Look Back: City 3 Sunderland 2, Division One, 11/05/91

Our last game of the 90/91 campaign, this, unlikely for us, was a final day that involved us having neither nothing nor survival to play for. Admittedly, all that was at stake was local bragging rights, us a point ahead of our less-illustrious city neighbours having lost at The Swamp the previous week due to a Colin Hendry own-goal, but still, let's not split hairs. Denis Smith's Sunderland side, on the other hand, were in real danger, in the bottom two (as it was then) on goal difference, behind Jim Ryan's Luton Town.

We started with a front three of White, Quinn & Clarke, a three-man midfield featuring Adrian Heath and with youngster Martyn Margetson making only his second appearance in goal. The Sunderland side that day featured former City youth player and brother of Dave, Gary Bennett, Marco Gabbiadini, and Paul Bracewell, who would later coach City under Kevin Keegan. Sunderland knew they had to better Luton's result at home to Derby County to stay in the division.

We started well, Niall Quinn putting us ahead just before the ten-minute mark, controlling well on his chest from a long ball, getting a lucky deflection off the incoming defender and calmly slotting past the 'keeper. Sunderland pushed on, testing Margetson and desperately searching for the all-important equaliser. It didn't look like it was coming until they worked a good move down their left five minutes before half-time, Welsh winger Colin Pascoe playing a long one-two and whipping in a peach of a cross for Gabbiadini to head powerfully home from just left of the penalty spot.

The visitors, shooting towards the significant away support cramming the Platt Lane End, continued to attack, and just before the break earned a corner on our left which was played out to Paul Bracewell. He fluffed a cross which deflected off a City defender straight to Peter Davenport, who in turn miskicked a left-foot half-volley straight into the path of Bennett at the far post who headed home, couldn't miss, really, 1-2.

Sunderland, Smith on the touchline no doubt willing on the whistle, probably smelt safety, but thankfully managed to throw their lead away before the half-time whistle. As we pushed them up the pitch we earnt a throw-in on the left a few yards short of the penalty area. Full-back Neil Pointon found Heath, who chipped the ball into the area only for Gary Owers to miss his kick, leaving Quinn to sweep home with his left peg to equalise.

After the break Sunderland really piled the pressure on, Davenport forcing a great save from Margetson, and Gabbiadini taking him on only to slice wide when a semi-open net beckoned. The goal, no matter how likely it seemed, never came. Bracewell and others pushed on but to no avail, and late on David White fired the winner, another long-ball to Big Niall who headed on to Heath on the right, a deep cross and White knocked the diving header in from all of four yards.

Sunderland relegated to the second tier then, where they'd stay for for six seasons until, funnily enough, winning promotion under then City boss Peter Reid. Smith wouldn't last until the following Christmas, being replaced by Malcolm Crosby, not long after having lost Marco Gabbiadini to Palace.

Margetson, Hill, Pointon, Hendry, Redmond, Brennan, Heath, Harper, White, Quinn, Clarke
Sub: Beckford

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