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Sunderland AFC v burnley (h) F.A. CUP THIRD ROUND...
LINES FROM LONDON: EXILES BLOG

It’s nice to have this game as a distraction from the travails of the Premier League and I’m hoping we’ll get revenge for the drubbing we received from Burnley last weekend. It also gives our injured players more time to recover before we get back to the serious stuff next Saturday.

I love the Cup but there’s no doubt it’s slipped down the importance scale for most fans and despite Moyes saying he’s taking it seriously, I doubt if we’ll be fielding a full strength starting eleven this afternoon. We all got very excited about getting to the League Cup final so getting to Wembley again would of course be great but not at the expense of relegation. Regarding the West Ham-Defoe saga, all I’m saying is that it ain’t over till it’s over so roll on 1st February. It would be madness to sell him but funny money talks. I don’t understand why we aren’t playing Khazri more regularly but it looks like he may be off to Istanbul. He’s away on African Cup duties along with Ndong and Kone so I hope their countries get knocked out at the first hurdle. I would hate to see PVA and Borini go too and certainly not to a rival team like Palace. Anyway, Monday’s draw felt like a win and I’m in a fairly buoyant mood so I think we’ll win today. I’m hoping to see a few of the second-stringers have a go, especially Asoro and Maja, and surely Burnley will also be fielding a weakened side. They may well be fielding Joey Barton and he always adds spice to an occasion. If we lose, I won’t be too bothered really but I hope it isn’t a draw. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.

When I got the team news I was surprised to see us fielding a strong team but the bench was almost entirely composed of youngsters so it seemed likely a few would get a game later on.

I couldn’t get my usual stream online so it had to be SAFSEE and it took a while for that to get going, as it usually does these days, so I had an awful few minutes when I thought I wouldn’t be able to see or even hear the game. We had a chance after three minutes or so when a neat flick by Defoe nearly reached Rodwell but Burnley’s defence cleared it. Burnley did better a few minutes later when Gray fired not far over after a cross from the right. Rodwell was having a good game and on ten minutes he had a powerful shot that went not far wide. After his much better performance against Liverpool Vito was again playing well and he made a couple of crucial saves; the first from Vokes when he was put through one-on-one and a few minutes later he saved a long-distance shot from Gudmunsson.

On the half-hour Rodwell had a decent header on target and he was having more chances than anyone so I hoped we were finally going to see the best of him. Commentator Nick Barnes did remind us though that we’d never won a game when Rodwell had started… The crowd weren’t making much noise that I could hear so I wondered what the attendance was, 25,000 at a push maybe, but then again there hadn’t been too much excitement yet. Five minutes from the break Manquillo should have done better by either passing along the ground to Defoe or shooting but instead he lobbed it to nowhere in particular. Just before the break Fab was splattered but mercifully he got to his feet and trotted off. It remained goalless at the break and it had hardly been a rip-roaring cup-tie.

We’d made no changes as we kicked off again but we needed to get some more oomph into our game. We were lucky not to be punished when the ball found Gray in tons of room near our penalty-spot but Love managed to race back and clear the danger. Five minutes in, Gary Bennett said we needed a wake-up call as we hadn’t started yet and maybe the team heard him as we soon broke upfield and forced a corner after more good work from Rodwell. The attendance turned out to be 17,632.

Ten minutes in, a Rodwell shot (who else?) was tipped over the bar but we did nothing with the corner. Arfield was racing clear when he pulled up and had to be replaced by Kightly. The hour-mark came and went and it looked like one goal would do it. QPR went two down and that meant when I left home immediately after our match I’d be stuck on the tube with loads of their miserable fans. It was going to be interesting to see who Moyes would bring on to try and gee things up and Gary B said whoever it was, they couldn’t do any worse. Denayer did well to block a pass that was heading to Gray in a good goalscoring position and soon afterwards he did well again to clean up after a Djilobodji slip.

Twenty minutes to go and it was anybody’s game but Burnley were having the better chances. Burnley brought on two subs, Barnes for Gray and Hendrick for Gudmunsson. I wasn’t sorry to see the back of Gray at any rate. Our subs hadn’t even warmed up yet. For the first time I heard a chant coming over the ether – for Vito. In the seventy-fifth minute Barnes hit a post after their first corner and the rebound was put wide. Next thing we had a shout for a penalty but after due consideration referee Attwell gave Burnley a free-kick. With ten minutes to go I thought we might as well give Asoro or Maja a thrash as the latter in particular had looked very lively in the League Cup game at QPR. However, when we finally made a change it was O’Shea who came on, for Larsson. Were we playing for a draw? Barton got a yellow in the dying minutes and that warmed the crowd a little but despite thee minutes of stoppage-time, it ended 0-0 and a replay on Tuesday January 17th loomed.

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