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On This Day (6th February 1999): Quinn and Phillips combine to see off Swindon

As our Division One promotion campaign continued to gather momentum, the deadly duo proved too hot for the Robins to handle twenty five years ago today

Quinny had his eyes on promotion...

On February 6, 1993, Sunderland hosted Swindon Town and exactly six years later, we welcomed the Wiltshire team back to Wearside for a Division One fixture.

The initial clash had marked the beginning of Terry Butcher’s managerial reign at Roker Park and whilst two of the starters that day (Michael Gray and Kevin Ball), were still in the first team come the end of the decade, pretty much everything else had changed in the intervening period.

The Lads had often stagnated during the 1990s but had since come under the guidance of Butcher’s old England teammate Peter Reid, and having enjoyed a first promotion to the Premiership and subsequently moved grounds, we were looking good for another return to the top flight.

Riding on the crest of a wave, Sunderland were enjoying a significant increase in attendances and confidence.

The quality of our performances had also improved, and the attractive brand of football being played was in stark contrast to some of the fare that fans had grown accustomed to previously.

The Robins, for example, had come away from Butcher’s opener with all three points, but were no match on this latest trip as another routine win was chalked up by the runaway Nationwide Division One leaders.

A chuffed Reid said afterwards that it ‘was the best we’ve played for a long time’, and he wasn’t just referring to the surprising mini-wobble that had seen us lose three games across three different competitions in recent days.

Prior to that we’d been pretty dominant, but against Swindon, we were utterly imperious and sailed to victory via goals from two familiar sources.

Supakev was in the goals

The opener came when Chris Makin swung the ball into the box for Niall Quinn, who controlled it with aplomb and shot through the legs of goalkeeper Frank Talia.

That was with a little under half an hour played but not to be outdone, the other half of Reid’s ‘little and large’ strike partnership was to follow up quickly with a goal of his own.

Kevin Phillips was still finding his way back to full fitness after a lengthy layoff, but his poaching instincts were as strong as ever.

Nicky Summerbee fooled the Swindon defence when he played a free kick short after initially shaping as if he was going to shoot, and when Allan Johnston tried his luck from the pull back, Phillips stuck out a leg to divert the attempt into the net.

2-0 up and cruising, the Lads could’ve easily scored more had they so wished, but even at a reduced pace, we still threatened.

Lee Clark went close when he crashed a long-range shot against the woodwork in the final moments, but there had been several other chances before that and the Robins, who included Gareth Hall in their starting eleven, couldn’t have complained if they’d been beaten by a greater margin.

Hall had been part of the last Sunderland squad to win promotion under Reid, and another championship was looking on the cards already, despite there being a quarter of the campaign still to go.

Everybody knew this was a team on the up, not least Bob Murray, who sealed a contract extension for his manager the following week, and Murray was clearly happy to have secured Reid’s services on a longer deal.

I’m delighted.

Sunderland have come a long way in a short time, both on and off the pitch, since Peter arrived at the club.

Indeed, anybody that had been around for the Butcher era would’ve surely agreed.

Saturday 6 February 1999

Nationwide League Division One

Stadium of Light

Attendance: 41,304

Sunderland 2 (Quinn 28’, Phillips 30’)

Swindon Town 0

Sunderland: Sorensen, Makin, Melville; Butler, Gray, Summerbee; Ball, Clark, Johnston (Bridges 85’); Quinn (Dichio 83’), Phillips

Unused: Williams


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