For those of you old enough to remember the winter of 1976-1977 when we hadn’t scored a goal let alone won for a very long time indeed, it’s feeling a lot like that now and we’re very much in the Slough of Despond. Things will eventually get better of course but that’s unlikely to happen for a while.
There was a tiny glimmer of good news this week when I heard that Seb will probably be back in the side sooner rather than later and we urgently need his bite in midfield as well as his ability to usually hit a dead ball where it’s intended to go. Most of our corners and free-kicks go astray these days. Bournemouth beat us in the first ten minutes last time we played them down there and though I don’t think that’ll happen today, I really doubt that we’ll get a result. O’Shea is out injured so Djilobodji will replace him, which fills me with trepidation. The rumours say that Moyes will be out if we lose and if that’s so, I won’t be shedding any tears. I suspect he’s lost the support of the team. Big Sam turned down a job the other day saying he wanted to return to the Premier and I’d have him back tomorrow. I’ll have to listen to the match on the radio as the ‘Sunderland pub’ here no longer screens 3 o’clock matches. Match prediction: 3-1 to Bournemouth.
When I got the team news, I was glad to see us fielding Anichebe as well as Defoe because I thought we might as well have a go at them. I have the horrible feeling that Anichebe is just the latest in our long line of big doolie strikers whose best days are far behind them but I’d be more than happy to be proved wrong. Khazri was on the bench while McNair was starting. I like Khazri but he’s certainly lacking pace – when he came huffing and puffing upfield against Arsenal last week you just knew he’d be caught every time. Denayer was on the bench too and I was glad to see him return.
I tuned into SAFSEE and awaited our fate. I don’t know what’s up with SAFSEE these days but it takes ages to make a connection and I missed the first ten minutes of the match. I was just in time to hear Gosling put Bournemouth one-up and again it sounded like PVA was at fault by not looking around him. A few minutes later PVA did what he’s better at by getting up the other end and putting in a cross for Defoe. It didn’t reach him but I suppose that would have been expecting too much. In the twentieth minute Watmore made a decent run and put a cross in but again it didn’t reach one of our players, Anichebe in this case. We were getting up their end quite a lot and with only one goal in it my hopes hadn’t been quashed. I was further encouraged by commentator Nick Barnes giving A Love Supreme a mention (about how few games we’d won since 2013).
Pickford made a good block from a King shot and we were holding it together well. Things got a lot better and I was glad to eat humble pie in the thirty-third minute when Anichebe powered forward and smashed in an equalizer. Barnes asked, “Has Sunderland’s miracle begun here?” but Benno wisely replied, “Let’s just get to half-time first.” Our fans were in good voice at any rate and they were coming across the ether loud and clear. We had another good chance when Defoe’s shot was blocked by Boruc in goal and McNair’s follow-up was stopped by Gosling. We won our first corner a few minutes before the break and just afterwards Pienaar collected his fourth yellow of the season. All these cards are going to come home to roost soon. Watmore had the ball in the net but the flag was up so we had to be content with a draw at the break. I was well pleased with that and we’d had a go at a side for once and ruffled them.
I was feeling a bit optimistic as the second-half started but tried to suppress this. McNair was injured for a while and a stretcher was called for but he managed to recover. The home crowd were getting increasingly irate at the ref’s decisions against their side and that was all to the good. We soon won our second corner and we brought the big lads up, putting on pressure for a few minutes. Anichebe was coming in for considerable praise from the commentary team for his strong presence and ability to hold up the play. Djilobodji also seemed to be having a good game while Jones was getting forward a lot and putting crosses in. N’Dong had a good strike and with ten minutes gone I had a feeling we were going to score again soon. Pickford made a great diving save from a powerful Wilshere shot but next thing Pienaar got a second yellow and walked the walk. Benno was indignant that Arter had done his best to get Pienaar sent off.
With half an hour left it was going to be another mountain to climb. Stanislas hit the post as our defence switched off again and it was all hands to the pumps. Bournemouth were racking up the corners and I was finding it hard to stay on the sofa. Anichebe picked up a yellow with twenty minutes left and then we made our first change, replacing McNair with Denayer. The commentators were amused that the stadium announcer was the first to pronounce Denayer’s name correctly. Amusement changed to joy just afterwards when Anichebe was brought down in the box by Smith and Defoe lammed it home to put us in the lead. With just over a quarter of an hour to play it looked like we were about to get some kind of result. I started pacing around and things weren’t helped when Afobe hit the post.
Ten minutes to go and the blood was pumping. There were bound to be a few minutes of stoppage-time too with McNair’s injury. Bournemouth were doing most of the pressing and Pickford made another great save from King to keep us ahead. I was hoping we wouldn’t make any more changes but just as five minutes of stoppage-time were announced Love replaced Watmore. Our fans were still singing loudly as the seconds ticked away and then Bournemouth won a corner. We survived that and then surprisingly we brought on Gooch for Defoe. The Bournemouth fans joined in the applause as Defoe walked off. Gooch was booked almost straightaway and then we entered the sixth minute of stoppage-time. Finally that whistle went and before he was hugged by his teammates, Anichebe threw the ball into our fans.
This was a great result and credit has to go to Anichebe. If players I slag off are going to play that well, who can I choose next? Olobodji maybe… Also can Moyes sit in the stands for the rest of the season? Anyway, deep joy!
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