Since losing in the League Cup at Preston North End a month earlier, Sunderland had been unbeatable.
Three wins and four draws had put Bob Stokoe’s men into the automatic promotion spots, and as we welcomed Sheffield Wednesday to Wearside on this day in 1974, most fans were confident of keeping the run going.
The sequence had already seen a 2-0 victory at Hillsborough and with the Owls, who included future Sunderland boss Ken Knighton and former youth team graduate Fred McIver in their ranks, struggling at the wrong end of the table, many onlookers were expecting the Lads to make light work of the Tuesday night rematch.
The opening exchanges only strengthened that belief, and it was soon clear to even the most pessimistic Sunderland supporter that there was a gulf in quality between the two sides.
An early chance set the tone, with Vic Halom heading just over after Bobby Kerr got down the line and crossed the ball into the box.
The pressure continued and when Ron Guthrie swung in a cross, Billy Hughes found himself in acres of space to crash home emphatically past visiting goalkeeper Peter Springett.
At 1-0 up and with less than five minutes gone, the Lads could sense they were in the ascendancy already and pushed for more. The second goal followed shortly afterwards, when a similar move saw Halom play a beautiful cross field ball and Kerr, also unmarked in the penalty area, found the inside corner.
It was at this point that Wednesday attempted to mount a response, with Tommy Craig going closest to beating the always-alert Jim Montgomery.
However, the visitors were unable to sustain the tempo for any length of time, and whilst Monty would eventually claim a relatively comfortable clean sheet, his opposite number Springett was being tested regularly.
He had no chance when Dave Watson rose majestically to head in Ian Porterfield’s free kick just before half time and with that, any hopes of a fightback were over.
Referee Ted Jolly had to caution both Alan Thompson and Brian Joicey for bruising challenges in the second half, with the first incident seemingly proving to Sunderland that they should go into conservation mode.
As always, Halom, the victim of a third robust Thompson tackle inside a minute, was relishing the physical battle but with the games coming thick and fast at that stage in the season and the points seemingly in the bag, it made sense to try and keep Wednesday at arm’s length from then on.
Watson did hit the top of the bar with another header but goalmouth action was at a premium in the main, as things were allowed to wind down.
With the win secured and Sunderland now up to second, we could look back on a strong start to 1974/1975 ahead of a crunch match with fellow promotion chasers Aston Villa at the weekend.
A valuable draw in that game followed, but subsequent defeats at Hull City and Cardiff City were ominous and it was our away form that would eventually derail the campaign. This was in sharp contrast to our home performances, with this anniversary display being the perfect example of how to get the job done.
Tuesday 15 October 1974
Football League Division Two
Sunderland 3 (Hughes 4’, Kerr 12’, Watson 42’)
Sheffield Wednesday 0
Sunderland: Montgomery, Malone, Moncur; Watson, Guthrie, Porterfield; Kerr, Towers, Hughes; Halom, Robson.