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On This Day (26th Oct 1996): Stewart hits winner for Sunderland in tight game with Aston Villa!

It was a good day to be Paul Stewart as the former England international scored a massively important goal which handed Sunderland victory over Aston Villa.

Photo by Matthew Ashton/EMPICS via Getty Images

It was about time that Peter Reid received some luck early on in the 1996-97 Premiership season.

After losing his new £1.3 million striker Niall Quinn to injury, the managers woes were compounded by the loss of their new goalkeeper Tony Coton too.

Coton had made a particularly impressive start to his Sunderland career. With five clean sheets in his first eleven games, the former Manchester United goalkeeper was displaying the capabilities that enticed Sunderland to spend £600,000 to acquire his services.

Tony Coton of Sunderland in action

The club’s previous game was as forgettable as they come for their manager Reid. Along with their rather convincing 3-0 defeat to Southampton, Coton horrendously broke his leg in five places which forced him to retire from football for good.

Between the loss of Quinn and Coton, Reid was feeling the heat already despite their respectable start to the season which saw them unbeaten in their first three games.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, Reid wouldn’t have had any luck at all.

On this day in 1996, Brian Little’s Aston Villla side which included players such as Dwight Yorke, Andy Townsend, Mark Bosnich and Gareth Southgate arrived at a sunny Roker Park with victory doubtless on their minds.

This was a big day for young striker Michael Bridges, who was making his full debut for the club, with pressure increased on him given the absence of Quinn.

Soccer - Carling Premiership - Sunderland v Nottingham Forest Photo by Laurence Griffiths/EMPICS via Getty Images

Bridges worked tirelessly on his debut up front with Irish striker David Kelly.

Kelly in particular was impressive in Sunderland’s dominant first half performance where his constant drifting out to the right wing led to many deep quality crosses landing on the head of Mickey Gray at the back post.

Sunderland created an abundance of chances in the first half.

Midway through the first half, a short back pass back underhit towards Mark Bosnich landed at the feet of Paul Stewart, who attempted to round the goalkeeper but was taken down inside the penalty box.

The referee blew for a penalty which was taken by Kelly. His short run up and tame kick gave Bosnich an ideal opportunity to make amends, but he could only parry the penalty to the feet of Stewart, who was there to tap in the rebound.

Soccer - Coca-Cola Cup - 3rd Round - Sunderland v Aston Villa - Roker Park Photo by Laurence Griffiths - PA Images via Getty Images

Kelly continued to be a thorn in the side of Villa. His cross from the right hand side was met by Gray, whose header skimmed across the goal and only needed someone to tap it in.

Just before half time, Bosnich made amends somewhat for his penalty miss when Gray nodded down another sublime cross from Kelly to Kevin Ball, whose volley was acrobatically saved by the Australian goalkeeper.

The second half brought less chances for the home team, but after much discussion about the loss of Coton, Lionel Perez had a point to prove to his supporters.

In a big moment which certainly saved three points, the goalkeeper saved a snap shot from Julian Joachim afrer Ugo Eghiogu’s misplaced shot landed at the striker’s feet.

Stewart’s goal was enough to secure the three points for the home side in a game where they had to show more grit than class throughout.

Sunderland: Lionel Perez, Dariusz Kubicki, Richard Ord, Andy Melville, Michael Gray, Gareth Hall, Paul Stewart, Paul Bracewell, Kevin Ball, David Kelly, Michael Bridges.


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