BRISTOL ROVERS 1 SUNDERLAND 2
By Skysports.com Staff
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Hutchison met a cross from George McCartney with just three minutes left to deny the Second Division hosts a deserved stab at extra-time. The Scottish international steered home the left-wing centre to double his tally for the night, much to the relief of the Premiership club.
Hutchison was not the only hero for the Black Cats, for big Czech defender Stanislav Varga returned two months after suffering a serious leg injury in the Premiership match at Manchester City, Varga braved both the heavy conditions and a physical challenge of Mickey Evans and Nathan Ellington as the Rovers' strikers worried Sunderland all evening.
Even after the 88th minute winner from Hutchison, Varga was found charging down a goalbound shot from Vitaly Astafjevs. Peter Reid will be delighted that his big defensive summer signing showed exactly the right level of commitment in the West Country mud.
The Bristol Rovers conveyor-belt of strikers has unearthed another gem. Nathan Ellington, signed from Walton & Hersham for £150,000 two seasons ago, is the replacement for Jason Roberts, who had himself replaced Barry Hayles. Ellington's 63rd minute effort was reward for a determined display from the 19-year-old, and emphasised his nuisance.
Thomas Sorensen dropped a cross from Scott Jones under pressure from Evans and Ellington, and 'The Duke' beat his own team-mate Stephen Foster to tap the ball into the empty net. This time there was no mistake just six minutes after Ellington had hit the side-netting from a prone position inside the six-yard box.
Hutchison's first came at the start of that exciting second half. Michael Gray's long ball found Daniele Dichio, with Niall Quinn rested for this tie. Dichio reminded everyone of his ability by holding the ball up for Hutchison to rifle home a low drive.
Rovers are a young team, with Lewis Hogg, 18, also full of energy in midfield alongside Latvian international Astafjevs. Ian Holloway's side started brightly, and after 29 minutes Foster fired a volley wide after a Jones free-kick was headed on by Ellington's powerful leap.
Sunderland had dominated the first half hour, so that effort woke up Rovers, and Ellington had a terrific volley saved by Sorensen before the break.
Rovers were not flustered by going behind, and after equalising a great cross from the impressive Ellington just evaded Evans, who may well have made the extra yard before his injury hell at West Bromwich that must have robbed him of a yard of pace.
The largest crowd this ground had seen for a Bristol Rovers game roared on their heroes, and it was only a marvellous save from Sorensen that prevented a real shock.
The Sunderland goalkeeper more than made amends for his earlier error with a reflex stop with just nine minutes left. Marcus Bignot took a free-kick on the right and Simon Bryant, another teenager, was unlucky to see the Danish international stick out a hand to deflect over his fine close-range header.
That was the cue for Kevin Phillips to move from the bench to replace Michael Reddy. Within three minutes he has escaped the attentions of the Rovers defence, but Nicky Culkin was out of his line quickly enough to put the England international out of his stride and the ball drifted wide.
The urgency had returned to the visitors' game, and seconds later Hutchison added his winner.
Bristol Rovers: Culkin, Bignot, Jones, Bryant, Foster, Wilson, Foran (Walters 89), Ellington, Astafjevs, Evans, Hogg. Subs Not Used: Ellis, Pethick, Parkin, Challis.
Booked: Hogg, Wilson, Foran.
Goals: Ellington 63.
Sunderland: Sorensen, Makin, Gray, Hutchison, Butler, Varga, Rae (Williams 73), Reddy (Phillips 84), Dichio, Oster, McCartney.
Subs Not Used: Macho, Thirlwell, Roy.
Booked: Varga, Hutchison.
Goals: Hutchison 48, 88.
Referee: P Taylor (Cheshunt)