Only two weeks on from playing out a drab 0-0 draw in the league, Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland played out an entertaining 3-3 draw in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Ewood Park.
Coming into this game on the back of a horrendous run of form, Howard Wilkinson’s team were looking for a distraction from their woes in the Premier League.
In front of a sparse crowd of 14,000 fans, Sunderland seemingly discovered some form from nowhere to go 3-1 up with less than twenty minutes on the clock, only for late goals from Andy Cole and then Dwight Yorke in added time preventing a much needed tonic for the away side.
To be fair to the fans, after such a drab draw only two weeks previous, it was no surprise that such a small crowd turned up for this one though those who stayed away may have regretted their decision when Sunderland took the lead after 69 seconds.
Rovers lost possession to Michael Gray and he found Michael Proctor whose cross was fired home first-time by Marcus Stewart arriving from deep.
Stewart - who only signed the previous summer - nabbed his fifth goal of the season in all competitions though the team wouldn’t see the best of him until the following season in Division One.
We went close twice in the next ten minutes to doubling our lead through opportunities for Julio Arca and Kevin Phillips but were left to rue them when Andy Cole equalised in the 14th minute with virtually their first attack.
This didn’t derail Sunderland’s positive play at all and they went back in the lead early in the second half through Michael Proctor.
A mistake from Andy Todd let in Proctor and he turned well before firing a powerful right-foot shot that gave Friedel no chance.
This spurred Wilkinson’s men on further with Kilbane, Phillips and Arca all going close right after our second goal.
Labelled ‘a shambles’ by manager Graeme Souness, Blackburn were truly doing all the could in this game to concede a goal with their high line and lack of concentration truly killing them throughout this game.
On the 70th minute, we finally got a deserved third. In an unexpected twist, defender Jody Craddock showed some amazingly good feet to backheel Phillips through one on one with Brad Friedel, where the striker coolly slotted it home.
After gaining our third, the away fans were in fine voice cheering the team on until Andy Cole scored a well placed finish unexpectedly to bring the home side back into the game.
Three minutes later Rovers were back in it when Cole linked up well with Yorke before side-footing past Sorensen.
Truthfully, it wasn’t deserved at all but with Rovers back in the game, the Sunderland vulnerability began to show as Blackburn attempted to pile on the pressure.
Playing a high line, Sunderland coped well until the 91st minute where one long ball caught the entire team out with Rovers piling men forward.
Yorke latched onto the long ball and ran through unmarked to cooly finish past Thomas Sorensen in the Sunderland goal.
The goal salvaged a draw for the home side who now had to travel north for the replay. After the game, Howard Wilkinson stated that he believed the first Rovers goal was offside.
We were unlucky and I would like to see their first goal again. I thought Cole was offside.
The replay would eventually bring a positive end for Sunderland as they would win 3-0 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in normal time.
Blackburn: Friedel, Douglas (Ostenstad 59), Todd, Taylor, Neill, Jansen (Gillespie 45), Thompson, Tugay, Dunn (Johansson 83), Cole, Yorke.
Subs not used: Short, Robinson.
Sunderland: Sorensen, Gray, Babb, Craddock, Clark, Proctor, McCann, Kilbane, Arca, Phillips, Stewart.
Subs not used: Thome, Kyle, Medina, Oster, Macho.
Referee: D Elleray (Middlesex).