller rose highest to flick the ball past Stephen Bywater and send us on our way to victory. It was a huge win as we continued to make inroads towards the summit of the table.
Anthony Stokes vs Derby, 1st December 2007
Fast forward eight months, and Sunderland/Derby was now a top-flight fixture after we claimed the Championship title and Derby won promotion the playoffs, and it was a game that both teams desperately needed to win.
We’d only tasted victory twice since the start of the season, and Derby were mired at the foot of the table under the new management of Paul Jewell, with only a solitary win to their name.
After another hideously brutal and aesthetically ugly affair on a freezing cold December day, Anthony Stokes popped up to fire home an acrobatic winner from almost point-blank range, giving us another win to go with our opening-day defeat of Spurs, and a Kenwyne Jones-inspired victory over Reading, and ensuring that dodging relegation would be a genuine target as we headed into the winter.
Andy Reid vs West Ham, 29th March 2008
On the BBC commentary of this game, after Reid volleys home the winner and the fans erupt, we are reminded that this was the first time we had won consecutive PL games since early 2002, which was quite a statistic in itself.
Recruited from Charlton in the January 2008 transfer window, Reid was a shrewd piece of business from Roy Keane. He had an eye for a pass (remember the assist for Daryl Murphy’s winner against Wigan?) and an ability to score goals himself.
On this particular day, we’d fallen behind via a deflected shot from Freddie Ljungberg, before Kenwyne Jones levelled the game with a neat finish from a Murphy flick.
As the game wound down, Reid was in the right place at the right time, and as the ball dropped to him after West Ham botched a clearance, he met it sweetly on the volley, buried it into the bottom corner, and was duly mobbed by his teammates as Keane raised his fist in triumph. It was a victory that would see us take a huge stride towards securing our status for the following season.
Ji-Dong Won vs Man City, 1st January 2012.
Genuine highlights from Martin O’Neill’s tenure as Sunderland boss are hard to find, such was the peculiarly underwhelming nature of his stint in the dugout, but this memorable victory over a title-chasing Man City would always rank highly on the list.
We’d done an admirable job of holding off Roberto Mancini’s uber-talented team for the majority of the match, and with seconds left, we broke away as the crowd, and O’Neill himself, sensed that maybe the victory could be snatched, but who would be the hero?
Nowadays, VAR would doubtless intervene and rule out the goal for offside, but in those halcyon, pre-technology days, where human judgement trumped computers, Stephane Sessegnon’s slotted pass and Ji’s finish, after neatly sidestepping Joe Hart, were both perfectly fair, and the Korean striker wheeled away in celebration, having opened his account for the club in the most spectacular fashion.