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Last Updated: Friday, 22 August, 2003, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Sunderland face unwanted record
By Rob Hodgetts

Sunderland are one defeat away from equalling Darwen's 104-year-old record of 18 successive league losses.

Mick McCarthy
McCarthy took over from Howard Wilkinson as Sunderland boss

The Black Cats face Preston on Saturday as the bottom-placed side in Division One knowing a loss would give them an unwanted place in the history of the game.

Sunderland's last win came against Liverpool at the Stadium of Light on 15 December last year - and that was only their fourth of that season.

The following week they drew 2-2 with West Brom but since the beginning of 2003 Sunderland have earned just a single point - from a 0-0 draw with Blackburn in January.

Sunderland's demise
May 2001 - Sunderland finish one place off Europe
May 2002 - Black Cats escape the drop by finishing 17th
Oct 2002 - Two goals in opening seven matches. Boss Peter Reid is sacked. Howard Wilkinson appointed
15 Dec 2002 - Sunderland beat Liverpool 2-1
21 Dec 2002 - Draw 2-2 with West Brom
11 Jan 2003 - Only point of 2003 from draw with Blackburn
March 2003 - Wilkinson given sack after six straight losses. Mick McCarthy appointed
April 2003 - Relegated with worst-ever Premiership record. Losing streak at 15 games
Aug 2003 - Bottom of Division One after two more losses

Sunderland's relegation season began in ominous fashion by scoring just two goals in their opening seven games, leaving them one place off the bottom of the Premiership.

A win against Aston Villa did little to stave off the inevitable and manager Peter Reid was sacked on 10 October.

Howard Wilkinson was quickly appointed, despite not having managed a club side for six years.

But he was unable to halt Sunderland's decline and the club languished in the bottom three before briefly climbing to 16th after a win against Tottenham on 10 November.

Sunderland did have their chances, though, and on New Year's Day they led Manchester United 1-0 going into the final nine minutes at Old Trafford before David Beckham equalised and Paul Scholes scored a last-gasp winner.

But even more agonising was Sunderland's 3-1 defeat to Charlton on 1 February - the third match of their losing streak - when Stephen Wright and then Michael Proctor (twice) scored own goals in the space of eight minutes.

The bitter blow of the loss to Charlton sent Sunderland to the bottom of the Premiership, where they remained despite the efforts of new boss Mick McCarthy, who replaced the deposed Wilkinson on 10 March.

Wilkinson's reign ended with a six-game losing streak, while McCarthy oversaw another nine straight defeats before the end of the season.

This term, league defeats to Nottingham Forest and Millwall see Sunderland bearing down on a record that no-one at the Stadium of Light will be keen to accept.

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