Robert Campbell’s men were looking to get back to winning ways when they welcomed West Brom to the newly opened Roker Park in 1898-99, having followed up victories in their two season openers with a more disappointing run of two draws and a defeat.
There had been a heavy loss at Derby County a week earlier and whilst there was a strong sea breeze to contend with, they soon looked to be in command in only the third fixture to be played at the ground.
The match was a ‘ticket benefit’ for the one and only Ted Doig, who went home with roughly £250 in cash and marked the occasion with a clean sheet.
His team had most of the play after winning the toss, and whilst he was called upon to produce his customary reflexes to deny Alex McKenzie it was a relatively trouble free afternoon for the stopper.
Hugh Morgan hit the bar for Sunderland in the first half and he then began the breakaway that saw Jim Leslie slipping between two defenders and putting the Lads ahead. Morgan had been in strong form but was forced to limp off shortly afterwards, although Leslie quickly made it 2-0 when he met a centre from Arthur Saxton. The win put the Lads 6th in Division One as they leapfrogged the Baggies.
Sunderland got themselves into another two goal lead 68 years later but this time they were unable to see job through – despite being up against an inexperienced West Brom.
Wearing all red, Albion had been forced to delve into their reserve and youth teams after being wiped out almost by injuries and a sickness bug that left them with only two first team regulars in the starting XI.
Clive Clark was one of those established names and he led by example, crossing for debutant Ray Treacy to volley past Jim Montgomery (who did well just to get a hand to the effort) before seconds later getting the leveller himself when he reacted quickest to a loose ball and poked home.
Sunderland looked shell-shocked, with the absence of Charlie Hurley not helping in the slightest. With their talisman still recovering from a knee ligament issue picked up against Chelsea a month earlier, the side were struggling for confidence and the recent criticism they had been receiving in the press was to intensify come full time despite them initially getting into what seemed like a strong position.
Scottish selector Bob Thyne was in the crowd and there was plenty for him to note from a Caledonian perspective with Neil Martin the star man for the hosts. As well as hitting the bar, he scored the second of the day when George Herd’s corner was headed on by George Mulhall, whilst Herd had already got the first when Jim Baxter found the gap and threaded through a pass. Jim McNab had been shifted across as manager Ian McColl continued tinkering in order to try and compensate for the loss of Hurley, but for another Scot this was the end of the road – the game proving to be Nick Sharkey’s last appearance for the club.
The story of what was a much-needed victory in the midlands has already been told by Roker Report before - On This Day (8 Oct 1994): SAFC beat West Brom despite missing out on two ex-England midfielders - Roker Report (sbnation.com) - but one person who was grateful for being there in person at the time was reserve goalkeeper Sean Musgrave.
With Tony Norman injured in training the day before, Alec Chamberlain was given his first start of the campaign - thereby opening up a spot on the bench for the local prospect. It meant Musgrave accepted a last minute lift down to The Hawthorns from Roker Radio’s Bill Mantle, only for the car to break down and leave the pair panicking.
Fortunately, a passing supporters coach was flagged down to take the number 13 the rest of the way, with Mantle staying by his car at the roadside until he was later towed home. An early update over the radio did little for his nerves however when, not knowing if his passenger had indeed made it, he heard that Chamberlain was at risk of being dismissed following an early challenge.
There was to be no red card however, and as news continued to filter through it soon became clear that Musgrave had been able to sit back and relax as the points were secured.
Saturday 8 October 1898, Football League Division One
Sunderland 2 (Leslie 56’, 61’)
West Bromwich Albion 0
Roker Park, attendance c. 17,000
Saturday 8 October 1996, Football League Division One
Sunderland 2 (Herd 28’, Martin 58’)
West Bromwich Albion 2 (Treacy 60’, Clark 61’)
Roker Park, attendance 26, 632
Saturday 8 October 1994, Endsleigh League Division One
West Bromwich Albion 1 (Ashcroft 75’)
Sunderland 3 (Smith 26’, P. Gray 35’, 57’)
The Hawthorns, attendance 13,717