19 February ~ Mid-table Luton greeted fifth-place Sunderland in a fixture that would be repeated just over 12 months later at Roker Park in the FA Cup quarter-final. Sunderland came out top in this encounter, but missed out on promotion by six points (Norwich and Birmingham went up). A year later they won again in the FA Cup, 2-0 in front of 53,000, and went on to win the trophy.
Six of the Sunderland team in the line-up for this Division Two game – Dick Malone, Dave Watson (playing as a striker), Richie Pitt, captain Bobby Kerr, Ian Porterfield and Dennis Tueart – played in the final against Leeds, when Porterfield scored the only goal. Luton's Vic Halom may have impressed his opponents too – the future Liberal Democrat candidate for Sunderland North (he came third in the 1992 election) signed for the Black Cats in early 1973, scored in the semi-final against Arsenal, and went on to pick up a winner's medal.
Luton's Viv Busby had just returned south after a loan spell at Newcastle, which ended after an FA Cup defeat at Hereford. Busby tells the match programme that Newcastle had been relying on a good Cup run in order to pay for a full transfer, mooted at around £50,000. He also reveals the cause of the 2-1 loss to the non-Leaguers: "We camped in Worcester for a week and became bored to tears. The side was under close guard all the time and even though we organised table tennis, darts and domino tournaments the lads, through no fault of their own, were mentally unprepared for such a crucial match." Had management never heard the old Geordie folk saying “You won't win the cup by playing dominos in Worcester”?
The Art of Captaincy in the 1970s From Luton's Mike Keen (pictured with five-year-old son Kevin, future West Ham and Stoke midfielder): "I might not be one of the best players ever created. But I'm not supposed to be. My job is to inspire the side when things are not working out. This is done both verbally and physically." So when his manager ordered him to give his team-mates a kick up the arse...
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Result Luton 1 (Nicholl) Sunderland 2 (Pitt, Tueart)
Luton Read, Ryan, Slough, Keen, Nicholl, Moore, Busby, Wainwright, Halom (Anderson), Court, Givens
Sunderland Forster, Malone, Coleman, Harvey, Pitt, McGiven, Porterfield, Kerr, Watson, Lathan, Tueart