Friday Night Lights: Remembering Sunderland’s First Home Game Against Accrington In 127 Years

Back in the 2018-19 season, Sunderland chalked up yet another draw in a long season of draws. Aren't we glad those days are gone?
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Some things in life just don’t go together, do they?

Whether it be pineapple on a pizza, tomato sauce on a Sunday dinner, or Newcastle United replica shirts with no gravy stains, certain things just don’t look right.

Until 2018, Sunderland and Accrington Stanley in the same league had been yet another one of those lesser spotted sights.

In fact, the lads had never competed in the same league as Accrington since the 1891-92 season, and even that was an entirely different entity to the Lancastrian side we know today.

Back then we swept aside the original Accrington jobbers, 4-2 on the way to securing our second league title in a row. Fast forward 127 years and Sunderland were competing for the slightly less prestigious honour of the League One title.

Unfortunately, even that modest goal was starting to look unlikely as we went into the Accrington Stanley game on the back of five 1-1 draws from our last six matches.

As much as playing Accrington Stanley will always feel like somewhat of an indignity, at least Sky Sports felt the game was enough of a novelty to televise on a Friday night in mid-February, so at least there was the prospect of going straight from the match to a night out in town. The way the first half went, no doubt some of the crowd would have been forgiven for commencing their night on the drink significantly earlier than scheduled as Stanley took the lead from the spot on the half hour mark.

Jack Baldwin chopped down Paul Smyth as he was about to pull the trigger and Billy Kee smashed home from twelve yards to give the visitors the lead.

Prior to the goal, new signing Will Grigg missed a glorious chance to put Sunderland ahead, this spurned opportunity came just days after missing an open goal against Blackpool, but I bet he was fine once he got his first goal under his belt…oh.

Early in the second half, the atmosphere at The Stadium of Light threatened to turn poisonous as Sean McConville’s cross was headed home by Smyth on 52 minutes.

Fortunately, the lads soon halved the deficit when Grigg did well to divert the ball into the path of George Honeyman to fire home from close range following a Chris Maguire cross.

The goal certainly caused a shift in atmosphere as all the pent-up anger and frustration at the performance turned into vocal support as Sunderland started enjoying much more possession and laid siege to the Stanley goal.

The inevitable equaliser followed in the 65th minute, when McGeady won the ball midway inside the opposition half and found Chris Maguire out wide, who calmly centred for McGeady to slot the ball into the corner.

The hosts’ tails were up, Accrington Stanley looked a spent force and the crowd had gone from fuming to being right behind the lads, surely it was only a matter of time before we got the winner.

Except we didn’t. Despite all the pressure, chances, shots and general dominance, we just couldn’t get that all-important third goal and we were forced to settle for yet another draw.

Around half an hour after the final whistle, myself and a gaggle of Wise Men Say podcasters were stood in a tepee which had been set up in the Stadium car park, shouting into a mobile phone held between us while drinking out of plastic cups. What a vibe.

Michael Lough