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Sunderland AFC v burnley (h)...
LINES FROM LONDON: EXILES BLOG

I honestly thought we’d finished with Burnley this season till my fixture-card revealed the awful truth. Their away record is worse than ours but they’ve still got a win and a draw at the SoL this year. After the defeat against Man City I felt ready to concede relegation, considering our form and the upsurge of our rivals but such is the drug of being a Sunderland fan that the intervening fortnight has healed my wounds somewhat and the news of Anichebe’s earlier return has lulled me into believing that we may actually escape again. It was probably a bad thing that Boro sacked Karanka as they’ll no doubt receive a boost from that but hopefully Man United will sort them out tomorrow. Even if we win today, we’ll still be bottom but if we lose, then my meagre hopes will surely be dashed. I was very pleased that Defoe got the call and I’ll actually watch the England game for a change if he plays. He may of course be injured in the process, as many doom-merchants predict, but on the bright side it’s shown that you can play for a crap team and still get an England call and that can’t be a bad advert for the club. Hull have a tough match at Everton today but both Swansea and Palace may well get something from their games. I don’t know anything about the likely line-up at this early hour but of course Kirchhoff won’t be in contention, which is just another blow. I’ve got the daft feeling we’re going to scrape a win and my prediction is 1-0.

When I saw the team-news around 2.30 there was no sign of Anichebe and Khazri was on the bench. Denayer was in for the injured Kone while Rodwell was starting ahead of Ndong. I got the match on the internet and awaited developments. We conceded a free-kick in a dodgy position after thirty seconds but Rodwell got it clear. After five minutes Januzaj fed Defoe with a lovely pass and set up our first chance but it was cleared and Denayer had to make a timely tackle to save our bacon as Burnley broke quickly. Five minutes later Denayer made a good block to stop a Boyd effort. Right on the quarter-hour mark Gibson was judged to have fouled Boyd just outside our box, unfairly by the looks of it, but Arfield shot wide from the free-kick. The commentator reminded us that we haven’t scored for five and a half hours and Burnley were certainly doing most of the pressing, winning three corners in a few minutes. Barton took a card for the team as he fouled Januzaj as he raced down the left. Januzaj’s elbow hit Mee in the nose and Burnley were annoyed that we didn’t kick the ball out. Rodwell got a header on target from a free-kick but Heaton easily collected it and then we won our first corner from which Gibson shot narrowly over. “We’re really waiting for a major talking-point in this game” the commentator said. In other words, it’d been dull so far. It looked like Barnes had put them ahead five minutes before the break but his close-range flick went just wide of our right post. Next thing a low Borini shot was deflected and had Heaton diving to make a save. It remained goalless at the break and though we’d defended solidly on the whole, especially Denayer against Gray, we hadn’t looked liked scoring. Elsewhere Everton were one-up against Hull and Palace were drawing 0-0.

Pickford was looking a bit rusty and from an early kick out he slammed it against Barnes and fortunately collected the rebound. Next thing Borini broke swiftly down the left and shot low as he ran into the box but it was straight at Heaton. It had started to rain heavily so I hoped for a few slips, in their box of course. Januzaj and Seb both had decent chances in quick succession and that was much more like it. It certainly lifted the spirits of the home fans. Gibson was yellow-carded for stomping on Barnes’ foot. We’d had the better of the fist quarter of the half and nicking a goal looked possible. Jones missed a glorious chance when he headed well wide from a great Seb cross. Next thing I heard the dread news that Djiloboji was coming on for the injured O’Shea but the sun came out again when Djilo put his top on again and sat down. Meanwhile Vokes had replaced Barnes for them. A low Januzaj shot just missed the right post and with just over twenty minutes to go we had to make just one of these chances count. In the seventy-fourth minute Ndong was on for Gibson and that was definitely a step in the right direction and not long after that there were cheers for the arrival of Khazri, who replaced Seb.  Khazri had an immediate effect as he slotted a pass through for Defoe but Heaton saved well. The crowd were well warmed up as we entered the final ten minutes. Borini was booked for a blatant push but it didn’t stop him protesting with much waving of his arms. Denayer lost the ball to Vokes and allowed him a shot on goal that Pickford saved well. I thought he was going to bring him down in the box but we escaped that too. Burnley pressurized in the dying minutes and then three more minutes of stoppage-time were announced. Borini had a good low shot on target but again Heaton saved well and that was our last chance gone. It ended 0-0.

A much-improved second-half effort failed to get the win we should have got. We can’t miss great chances like we had today and expect to win.

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