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Soccer - Barclay’s League Division Two - Tranmere Rovers v Sunderland

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On This Day (14 April 1992): Sunderland steamroller Ipswich as the lads warm up for Wembley!

Gary Owers makes his long-awaited comeback as a Don Goodman-inspired Sunderland swat the league leaders away.

Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

The second half of the 1991-92 season was a time of conflicting emotions, both in the stands and, as it turned out, in the boardroom.

Just nine days before this fixture against Ipswich Town, we’d descended on Hillsborough – in my case, in a minibus from Durham with me dad and some lads he used to work with – as cup fever well and truly took over the north east.

We’d totally and utterly rocked Hillsborough – following on from the Chelsea Quarter Final win, it had been the best atmosphere I’d experienced up until that point – and the win had evoked memories of, and comparisons with, Bob Stokoe's team of 19 years previous.

While we were excelling in the cup, the league had been a different story altogether. The week before we saw off Norwich, we’d been beaten by the mags at St James – the Keegan bandwagon having been rescued from the cliff top by John Hall a few weeks earlier. Apparently, all wasn’t as it appeared in the brochure.

Soccer - Barclays League Division Two - Newcastle United v Sunderland - St James Park
We’d lost the derby the week before the semi – and league form was a concern
Photo by Paul Marriott/EMPICS via Getty Images

That defeat had left us in a precarious position, losing the opportunity to go level on points with Newcastle – and the bottom of Division Two was looking like this.

Newcastle P41 P46
Oxford P40 P44
Sunderland P36 P43
Brighton P40 P43
Plymouth P40 P42
Port Vale P41 P40

Games in hand had built up thick and fast after the Semi, and the next two games – Leicester away and Charlton at home – had produced the grand total of zero points.

Relegation and a cup win? It was certainly on the cards.

Thanks to the backlog of fixtures, we had to place nine games in 21 days after Hillsborough, including five in ten days over the Easter weekend, and after the Charlton defeat we returned to Roker for the second of three home games in six days to face top-of-the-table Ipswich. In a move to attract as many people to the game as possible, the board announced vouchers to go into a ballet for Wembley tickets would be handed out at both the Ipswich game and the Plymouth game at home two days later. With 5,000 season ticket holders and a lack of digital systems, it was a different challenge to issuing tickets today – and the club had been heavily criticised for the way they had handled the semi-final tickets, with many genuine fans missing out.

On the field, a win would open a three-point gap between Sunderland and the relegation zone and jump above Newcastle – but the in-form table toppers Ipswich, with five consecutive wins, would be a tough opponent for a Jekyll and Hyde side.

Soccer - Barclay’s League Division Two - Tranmere Rovers v Sunderland
Goodman had unfortunately played for West Brom in the FA Cup 1st round prior to his move to Sunderland
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

For Sunderland, Don Goodman returned to the team, however, Paul Bracewell, who’d played at Hillsborough with a broken nose, was out. Brian Mooney took the skipper’s place in the team.

In typical Sunderland fashion that season, faced with a decent opponent, we turned in probably our most impressive league performance of the season – certainly at home.

On a wet night at Roker, we played fast, attacking football, taking the game to Ipswich from the off, and completely dominating the opening stages. David Rush, playing from the left, cut in after a good run and forced a fantastic save from Canadian keeper Craig Forrest; at the other end, Tony Norman kept out Chris Kiwomya after failing to hold a skidding long-ranger from former Scarborough full-back Neil Thompson.

The rain-affected pitch caused midfield problems in the second half, but it was Sunderland who took to the conditions. A 30-yarder from Brian Atkinson was again well kept out by Forrest, before we took the lead on 53 minutes.

Soccer - FA Cup Semi Final - Sunderland v Norwich City - Hillsborough, Sheffield
Davenport had excelled during the cup run
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

Record signing Goodman had been the team’s ‘bad luck’ story of the cup run. He’d played in the first round for West Brom against Marlow shortly before signing – and as a result, he’d missed out on some of the most memorable games a generation had witnessed.

Peter Davenport had been our ‘cup’ striker alongside John Byrne. Tonight, Davenport returned to the bench as Goodman took out whatever frustration he’d built up on Ipswich, tapping in after good work from Atkinson and Rush.

Goodman doubled his and Sunderland’s tally with 11 minutes left – and it was a double celebration for Sunderland, as the goal was set up by a surging run from Gary Owers. The 22-year-old had been out injured since January, but was probably our most highly-rated player at the time, frequently attracting attention from First Division clubs.

Decked out in cycling shorts, Owers made a terrific cameo from the bench, and his surging run and perfectly weighted pass set up Goodman, who slotted past the onrushing Forrest into the Roker End goal.

Sunderland put the icing on the cake a few moments later, David Rush shooting home from the edge of the box to claim a memorable win, and push Sunderland a little closer to safety.

After a rousing win over the league leaders, Sunderland had 48 hours before facing Peter Shilton’s Plymouth – who were firmly entrenched in the relegation positions.

And, unless you’re very new to supporting Sunderland, you can make a pretty educated guess what would happen there... But, as we say, that’s another story, for another day.

Sunderland 3-0 Ipswich
Roker Park, 22, 131
Goodman 53, 79; Rush 83
Sunderland: Norman, Kay, Hardyman, Atkinson, Bennett, Rogan, Rush, Mooney (Owers 70), Goodman (Davenport 79), Byrne, Armstrong.

Ipswich: Forrest, Zondervan, Thompson, Stockwell, Wark, Whelan, Johnson (Milton), Palmer, Whitton, Dozzell, Kiwomya. Sub not used: Goddard


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