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Sunderland AFC v burnley (a)...

This will be another crucial match. Despite their great home form, I’ve been expecting Burnley to start plunging at some point and hopefully we can be the ones to set them on their way this afternoon. If we lose, then they’ll be nine points ahead of us and that’s a hell of a gap to bridge but I think we’re going to get a result. Pickford’s absence is another major blow but Vito’s no slouch and I think he’ll do okay in the interim. Januzaj has finally started to show some of the quality we’ve expected of him and surely he’ll be starting today. Hull dropped two points last night and Swansea have Bournemouth at home today so they may well get something from that. I haven’t heard any real news about Swansea’s likely new coach but I hope it’s not going to be Pardew as he could drag them out of the mire. It was good news that Djilobodji probably won’t be absent during January. A while back I never thought I’d be saying that but he’s got better (okay he couldn’t have got much worse) and we need all the bodies we can get. In the continued absence of a Sunderland pub in London where I can watch the games with fellow fans, I’ll be watching the match at home via the internet. Maybe I’m just hoping a win will start my New Year’s Eve with a bang but I think we’re going to win. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.

When the team news came through around two o’clock, Vito and Januzaj were starting but Ndong was on the bench and Denayer was nowhere to be seen. Pienaar and Rodwell were also on the bench; I’d almost forgotten about Rodwell. I hoped to see an improvement from Seb as his passing was poor on Monday.

We had a good chance as early as the second minute when the ball came back to Januzaj on the edge of their box but he rushed it and blasted well over. We did pretty well in the opening ten minutes, creating several attacks and defending meatily. Burnley had a good chance in the twelfth minute when from a quickly-taken free-kick  a Barnes header went just over. Kone went down injured after helping to block a shot from Gray but thankfully he recovered. Next thing Marney had a shot that went for a throw in to us. By the midway point of the half Burnley were doing most of the pressing and then Kone went down again before finally he was replaced by Ndong with O’Shea moving into the back four. Play was held up again when Barnes fouled Djilobodji and the home fans were booing what they considered to be time-wasting. It had certainly been a broken-up rather non-eventful match so far but just after the half-hour Burnley took the lead. From a long ball O’Shea and Djilobodji went for the same header but it broke to Gray on their right and he ran on before shooting past Vito, who should really have done better. They should have had a second not long afterwards when Ward shot wide from close range following a free-kick. Januzaj should have had him covered but let him get the ball first. We’d been doing nothing upfront so Moyes switched Anichebe and Fab in the hope of pepping things up. Five minutes before the break Januzaj went on a great run down our right before crossing to Fab whose shot was blocked. That was more like it. Jones was yellow-carded for a foul on Ward, meaning he’ll be out for the Liverpool match. As half-time approached I’d been expecting a lot of stoppage-time and was surprised there was only three minutes. Marney was booked for a foul on Fab but we wasted the free-kick. Just to put the cap on a lousy first-half Anichebe went down with what seemed to be a hamstring injury and had to go off. At the break we were still in it at 0-1 but things were looking grim. At least Swansea were losing 2-0.

Pienaar had replaced Anichebe as we kicked off again but things quickly went from bad to worse as by the fifty-third minute we were three down and the match was lost. They got their second when Marney fed Gray and he shot home from the left. Two minutes later it was Gray again after Barnes put him through. We managed a couple of attempts ourselves through Ndong and Fab but it was really damage-limitation. Just after the midway point Seb fouled Arfield in our box and Barnes put the penalty away. I wanted it to finish right there but not long afterwards we actually pulled one back when Januzaj fed Defoe and his right-foot shot hit home. We brought on Love for O’Shea and Januzaj promptly had a decent shot saved. There were eighteen minutes to go but a three-goal fightback seemed unlikely. If we’d had a bit more fight in the first-half, things might have been different. Gray was subbed twelve minutes from the end and I’m sure our defence as well as myself were glad to see him go. We won our first corner of the match in the eighty-third minute, which says a lot. We immediately won another one, my my… Another goal would at least help our goal-difference but Burnley were still looking dangerous and an Arfield shot went just wide. There were three minutes of stoppage-time but we couldn’t get another and it ended 4-1.

This was a terrible result but we got what we deserved from a very lacklustre display and the injuries plus the yellow-card for Jones just put the icing on the cake. What a dreadful way to end 2016.

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