Sunderland flashback: When Cheltenham Town took McCarthy’s Black Cats to extra-time in 2005

Michael Lough jumps into the Delorean to look back at our last, and only other outing against Tuesday's opposition

When it comes to Sunderland vs Cheltenham Town fixtures to look back on, I was hardly spoilt for choice.

In fact, we have only played the Robins once in a competitive fixture and although I’m not one to give too much away too quickly, it’s fair to say that it wasn’t a glamour fixture.

Sunderland had made a disastrous start to the 2005-06 campaign, having picked up just one point from their opening six games, scoring only three times in the process.

The atmosphere around the club had been further dented just days earlier when the lads conceded a 94th minute equaliser at home to West Brom.

Even so early on in the season, that Zoltan Gera goal felt like a critical blow to our survival hopes and extended our run without a Premier League win to 21 games.

So what more could you want to get the juices flowing than a Carling Cup tie against League Two opposition on a Tuesday night in September?

Apparently, the majority of Wearside wasn’t in agreement with me as a crowd of just 11,969 turned up to witness Sunderland struggle to break down lower league opposition.

The lads fielded a fairly ‘strong’ side, with many first team regulars being handed a run out, although there were rare starting opportunities for Dan Smith and Matt Piper.

To say the game wasn’t a classic would be an understatement and the BBC Sport match report dedicated a whole five sentences to the action.

The lads could have won in normal time when Stephen Elliott struck the post, but ultimately failed to break the visitors down.

In injury time, Dan Smith was sent off for a second bookable offence, Smith would hit the headlines for the wrong reasons later on in that season when Arsenal threatened legal action over a challenge he made on Abou Diaby and that combined with the red card he picked up against Cheltenham, meant he has the unenviable record of two red cards in three first team appearances.

After suffering 90 minutes of drab, uninspiring football the deadlock was eventually broken in the second minute of extra time when Liverpool loanee Anthony Le Tallec turned home Liam Lawrence’s cross.

In isolation this result may not have seemed significant but it actually sparked something of a purple patch in the context of that campaign.

On the back of this hair raising encounter, Sunderland went to the Riverside a few days later and beat Middlesbrough 2-0 before securing a 1-1 draw at home to West Ham United the following week, which temporarily lifted the lads out of the bottom three.

Ultimately, the back to back wins would account for 40% of our wins in all competitions and we would be relegated with 15 points.

We may be two leagues lower than we were back in 2005 but the club does feel on the up right now and hopefully Tuesday will be a more entertaining and successful evening and the lads make it six home wins in a row.