It was season 1965/66 and the World Cup was coming to Roker Park that summer. I was still three months away from my very first game at Roker Park when this derby match was played, but dearly wish I had been there to witness the walloping that was handed out.
Both teams came into the game off heavy defeats and flirting with relegation in the bottom third of the table.
Newcastle had been beaten 4-2 at Villa Park two days earlier and were lying in nineteenth place.
Sunderland had lost badly 5-1 to West Bromwich Albion at Roker Park in front of 35,000 fans in a game where they started like an express train completely outgunning their high riding opponents in the first half hour but fading badly to concede three unanswered goals in the second half. The defeat left the Lads in sixteenth place, still searching for their first victory since the 30th of October!
Added to our form was the injury list, which saw Sharkey, Martin and Hood out injured. With Irwin, McNab, Hellawell and Mulhall all on stand-bye. Jimmy Montgomery had been out injured since breaking his ankle on October 16th but was deemed ready to return, ousting the hapless McLaughlan, for whom the WBA 5-1 defeat was his last game for Sunderland.
To add to the intensity of the occasion in front of 54,000+, there had been a hard overnight frost that had affected areas of the pitch despite its covering of straw (all legally bought and paid for!). A number of Sunderland players changed from screw-in stud to “mouldies” in the warm-up.
Sunderland kicked off attacking a vibrant and covered Fulwell End. Within minutes of almost non-stop attack, Newcastle had conceded two free-kicks and a stern talking to John McGrath from the referee. The resultant free kick led to an almighty scramble in the Newcastle goalmouth which culminated in McGrath just getting a toe-end to deflect for a corner. Taken by Mulhall, he placed a wicked cross to Charlie Hurley lurking with intent at the far post, some clever jostling and movement/obstruction by McGrath and Moncur saw the chance missed but all the early pressure was coming toward the Newcastle goal.
The magpie defence had committed three bad fouls in a row when Ashurst was booked for an innocuous contact with Napier. It reeked of the referee deciding he had reached his limit of fouls and would simply take the next opportunity to book any player, irrespective of the calibre of foul. The referee was roundly booed for what would become a whole raft of perplexing decisions throughout the game, favouring neither team in general but disrupting the flow and enraging the fans!
A glorious pass from Baxter set O’Hare through on goal, but in what would also become a pattern in the game McGrath just got a foot in to clear the danger. Then nine minutes in, Parke sent a compelling cross into the box that young Gary Moore got a clever touch on to John O’Hare. The hard-working forward wasted no time in snapping a shot in, which cannoned off Marshall who knew little about it, and almost spun into the goal before Burton managed to clear.
Straight after this, “Bullet” Mulhall and O’Hare combined brilliantly to split the Toon defence wide open with the flying winger pinging his shot just past the post as Marshall advanced from his goal.
What a breathless start by Sunderland, the visitors hardly knew what had hit them!
In a rare foray forward, Jim Iley was dispossessed by Baxter, the elegant Scot slid a good pass to Mulhall, who was just blocked as he homed in on the Newcastle goal. Then Ashurst dispossessed Napier and rolled another good pass to Mulhall, who took the ball in his stride and raced away from his first marker only to be bought crudely to a halt by McGrath, who despite already being warned by the referee, escaped punishment.
The resultant free kick raised a bit of a head-scratching laugh as all of the Sunderland attack moved one way (in what looked like a planned move) but the ball went the other, trickling harmlessly out for a throw-in.
Newcastle finally broke out from the Sunderland bombardment, requiring interceptions and tackles by Dave Elliott, Parke, and Hurley in quick succession.
Another Sunderland corner on eighteen minutes saw Hurley rise characteristically as the expectant crowd held its breath, but he headed just wide of the goal. At this point, the police had to intervene at the Roker End, which was so packed they had to move Children and older folk to safer areas of the stadium.
Shortly after this Parke beat Moncur and Iley and put a great cross over from the bye-line. Moore once again lost his marker in the box met the ball perfectly and blasted a header goalwards, only to see it smash off the crossbar and rebound between O’Hare and Herd as Marshall managed to grab the ball. This was the best chance yet and Moore drew huge applause from the home fans for his effort.
Hurley then intercepted on two occasions in quick succession as danger threatened, he was displaying not only his imperious heading ability in defence and attack, but also his passing out of defence as he found the ever-available Herd to set another attack away. Two frantic goalmouth scrambles ensued with Herd, Moore and O’Hare all going close before Iley cleared for a corner.
A clash in the Newcastle box following the corner saw both Moncur and Hurley grounded and requiring treatment. Moncur eventually rose and resumed his position in defence. Hurley though limped to the side-line and continued to receive treatment as the game re-commenced. Hurley was then escorted to the dressing room for further treatment as Sunderland continued a man down.
It was a full nine minutes before the majority of fans in the crowd got the news they did not want. Hurley was unable to resume and as this was the season substitutes were introduced, Mike Hellawell came on from the bench. This prompted a re-shuffle, with Dave Elliott coming back to right-half, the ever-reliable Martin Harvey moving to centre-half and Hellawell taking his natural position on the right wing, with Herd moving to inside-right. The loss of Hurley was undoubtedly a blow, but all the players named went on the acquit themselves well throughout the remainder of the game.
Montgomery came into the game during the nine-minute spell whilst down to ten men. First getting a great fist whilst under a lot of pressure to a Newcastle corner and then grabbing a rolling cross into a crowded box as the visitors tried to press their numerical advantage.
Despite being a man down, Baxter split the Newcastle defence again with a slide-rule pass to O’Hare whose teasing cross was just plucked by Marshall.
With the substitution made, Herd cracked a twenty-yard blunderbuss that looked to be going in, forcing a great save from Marshall.
Iley was then finally booked on forty-one minutes by the referee for another foul on Herd, who had drawn a number of fouls and “right on the line” tackles in an all-action first 45 minutes.
Half-time arrived and Sunderland were loudly applauded from the field by their fans, who had witnessed their team hammer Newcastle 0-0 in a largely one-way first half. There may have been some trepidation amongst the home support as they drew breath. The first half performance mirrored a number of games in this season that then saw Sunderland fade. The last home game but three days previous had seen an abject capitulation in the second half, surely this would not happen again.
The second half kicked off and Sunderland were quickly back on the attack, as Herd and Baxter resumed their “string pulling.”
On forty-nine minutes Baxter slid another defence splitting pass that Moore dummied, completely out-foxing Jim Iley as the ball ran through to Herd who rifled an excellent shot past Marshall who was rooted to the spot as the ball almost burst the net - WHAT A GOAL!
The Roker roar bellowed out from all four corners of the ground as euphoria mixed with relief fed the racket!
Would/could Newcastle respond? It was Sunderland through Moore who had the next attack. The young striker losing his marker and rising well to a Mulhall cross that went just over the bar with Marshall scrambling to get a hand to the ball.
Baxter was becoming increasingly influential and consequently was drawing fouls from a robust if somewhat beleaguered United defence. One such challenge from Iley saw “slim Jim” hobble away cursing somewhat. He would limp his way through the rest of the game, continuing to tease, torment and tee up his forwards in a very good second half display from him, likely triggered by the rough-house treatment being dished out!
Some Newcastle possession and pressure, saw a Hilley header and a thirty yard “skimmer” from Ollie Burton sail just by Monty’s post. A corner kick resulted in a penalty appeal as the ball hit Harvey’s shoulder and was cleared under pressure from McGrath.
Then the critical moment in the game. A ball out of defence by Harvey to Herd, who found the elusive and hard running O’Hare with a bit of space to run into. From thirty yards the forward despatched an absolute screamer BOOOM that just danced off McGrath’s shoulder sending the ball well wide of the despairing dive of Marshall and into the back of the net.
This triggered the Roker roar once again as well as an exuberant pitch invasion by youngsters that took the police a while to clear.
Newcastle were beaten and well beaten at that! Sunderland should have had a penalty in the eighty-sixth minute as Moore, who had run McGrath ragged, out-jumped the big centre-half and cushioned a header that he looked favourite to get to right in front of goal. With little thought of disguise McGrath hauled Moore down for a penalty that even the staunchest of one-eyed “Toonies” could not have argued with! Unfortunately, the only person who did not see this was the man who mattered most, and he waved play on!
The game finished with the Sunderland team loudly applauded and cheered from the pitch. This was their first win in eight games and to do this in the white heat of a derby was worthy of praise.
For the Lads this was a very good team performance, with Baxter enjoying a gallous second half, young Moore robust and lively throughout and unlucky not to score. Dave Elliott did very well when moved back to right half, with the returning Mulhall back to his best, alongside the elusive and un-selfish running of John O’Hare. But it was George Herd who stole the man-of the-match award, with a performance that was ninety minutes and some, of guile, skill, invention, and effort.
Newcastle looked down and out and appeared to have relegation written all over them at this point in the season, it had been a horrible start to their new year.
What a game and performance from the Lads, and what we would not give for another just like it as we head toward another early new year derby in2024!
Division One – 03/01/1966
Venue – Roker Park
Attendance – 54,668
Sunderland 2 – 0 Newcastle
Sunderland – Montgomery, Parke, Ashurst, Harvey, Hurley (Hellawell 39mins), Baxter, Herd (49 mins), Elliott, Moore, O’Hare (71 mins), Mulhall.
Newcastle – Marshall, Burton, Craig, Iley, McGrath, Moncur, Robson, Hilley, Thompson, Bennett, Napier.