It would be interesting to know the statistics on how many times Sunderland have met all the other clubs in cup competitions over the years, but now that I think about it, we seem to have avoided the prospect of meeting the mags in cup competitions down the years.
There are sides who seem to crop up more than most, I remember in the early to mid-1990’s we seemed to play Carlisle United on an annual basis in the FA Cup, and then they would inevitably take us to a replay for more ‘fun’ over in Cumbria.
But, when it comes to Newcastle United, we were drawn together in the FA Cup fourth round twice prior to the World War I, which due to replays ended up being played out over the course of five games.
Since then, there has been an FA Cup quarter-final in 1956, which we won 2-0 at St James’ Park and then 1979, which was the first ever meeting between the two sides in the League Cup.
It was the twentieth year of the League Cup being in existence back in the 1979-80 season and there have been over forty years since, but still to this day there has only been this meeting in the competition.
The draw in the second round, had pitted us against each other over two legs as two second division sides. The previous season also saw the two clubs in the second tier fighting it out to return to the top flight where both clubs had experienced relegation in the two or three years previously.
In the 1978-79 season, Sunderland had narrowly missed out on promotion on the final day of the season, finishing 4th behind the promoted top-three and with expectation high, Newcastle United finished a disappointing 8th.
On-route to narrowly missing out on returning to Division One, we had to find a late equaliser to share the spoils at Roker Park in the first meeting in October 1978, but fast forward to February 1979 in front of a packed St James’ Park, it was a different story.
In a famous victory, the Lads ran out 4-1 winners in enemy territory, with who else but Gary Rowell claiming a hat-trick in Roy of the Rovers level proportions.
Six months later, with the first fixture in Division Two not scheduled until New Year’s Day, the fans were treated to an unexpected derby treat, with Newcastle especially looking for revenge for our win back in February.
There had been a change of manager in the Sunderland dugout, with Billy Elliott making way for Ken Knighton after Len Ashurst had reportedly turned the job down in the summer. Even though at this stage of the season, where there was no transfer deadline, there were no new additions to the squad, expectation was high and we’d got off to a solid start.
A draw at Danny Blanchflower’s Chelsea on the opening day was followed up with home wins over Jim Smith’s Birmingham City and Fulham going into the cup-tie.
The big team news leading up to the game was that Sunderland’s leading scorer for the previous two seasons, and the hero at St James’ Park six months previously, Gary Rowell, was declared fit following an ankle injury picked up against Birmingham City, but was unlikely to be included in the starting XI.
Ken Knighton stated in the lead up to the game that players who performed well would keep their place in the side and the performance of Wayne Entwistle in the win over Fulham at Roker four days previously, would mean he would keep his place in what would be an unchanged side.
Off the pitch, the Roker Park ticket office announced it would stay open until 7pm the night before the game to cope with the demand of the all-ticket affair. In modern times we’re grateful when the ticket office opens at all.
The game was played at a predictable frenetic pace with both sides going close early on, but it was the Lads who took the lead on 19 minutes. Gordon Chisholm began the move with a ball out to the right to Entwistle who after attacking down the right flank, crossed for Wilf Rostron to nod home from twelve yards to open his account for the season.
Both sides continued to press for a goal with chances being missed at both ends, and tackles being representative of the occasion and the era, with five yellow cards issued to Newcastle players and only one for the Lads.
In the 73rd minute, we were given a perfect opportunity to double our lead from the spot. Alan Brown made a bursting run passed two Newcastle defenders into the box before he was brought down by Hardwick in the Newcastle goal as Brown looked to take it around the keeper.
With ‘Pop’ Robson on duties there was only one outcome as he sent Hardwick the wrong way to make it 2-0.
Two minutes later however, Newcastle caught us napping and pulled one back through an unmarked Ian Davies and with seven minutes to go substitute Peter Cartwright, once again unmarked in the box, pegged it back to 2-2.
It could have been worse in the final few minutes as Siddall denied Cartwright a winner which left Sunderland assistant manager Frank Clark fuming at the performance:
We played like amateurs for the last hour. It was disgraceful and there are no excuses for it. We simply did not apply ourselves as we should and I am bitterly disappointed.
In other news, Yugoslavia international, Božo Bakota, was expected to ‘officially’ become a Sunderland player with the imminent work permit due any day, but that didn’t stop us putting him in a Sunderland strip for a few pictures as we considered it to be a done deal... until it fell through due to the work permit being declined.
Wednesday 29th August, 1979
Football League Cup
Second Round, First-Leg
Sunderland 2-2 Newcastle United
[Rostron 19’, Robson (pen) 73’ - Davies 75’, Cartwright 83’]
Sunderland: Siddall, Whitworth, Bolton, Clarke, Elliott, Chisholm, Arnott, Rostron, Entwhistle, Robson, Brown Substitute not used: Rowell
Newcastle United: Hardwick, Brownlie, Davies, Martin, Barton, Bird, Shoulder, Cassidy, Withe, Hibbitt, Nicholson (Cartwright)