Sunderland fans didn’t need to worry if they were running late for their fixture against Leyton Orient on this day in 1960 – it wasn’t until the final half an hour of the game that anything of real note took place. Besides, those who had turned up early enough to get a good vantage point were struggling to make out the full picture anyway, such was the thick fog that had enveloped Roker Park.
The conditions were an obvious factor in things taking an age to get going, but then Stan Anderson decided to take matters into his own hands. Frustrated perhaps at the lack of tempo in front of him, he demanded the ball from Ian Lawther midway through the second half and after cutting inside blasted home from 30 yards out. It was a stunning strike barely in keeping with what had gone on before, but the goal lit the blue touch paper and 1-0 quickly became 2-0 when Lawther headed in a Harry Hooper corner.
From almost nowhere Sunderland had suddenly found themselves in charge, and they tightened their grip on things further when shortly afterwards Ambrose Fogarty rounded goalkeeper Frank George and then backtracking defender Alan Eagles to get a third in a little under 20 minutes. The abrupt change in proceedings must have been hard for George to take, as before that the visiting stopper had done well given the circumstances; despite being unable at times to pick out his own posts, or any play outside his area, he had been neat and tidy on the odd occasions the Lads had been able to create any sort of threat.
Before bursting to life in front of goal towards the closing stages it had been at the other end where Sunderland seemed the most comfortable. Anderson and his half-back colleagues Charlie Hurley and Jimmy McNab had marshalled Orient’s forwards well, whilst the full-back pairing of Colin Nelson and Len Ashurst were rock solid – even after Ashurst had crashed into a barrier by the side of the pitch following a hefty challenge.
Peter Wakeham too was starting to find some form after a couple of tricky months and it was a shame for the keeper when he was denied what would have been a fully deserved clean sheet through Eddy Brown’s late consolation effort. There was still time however for another strike, and the home team hit back when Lawther ran onto Hooper’s expert pass to complete the unexpected flurry.
Clearly a slow burner, in the end the match had seen five goals even though it had still been 0-0 after 65 minutes. The win was very welcome for manager Alan Brown too; since relegation in 1958 things had been a slog and rather than pushing for promotion as anticipated, two hugely disappointing finishes at the wrong end of the table had left the club flatter than ever. There was now a chink of light though - jumping five places and into the top half of Division Two after securing victory, the game had been a microcosm of the 1960-61 campaign so far when after a sluggish beginning the Lads were now five unbeaten. It would be February before they lost again, as the gloom continued to lift.
Saturday 19 November 1960
Football League Division Two
Sunderland 4 (Anderson 66’, Lawther 76, 90’, Fogarty 84’)
Leyton Orient 1 (Brown 90’)
Sunderland: Wakeham; Nelson, Ashurst; Anderson, Hurley, McNab; Hooper, Fogarty, Lawther, McPheat, Overfield.
Roker Park, attendance 16,815