By October 1886 Sunderland had been building a solid reputation by performing well in games that were deemed as ‘friendlies’, but before the creation of the Football League these games were keenly contested.
The introduction of the FA Cup in the early-1870s presented an opportunity to make things even more competitive and in November 1884, Sunderland took part for the first time with a defeat to Redcar 3-1 in the first round.
The following year saw Redcar win 3-0 in the first round once again, but the following year, in 1886-87, Sunderland had become the dominant side in the town and with their reputation steadily growing, the first round draw drew interest.
A preview of the game in the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette suggested that although West End were confident, the tie could be a close run thing:
I believe that the game will be stoutly contested from first to last, and whichever team wins, will only do so by the skin of their teeth. If Sunderland should be victorious, they certainly deserve great credit, seeing that the team is entirely composed of Sunderland youths, no outside aid whatever having been called.
Also in the preview was advice to fans wishing to attend due to the high interest in the tie:
Before leaving the subject I advise all those who wish to have a place against the ropes to be early at the scene of action, for, granted anything like favourable weather, there will be one of the largest musters ever seen at a football game in Sunderland.
The game was scheduled to kick-off but as the Morpeth Herald described, there was delay to proceedings:
The advertised time for the game was 3 o’clock, but it was not until 3.40 that the Sunderland men arrived, they having to engage a brake to bring them from Newcastle to the field of play.
This would prove significant.
The away side won the toss and elected to kick uphill in the opening period, which was decided would be half an hour rather than the full 45 minutes due to the late start. Recent rain created a slippery surface and the game began at a fast pace.
John Oliver in particular impressed for Sunderland creating early chances that were unfortunate not to break the deadlock, until Oliver once again was the provider for Jack Lord to score with a low shot.
It went into half-time with Sunderland leading at the break and despite now kicking up the hill, started the second half as the better side, but against the run of play, West End forced a series of corners where the third of which was met by E. Hendy who leveled the game.
Soon after however, a corner was forced at the other end and after the initial clearance fell to Lord, he bagged his second of the game to put Sunderland back into the lead.
Without floodlights, the end of the game was competed in almost total darkness and there were obvious scenes of celebrations amongst the bumper crowd at Newcastle Road. In the aftermath, an objection to the completion of the tie was received by the Football Association by the losing side.
After deliberation, it was not only decided that the game should be replayed, but that the fixture should take place at Newcastle two weeks later. The replay ended in a 1-0 victory for West End and Sunderland once again bowed out of the FA Cup in the first round and were still looking for a first victory in the competition.
But, to not end on a negative, you can read here what happened the following year when Sunderland had their chance to put things right.
Saturday 30th October, 1886
FA Cup 1st Round
Sunderland 2-1 Newcastle West End
[Lord (2) - Campbell]
Sunderland: Kirkley, Elliott, Oliver, McMillan, Smart, Dale, Erskine, Rowney, Smith, Lord, Davison
Newcastle West End: Wood, Todd, Hudson, Riley, W. Hendy, Turpin, Matthews, Thompson, Matthews, E. Hendy, Ritson
Attendance c. 5,000