Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cats on Verge of Trophy Triumph

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cats on Verge of Trophy Triumph

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

Sunderland fans will be looking for a big favour from Ricky Sbragia after the Black Cats moved to within touching distance of ending their miserable season with some silverware.

Michael Proctor's brilliant hat-trick secured an emphatic win for Jocky Scott's second string at Villa Park last night as the triumphant Wearsiders ended their impressive campaign sitting pretty at the top of the Barclaycard Premiership Reserve League (North) table.

Middlesbrough could still beat Sunderland to the crown when they travel to Manchester United tomorrow for their final match against Sbragia and his men.

But should a coach who spent the first half of the season in charge of Sunderland reserves engineer either a home win or a draw against Steve Round's Riversiders, the title will be on its way to the Stadium of Light to finally give the Wearside supporters something to cheer.

Trailing to a Stefan Moore goal at half-time last night, the Black Cats hit back in style after the break. Two goals from Proctor and one from Tore Andre Flo in a dominant seven-minute spell secured victory against a Villa team who had gone into the game with title ambitions of their own.

The jubilant striker, who will play a key role in next season's First Division promotion push, completed his treble eight minutes from the end in front of the watching Mick McCarthy.

It was no more than he deserved for another terrific display.

The Black Cats started well, with John Oster and Thomas Butler patrolling the wings menacingly and twice in the opening seven minutes Scott's side had a chance to take the initiative.

Stephen Capper blazed over from Oster's cross while Emerson Thome, making what is likely to have been his final appearance for the club, powered a header narrowly wide from the Welsh international's corner.

Villa took the lead less than 60 seconds later as Moore advanced into the penalty area to coolly slot the ball wide of keeper Craig Turns. It was typical of Sunderland's season.

In Thome, Oster, Flo and Nicolas Medina, the Black Cats had four players on show on whom Peter Reid had spent a total of pounds 16m. …

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