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On This Day (28th January 1931): Cup fever hits the town as Sunderland progress

Lots of people, lots of noise and lots of goals as Sunderland aim for FA Cup glory!

The gaffer gets down to work. Image taken from Sunderland AFC The Official History.

1931 was still just a few weeks old, but an FA Cup replay on this day, that finished 3-1 no less, summed up exactly where Johnny Cochrane’s Sunderland team were at.

Goals, at both ends of the pitch, were plentiful and whilst the side were extremely talented on the ball, they often shot themselves in the foot with some sloppy defending. There had already been several high scoring affairs at this point in the campaign, and after securing passage in the cup the end to end nature of their matches continued in the following months.

Bolton Wanderers were the visitors to Roker Park in the fourth round. The teams had played twice already in the season, with both games at Burden Park ending all square, but despite the stalemate the original cup clash had been an explosive encounter with both sides being reduced to ten men before Jimmy Leonard’s last gasp equaliser. Leonard would get himself on the scoresheet again in the replay, and this time it was to put Sunderland ahead for the first time in the tie.

According to onlookers, the two teams played well on Wearside and the game was contested in good spirit. Both goalkeepers had enough to keep them busy whilst the man of the match was Jock McDougall, who it was said gave his best performance in red and white so far. Bill Murray was also praised for his efforts, with the future Sunderland boss working hard despite suffering from what was believed to be flu. It was his unfortunate error that led to the visitors going 1-0 up shortly before half time but he recovered well and later cleared the danger when it looked certain they were about to score again.

Jimmy Leonard. Image taken from All the Lads.

Harold Blackmore had capitalised on what was a scuffed clearance by trapping the ball and quickly shooting past Bob Middleton but just two minutes later Sunderland were level when Leonard spread the play wide to Billy Eden on the right and he slipped ball across the face of the goal for Jimmy Connor to drive in. Things remained tight for the first 15 minutes of the second half but that is when Leonard stepped up again, first firing in a free kick that flicked off an opponent and spun past Bob Jones in the Wanderers goal before then beginning the move for the clincher.

He headed the ball on for Bobby Gurney to turn into the path of Connor with ten minutes left, and another fierce shot from the Scot wrapped things up. Connor had been somewhat subdued after taking an early knock at Bolton at the weekend, but despite the replay coming only four days later there were clearly no after-effects; Sunderland’s finishing had been the difference in an entertaining match and they fully deserved to be progressing at the second attempt.

Reaching round five was well received: the FA Cup was big news and the game was obviously the talk of the town. Later editions of that day’s Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette reported that the cheers that greeted Leonard’s goal could be heard from the Wearmouth Bridge, whilst employees at Swan Hunter’s Southwick yard, or at least the ones that decided not to duck out of their shift in order to go to Roker, also claimed to have been able to hear the din coming from the stands – some feat given the nature of their work.

The trophy had been toured around the town ahead of kick off and the following day’s Echo continued to focus on the hullabaloo surrounding the tie. Argus, in his review of the sports news, defended the club in light of a complaint from one reader who claimed to have been attending since the team had been playing at Abbs Field 45 years earlier and was upset to find that he was unable to get into the ground despite being a season ticket holder. The gates had been closed early seemingly for reasons of safety, a move Argus agreed with, but the Sunderland sage was keen to point out that upon hearing the news Cochrane himself had gone outside to round up as many stricken season ticket holders as he could find and escorted them in through the main entrance and to their usual seats via a private area.

Jimmy Connor. Image taken from All the Lads.

Another writer meanwhile wanted to query the reported attendance and subsequent gate receipts. Quoted on the afternoon as 46,914 (although since officially recorded as slightly lower) and bringing in just under £2,980, by the correspondent’s reckoning the crowd was nearer 52,000, with his reasoning being there were approximately 38,000 in the ‘goal ends’, 7,500 in the grandstand and 6,500 in the clock stand. His maths suggested receipts of around £3,400 but Argus again sided with the club.

Elsewhere in the paper and away from the back pages, the regular ‘Echoes of the Day’ piece touched upon the volume of traffic seen either side of the match, it being ‘probably larger than has ever been in the town before’ and complimented the way in which it was handled. The congestion was presumably much worse come the fifth round though when there was a further 16,000 on the gate to see the Lads take on Sheffield United but by the time Bolton were back on Wearside for their league return the cup run was over.

Sunderland fell at the semi-final stage to Birmingham on neutral turf at Elland Road. The goals had continued to flow however, with 8-2, 4-0, 4-2, and 5-1 successes being recorded amongst other scorelines, and having already knocked the Trotters out they secured another victory in the rematch with a repeat 3-1 win.


Wednesday 28 January 1931

FA Cup fourth round replay

Sunderland 3 (Connor 41’, 80’, 62’)

Bolton Wanderers 1 (Blackmore 39’)

Sunderland: Middleton; Murray, Shaw; Morris, McDougall, Hastings; Eden, Urwin, Gurney, Leonard, Connor.

Roker Park, attendance 46,900

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