After two missed penalties against Swindon Town had denied new player-manager Terry Butcher anything from his first game in charge of Sunderland in 1993, the Lads were at least able to turn things around and get over the disappointment with a midweek win over Oxford United.
The team then headed to London to take on Charlton Athletic in the first away trip of the new era, and although our form on the road had been mixed under Malcolm Crosby, the hosts were in a much better frame of mind now that they’d made a happy return to The Valley.
Unbeaten since returning in December 1992, having initially been forced to move out in 1985, the Addicks had one eye on promotion under joint managers Alan Curbishley and Steve Gritt, and were clear favourites at kick off.
With Butcher taking over during an injury crisis and having to make do without the suspended Peter Davenport, we would have to show our mettle if we wanted to upset the odds.
Whilst the performance that followed was far from vintage, we did try to piece together some good passages of play and could take a huge amount of confidence from how we dug in for large spells.
Tony Norman was busy during the early stages and made a superb point blank double save that was typical of what supporters had come to expect of him, but his reflexes were needed less and less as his teammates began to put up a solid barrier.
At the other end of the pitch, most of our good play centred around John Colquhoun.
At the start of the season, the Scot had made his debut for the club alongside Butcher, as the Lads lost to Swindon.
That fixture had ended 1-0, and this was looking like it was going to be another tight affair, despite Colquhoun going close when he had a first half effort blocked on the line by Darren Pitcher before sending a fierce shot just over the bar from a Don Goodman knockdown.
Colquhoun’s initial near miss came after Michael Gray had hit the post and the ball rebounded out, but after the break the sides found it hard to fashion too many clear-cut chances.
As the game wore on, it felt increasingly likely that things would end honours even, but whilst that would’ve been encouraging enough for Butcher, we sprung out on the break and were able to bag all three points in the final ten minutes.
We continued to keep Charlton at arm’s length and once we’d dealt with another attack, Gray ran into the space in front of him before cleverly laying the ball off for Colquhoun, who was upended just inside the box by Steve Gatting and awarded a decisive penalty as a result.
The spot kick mishaps against the Robins seven days earlier had cost the Lads dearly but on his return to the team against Oxford, Goodman had taken over penalty duties and had opened the scoring from twelve yards out after just five minutes.
He stepped up once again in the capital, and with trademark coolness he found the back of the net, blasting past goalkeeper Mike Salmon who was featuring instead of the injured former Roker loanee Bob Bolder.
Butcher, who’d contributed towards the team effort and helped to keep a well-earned clean sheet, revealed afterwards that his match winner had been a doubt in the build up due to an ankle problem.
Sunderland’s top scorer had been desperate to play however, and now had the satisfaction of securing the team’s fourth away league win of the season.
Despite the early optimism under the new boss, there were to be no further victories on the road during 1992/1993, and after losing eight of his remaining ten away games, Butcher and company ended up needing favours from others to stay up on the final day.
Saturday 13 February 1993
Barclays League Division One
Charlton Athletic 0
Sunderland 1 (Goodman, pen 81’)
Sunderland: Norman, Kay, Butcher; Ball, Smith, Mooney; Atkinson (Ord 56’), Armstrong, M. Gray; Colquhoun, Goodman