In goal for Sunderland was local boy and youth product Jim Montgomery who had made his debut for the Rokerites at the age of 18 and was to go on to play well over 500 games for the club earning hero status for his display in their 1973 FA Cup Final win over Leeds United.
At right back was another local boy, Cecil, or ‘Cec’, Irwin, aged 28, who had been with the club since 1958. He was partnered by Martin Harvey who had been with Sunderland for a similar length of time and was a Northern Ireland international who would win the last of his 34 caps the following year. Between the two experienced full backs Sunderland fielded a pair of teenaged central defenders. The 18-year-old Richie Pitt was just beginning to make a first team spot his own, and alongside him, Mick McGiven, was just a year older with a similar amount of experience.
In the centre of midfield, 31-year-old Gordon Harris had won a League Championship medal with Burnley in 1960 and made a solitary appearance for England in the months prior to their World Cup win. He was now into his fourth season with Sunderland. Joining the club at around the same time as Harris was Scotsman Ian Porterfield who had been signed from Raith Rovers. Now aged 24, he was to achieve fame by scoring the winning goal in Sunderland’s FA Cup Final win over Leeds before embarking on a managerial career with various clubs including Chelsea.
Sunderland could boast an array of Scottish talent up front, although Joe Baker despite being brought up in Motherwell had won eight caps for England due to his Liverpool birthplace. Another 31-year-old, he had been a prolific scorer with Hibernian and Arsenal sandwiching a brief spell with Torino before having his best days with Nottingham Forest four years previously as they finished runners-up in the League and were beaten FA Cup semi-finalists. The diminutive Bobby Kerr whose combative style made up for his lack of height was the younger brother of later Imps manager George Kerr and was in the earlier stages of a career that was to see him play over 400 games for Sunderland and score over 60 goals. Billy Hughes had joined Sunderland as a 16-year-old despite his parents wishes for him to play for Celtic and was to go on to play well over 300 games for the Rokerites, scoring 82 goals. Bobby Park was another Glaswegian and at the age of 18 at the promising stage of a career that was to be cut short by a series of injuries.
Sunderland substitute and beginning to make a name for himself was 20-year-old winger Dennis Tueart. After winning the FA Cup with Sunderland in 1973 he transferred to Manchester City a year later and became a well-known figure with them, winning six England caps.
The attendance of 10,789 was the highest at Sincil Bank since Boxing Day 1968 and was more than double that for the previous Saturday’s visit of Workington which had produced a 3-1 win.
An early lead was just what City wanted, and in the sixth minute of the game after Dave Smith was brought down fellow winger Gordon Hughes floated in the free kick for skipper Derek Trevis to head into the net from close range. Trevis then clipped the bar with a shot as Phil Hubbard and Percy Freeman also tested Sunderland keeper Jim Montgomery. But with 21 minutes of the match gone the visitors equalised with a classy move. Midfielder Ian Porterfield sent overlapping full back Martin Harvey away to cross the ball for Bobby Kerr to head past City keeper John Kennedy.
The scores were level for just four minutes as City surged back with Dave Smith winning a corner on the left. Hughes it was again who swung in the kick and with Sunderland ball watching the unmarked Freeman stole in to head home.
Raising their game, Sunderland pushed City back onto defence and when the back four were beaten Kennedy was on hand to make a superb save from a Porterfield header and then stop an effort from Gordon Harris. Having weathered the storm until half time City were then never really troubled after the break and in a bid to change things with a quarter of an hour to go former England international Joe Baker was taken off to be replaced by future England player Dennis Tueart. However, his main contribution to the game was to bring down Phil Hubbard for a penalty with 8 minutes to go. Given a chance to seal the win midfielder Billy Taylor stepped up but saw a tame kick saved by Montgomery. However, the Imps saw out the remaining minutes for a success which few had expected, amid memories of their run to the Fourth Round of the League Cup three years before.
The back cover of the programme shows my player ratings with Phil Hubbard starring and John Kennedy not far behind. It seems I also thought well of the referee which I’m sure had nothing to do with him awarding the penalty! Despite what it says about the playing colours it seems clear that Sunderland were in all white.
In his programme notes for the following home match manager Bert Loxley commented on the ‘tremendous enthusiasm, grand teamwork and fine all-round effort’ bringing reward to the team.
There was no cup hangover for the Imps as they followed up the game with a 4-1 win at Barrow, and despite a home defeat by Southend more good results saw them placed 6th in the league table by the time of their Third Round visit to Crystal Palace. However, the London side, lying third in the First Division at the time were too classy on the night for the Imps as goals from Alan Birchenall and Bobby Tambling contributed to a 4-0 win. In the league, fortunes then took a downturn not helped by an apparently endless series of injuries which may or may not have been connected to Bert Loxley having to act as both trainer and manager. With the side gradually slipping towards the bottom four Loxley was replaced by former Manchester United player David Herd at the beginning of March but he was unable to prevent a 21st place finish and another application for re-election to the league.
Sunderland remained around mid-table for the rest of the season, eventually finishing in 13th place. They were to spend another five seasons in Division, brightened by their FA Cup win in 1973, before returning to the top flight although this was to last for only one season.