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Sunderland AFC v crystal palace (H)...
LINES FROM LONDON: EXILES BLOG

This is our last chance to put the August-September hoodoo behind us and I think we may well do it. Defoe should be back and hopefully Catts will be starting this afternoon plus we’re on a mini high after the midweek victory so things are shaping up. N’Dong started to look like a record buy should against QPR and surely McNair will at least be on the bench after his two opportunist goals. Pickford is already looking like a quality player while Djilobodji had the guts to pick himself up on Wednesday after his costly mistake against Spurs. The presence of Connor Wickham and Pardew will of course add spice to what is already an important match. With another winnable home game against West Brom next weekend we have the chance to haul ourselves into a decent position but a win today is vital. I may struggle to find a pub that’ll be screening the match so if I can’t find a good online stream, it’ll have to be audio only on SAFSEE.  Anyway, my match prediction is a 2-1 win.

The East End Sunderland pub I often go to weren’t showing the match so it had to be home alone. Our starting eleven was almost the same line-up as at Spurs with the exception of PVA replacing Denayer. Anichebe was on the bench. For Palace, Wickham was on the bench but with Cabaye, Puncheon, Townsend and Benteke starting they had plenty of potential goal-power. I couldn’t get the audio on SAFSEE to boot up for the opening stages for some reason and had to watch in frustration as that circle spun round interminably. I didn’t trust the various downloads that were necessary before I could access a live online stream so I had to do with the text updates for a short while. Pienaar was injured and had to be replaced by Watmore just before the quarter hour mark but this seemed to give us more impetus and we were edging the possession. Januzaj also went down for a while but happily he managed to recover. By the midway stage of the half Palace were taking control of the play and commentator Gary Bennett said we were off the pace. As the half-hour mark approached, however, we managed our first real chance when a cross by PVA was flicked just past the post by Defoe. “Not the greatest of adverts for the Premier League this game,” quipped commentator Barnes and not much excitement was coming across to me I have to say. The crowd were hissing and howling at Cabaye for making the most of a foul he received but Palace couldn’t capitalize from the resultant free-kick. With seven minutes to the break we suddenly took the lead when under pressure from Januzaj, Ledley made a mistake that was pounced upon by Defoe who slipped it into the bottom right-hand corner. I heard all of this as the commentary kept cutting out for a second or so in a Norman Collier style, for those of you old enough to remember him. Anyway, we managed to maintain our lead despite the three minutes of stoppage-time and so even though we hadn’t played well, we’d taken the chance gifted us and would start the second period ahead. There was warm applause as the whistle went.

Djiobodji did well to prevent Benteke scoring four minutes in and next thing Defoe almost reached a pass that might well have put us two-up. Both sides were going for it as the game flowed from end to end. Elsewhere Hull, whom I reckon are just a flash in the pan, were getting a good hiding at Anfield and Boro were losing at home. With a couple of the sides around us not playing today if we could maintain the lead, we might well climb out of the bottom three for a day at least. Just after the hour-mark we doubled our lead and it was Defoe again, who’d already had an effort well-saved by Mandanda, who hit it home. We didn’t have a chance to bask in our glory as within a minute Palace had pulled a goal back when Ledley’s shot was deflected by Pickford into our net. The minutes ticked away and it was going to be the usual tense  finish to see if we could hold on as the game continued to flow. We were creating chances and there was always the possibility that Defoe could get his hat-trick. With around twenty minutes left Wickham replaced Cabaye and I could hear some applause but I didn’t know which fans were clapping. This didn’t help the tension as we all know what Wickham did in the corresponding match last season. It wasn’t him who scored though but McArthur, who beat PVA to a cross and headed home from close range. With ten minutes to go I still thought there’d be another goal in the game but wasn’t sure who’d get it. With five minutes left Anichebe came on to make his debut for us and he replaced Januzaj while at the same time McNair replaced Catts. Townsend had a good shot that went narrowly wide and soon afterwards Benteke was appealing for handball in our box but we got away with it. There were four minutes of stoppage-time and in the dying moments we left Benteke unmarked at a free-kick from near our corner-flag and he headed home to win the game 3-2. What a bummer.

To throw away a 2-0 lead is unforgivable and lousy defending was again to blame. To cap a great afternoon we’re now bottom of the league.

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