1886/87 – SAFC Win Durham Challenge Cup!

1886/87 – SAFC Win Durham Challenge Cup!

Having defeated Whitburn in the semi final of the Durham Challenge Cup it was on to the Final where the Sunderland and Darlington clubs met for the third time at that stage of the competition, clear evidence of their continued strength. The previous troubles between the clubs had been patched up, but there were murmurs about the unfairness of playing the game at Newcastle Road, surely it ought to have been on a neutral pitch, said the critics, not without justification.

But at Sunderland it was, and the gate was opened an hour before the kick off as some 6,000 packed in, many of them from Darlington and travelling by excursion. The field had been rolled and carefully prepared and at 4pm the game began, the kick off delayed because Darlington arrived late. Sunderland were photographed by Mr WJ Pope and another unofficial “instantaneous photograph” was taken during the game from the window of a house overlooking the field. Presumably, since it was deemed worthy of comment, it may have been the first or one of the first, action pictures of the Sunderland lads in action. Taken during a very exciting part of the game when Sunderland were hard pressed, it showed a Darlington player in an offside position. What a pity it does not survive today.

Sunderland won narrowly through a Davison goal; “Taking the ball right up to the goal, he had no chance of passing it to a partner, and although the visiting backs both fairly threw themselves upon him they could not knock him off the sphere which he retained in his possession until he had forced an opening, and richly deserved the frantic cheer which greeted his success”. The whole of the team played well, new back Eton man Wilkinson impressing friend and foe alike. One goal kick taken 6 yards from goal, was kicked right into the hands of the Darlington keeper 100 yards away; and there was no wind!

Tumultuous scenes greeted Sunderland’s victory and the crowd invaded the pitch and mobbed the victorious players. Sunderland captain McMillan, back after illness, was presented with the Cup by the Mayoress , Mrs Richardson. All in all it was a splendid day, not least in financial terms where the takings of £82-1-8 easily beat the figure for the Northumberland Final a week or two earlier.

Since it was Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year, gold medals, instead of the usual silver ones, were later presented to the Sunderland side, and for the second team it was medals too, that season, as they vanquished Bishop Auckland Church Institute in the reserve competition.

Sunderland AFC 1 v 0 Darlington; Durham Challenge Cup Final Newcastle Road, Sunderland; Saturday 26 March 1887
Scorers: Sunderland – Lord
Referee: Mr Bastard, Middlesbrough Attendance: 7,000

The final tie of the Durham County Cup took place at Newcastle Road to decide who would hold the trophy for the next year. The competition began on 27th November with an entry of 21 clubs which has been whittled away round by round until only Sunderland and Darlington remained. Sunderland have disposed of Birtley, Gateshead and after ahard fought semi-final Whitburn. Darlington have beaten West Hartlepool 5-0, Barnard Castle 4-2 in the 2nd round and were due to meet Bishop Auckland in the semi-final.

However due to the unfortunate split in the Bishop Auckland team Darlington were given a bye into the final. This is the 3rd time these teams have contested the final of the County Cup. Three seasons ago the game ended in a draw and in the replay at Birtley Sunderland won the trophy. The following season the teams met again in the final played at Feethams where Darlington won 3-1 after a protest from Sunderland was dismissed by the County Cup committee.

The protest descended into a rather acrimonious dispute between Sunderland and the cup committee and consequently Sunderland refused to enter the competition last season. Happily for the sake of the game in the County the dispute has been resolved and Sunderland once more entered the competition. The match attracted unbounded interest and a crowd of over 7,000 spectators lined the ropes at Newcastle Road with a large contingent having travelled from Darlington.

Much has been written and said about the Cup Committees decision to play the game at Sunderland attracting complaints of unfairness to the visiting club. While the fairness of the decision may by questioned the committee have not departed from their usual rule of playing the game where it is likely to attract the best attendance. In the light of the 7,000 crowd it is difficult to find fault with this decision. The ground was in splendid condition but the 4pm start time was rather late to allow time for the arrival of excursion trains from Darlington.

Darlington arrived without goalkeeper Wharton who was unfit. Millar and Paylor were also absent being replaced by Wallace and Brookes. Sunderland were at full strength with McMillan being recalled after having recovered from his recent indisposition. The teams were photographed before the start and when Darlington won the toss they took advantage of the slight breeze and kicked towards the Road End. Erskine started the game for Sunderland but their initial sortie end with McMillan putting the ball into touch.

Smart miskicked from the throw in to let Hutchinson and Brookes get away and they rushed to the Sunderland end where Elliott cleared his lines. Hutchinson looked to break away again but was dispossessed by Smart who moved into the Darlington half but lost the ball to Buckton’s tackle. Smart tidied up a mistake from McMillan and sent Rooney rushing up the wing but he was stopped in his tracks by J Davison who put Darlington back on the attack. McMillan kicked away to give Lord an opening but he was unable to get past J Davison.

The Darlington forwards rushed up the field and Hutchinson banged in a shot that produced a brilliant save from Kirtley. Smart and Erskine raided for Sunderland to give Rooney an opening but Davison dashed in and checked his progress. Darlington were slightly on top and Hope sent in

a superb shot that brought an equally fine save from Kirtley. Rooney set off on a determined run and whipped in a centre to Erskine whose shot was blocked by Smeddie.

The Sunderland forwards rushed in and a fierce scrimmage ensued from which Lord emerged to kick the ball between the posts to put Sunderland ahead. The visitors protested that Lord was offside but the referee was unimpressed. On the restart Hutchinson rushed down for Darlington but was stopped by Smart and McMillan who played the ball out to Rooney. J Davison intercepted and sent Brookes dashing away and Wilkinson did well to block his final effort.

Sunderland responded through Davison but he overran the ball which went out of play. From the throw in Brookes kicked the ball down the field and the sides exchanged several long kicks to and fro before the ball went out for a goal kick to Sunderland. The visitors’ left wing secured possession from the kick and Buckton tried a shot that was off target. Smart headed on Kirtley’s goal kick only for Buckton to get possession again and fire in a grand shot that Kirtley saved well.

Davison made a run for Sunderland but kicked the ball into touch. From the throw in he secured the ball again and sent in a shot that went wide of the Darlington posts. Stabler was robbed by McMillan who got the ball to Rooney but the move fizzled out. Darlington were penalised for a handball but Smarts free kick went well wide. More fast and exciting play followed and at the interval Sunderland led 1-0. Hutchinson started the 2nd half for the visitors and McMillan sent the ball up to Smith and Erskine but Smeddie cleared.

At the other end Hope tried to find Hutchinson with a long centre and Wilkinson conceded a corner in clearing. The kick was a good one and enabled Hutchinson to get in a hotshot that Kirtley saved well. Darlington raided up the left wing and Kirtley was forced to rush from his line to kick away the through ball. Smith and Erskine took the play tothe other end and won a corner. Smith curled in the flag kick and the ball bounced on the crossbar before dropping behind.

Another corner followed soon afterwards from which J Davison deflected a shot out for second corner. This time Davison put his flag kick out of play. The goal kick was secured by Wilkinson just inside the Darlington half and he promptly lofted in a dropping shot that Craven fisted away. A spell of give and take play followed and then Sunderland got a free kick that Wilkinson fired against Stabler’s back and out of play. Smith got possession from the throw in and sent in a fine shot that Craven saved.
Darlington rushed to the other end where Elliott headed away but they returned to the attack and won a free kick. The home defence were put under strong pressure for some minutes and several shots were sent
in but never very dangerous. Darlington got a free kick but Sunderland worked the ball out and Davison dashed up the left only to be checked by his Darlington namesake. Brookes set off on a fine run and took the ball well into home territory and the Sunderland defence had to be very watchful indeed.

The visitors forced a fruitless corner and then Smart brought the ball out to create a shooting chance for Lord whose shot was palmed away for a corner by Craven. Smith missed an opportunity from the flag kick and Brookes broke away for Darlington but he was dispossessed by Dale who quickly sent the ball out to Davison. The winger cut in towards goal where his finishing shot was saved by Craven. Hutchinson got away up the centre and closed in on goal but Kirtley kicked the ball off his toes at the last second.

The ball was kicked rapidly from end to end without either goal being threatened until Sunderland eventually brought it down and Smith made a break. His pass found Davison who ran on to bang in a shot that Craven kicked away. Another bout of aimless kicking between the backs of both sides took place and then Davison got down and he and Lord got in shots that were kept out by Smeddie and Craven respectively.

A free kick enabled Darlington to launch an attack and several shots were sent in without Kirtley being troubled. Lord got possession and was heading for the Darlington goal when J Davison checked the rush to send play back into Sunderland territory but not for long. The home forwards came again and Davison forced a corner that proved fruitless but the visitors couldn’t get the ball away and they were forced to defend for several minutes. The defended very well and Sunderland could not score again.

Time was called a few minutes later and Sunderland became Durham Cup holders for 1887 thanks to Lords solitary goal. However much credit must go to goalkeeper Kirtley who gave a truly superb performance without which Sunderland would not have won the trophy. The ball used was the new “Champion” donated by Mrs H Murton. At the close the teams retired to the pavilion where the Durham Cup was presented by Mrs Edwin Richardson Mayoress of Sunderland.

After the presentations the teams adjourned to the Royal Hotel in North Bridge and partook of a substantial meat tea. The gate receipts amounted to £82-1s-81⁄2d.

Sunderland: Kirtley, Wilkinson, Elliott, McMillan, Smart, Dale, Rooney, Smith, Erskine, Smith, Lord, Davison
Darlington: Craven, Smeddie, J Davison, Innes, Waites, Stabler, Brookes, M Hope, Hutchinson, H Hope, Buckton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *