Football: Sunderland's record

Sunderland 2 Birmingham City 1
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The Independent Online
LAST SEASON it all ended in broken hearts for Sunderland. This season it ended in broken records.

In between the pre-match fireworks and the post-match presentation of the Nationwide League First Division championship trophy, Peter Reid's team secured their place in the football annals at the Stadium of Light yesterday.

Victory against a Birmingham side who may yet join them in the Premiership via the play-offs took Sunderland's points tally for the season to 105, three more than the all-time record established by Swindon in the Fourth Division of old 13 years ago.

It was witnessed, appropriately enough, by a record crowd in the fortress Sunderland will take with them into the big league in August. The 41,634 packed into the Stadium of Light saw their heroes overcome a half-time deficit and complete a staggering return of 60 home points from a possible 69.

Not that it was partying all the way. Birmingham threatened to play the pooping role, claiming a deserved reward for their first-half enterprise with the half-volley Martin Grainger struck past Thomas Sorensen in the 38th minute.

It was only the 10th goal the Danish goalkeeper had conceded in Sunderland's 23 fixtures at the Stadium of Light this season - the same number Phil Whitehead leaked there in visits with Oxford and West Bromwich Albion. It was the last, too, as Sorensen's outfield colleagues set about the task of waving goodbye to the Nationwide League on a winning note.

The fightback started on the hour, Nicky Summerbee crossing from deep on the right and Kevin Phillips beating Kevin Poole with a looping header. It was the new England cap's 25th goal of the campaign, his 60th in his two seasons with Sunderland.

The winner came 10 minutes later from Phillips' striking partner. Found by another inviting Summerbee cross, Niall Quinn side-footed his 21st - and Sunderland's 91st - goal of a campaign that ended with more fireworks and champagne corks popping.

It is likely to be different next season, though no one was questioning Sunderland's Premiership pedigree as Kevin Ball hoisted the First Division trophy aloft.

"With three or four top-class signings we could easily be challenging for a top 10 place," Ball's midfield colleague Lee Clark asserted. And that would be reason enough for another party on Wearside.

Sunderland last finished in the top half of the top division in 1955, the year before Peter Reid was born.

Goals: Grainger (38) 0-1; Phillips (60) 1-1; Quinn (70) 2-1.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen; Makin, Butler, Melville, Gray; Summerbee, Clark, Ball, Johnston; Quinn, Phillips. Substitutes not used: Smith, Craddock, McCann.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Poole; Rowett, Johnson, Holdsworth, Charlton (Ndlovu, 72); McCarthy, Hyde, Hughes, Grainger; Furlong, Bradbury (Adebola, 58). Substitutes not used: O'Connor.

Referee: M Pierce (Portsmouth). Bookings: Birmingham City: Bradbury, Grainger.

Man of the match: Summerbee.

Attendance: 41,634.