Sunderland travelled down to Fulham for the sides’ first clash of the 1977/78 season in good form. They had won their last four games in succession, while we had lost our last three on the bounce.
Fulham had finished just one point off the relegation zone the previous season and new Manager Bobby Campbell had been brought in to arrest a dip, which had seen us fall from our usual mid-table place, during this era.
Sunderland, meanwhile, had fallen from Division One the previous campaign (along with Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City) after finishing 20th. After a summer of upheaval that saw Tony Towers, who had enjoyed a very productive spell on Wearside, leave for Birmingham City, Wilf Rostron arrived from Arsenal, along with Wayne Entwhistle. It took time for the side to gel together and they won just one of their first 10 games, but by the time they arrived at Craven Cottage, the Black Cats were on the up.
Thankfully, the Fulham side of the day had George Best, and his skills were enough to give us the advantage. In the 10th minute Best made the first goal with a glorious pass which the overlapping Les Strong struck over for John Mitchell to score.
Sunderland showed some fight and levelled in the 28th minute when Bobby Kerr squared low in front of goal and Roy Greenwood raced in at top speed to slot home.
But Fulham took the advantage again two minutes before the interval as Best pulled down a clearance on the edge of the area and struck a wonderful shot into the net that left Barry Siddall in the Sunderland goal stranded.
Gary Rowell and Kevin Arnott hauled the visitors in front with two goals inside a five-minute spell midway into the second half but we would not be denied a point as Teddy Maybank stepped in. The game took a turn as Maybank missed a penalty with six minutes remaining, but he showed some real guts to grab a late equaliser to ensure that we ended the game at 3-3.
Sunderland finished an impressive sixth at the end of the season, but Fulham was only three points behind them in 10th place.
From the archives:
Sunday Express – 6th November 1977
‘Maybank rescues Fulham’ by Sydney Spicer
“A last-minute goal by Teddy Maybank – making amends for the penalty he missed six minutes from the end – helped Fulham to snatch a point. But George Best was the Londoners’ star. In the opening half and the early stages of the second, Sunderland had no answer to his wizardry. But the visitors kept their heads and, with their far superior teamwork, could well have taken both points. The home defence, repeatedly stretched by slick Sunderland attack, owed much to the safe handling and cool anticipation of keeper Gerry Peyton.”