Charlie Hurley has always been a hero to me and I hope his presence will inspire the team today in this crucial match.
When Charlie moved upfield into the opposition’s penalty area at a corner an electric buzz went round Roker Park as we all knew he’d try to have one of his classic headers i.e head it hard down onto the ground near the goal-line and up into the net. We need our players to catch some of his fire if we’re going to get out of the mess we’re in. I think we’ll win today especially if Seb plays some part; he’s got to be very close to first team action again. There’s a lot of pressure on Anichebe to produce some magic once more but even he if doesn’t score, it’s clear that his strength and holding play are a great advantage. West Ham are away to Spurs at tea-time while Swansea have a tough match at Goodison so if we do win, we may well leapfrog one and advance on the other of those two immediate rivals and of course in the process we’ll cut the gap on Hull. Hull beat Southampton last time out, which is no mean feat, and Snodgrass is well capable of snatching a goal so our wobbly back four will have to be firmer. We can’t afford to lose today and I doubt if the football is going to be pretty. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.
There was no Seb anywhere when the team news arrived and the only change was Denayer in for the banned Pienaar. I’d rather have seen O’Shea starting instead of Djilobodji. Elmohamady and Meyler were in their squad. With no pub I knew of screening the match I had to fall back once more on SAFSEE. There was a great ovation for Charlie when he came on before the game and it was also good to hear our old theme tune ‘Z Cars’ playing in the background.
The crowd were in good voice as we kicked off but it was Hull who threatened first, winning a corner in the first minute. It was headed out by Anichebe and a few minutes later he had to repeat this as Hull showed that they were going to be lively upfront. I always thought Elmo could put a good cross in and he was sure to be trying his best against us. We hardly mustered any attacks in the opening ten minutes and were getting swamped in midfield. We finally put a good move together when Anichebe fed Jones and his shot went out for a corner from which Kone headed over. We switched Watmore to the left to try and stem Elmo’s forays. Anichebe had a shot that went narrowly wide not long afterwards so I hoped the tide was turning. Pickford had to save well from Clukas, who was getting mentioned all the time, after Ndong was caught messing around in his own box.
Midway through the half it still wasn’t sounding good with Hull strolling around in midfield as if they owned the place. Defender Tymon was down injured for a while after a clash of heads with Anichebe – I wouldn’t fancy that. Anichebe headed away Hull’s third corner and he was certainly earning his money at the back. Djilobodji was booked on the half-hour for a tackle from behind and no doubt we’d pick up one or two more. With about ten minutes to the break we went ahead and it was Defoe’s 150th Premier League goal. It was a beaut as he went past two defenders before hitting it into the bottom left-hand corner. Anichebe played his part in the build up and he was back again to shoot just past the left post. The fans were singing, “You’re by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.” Well, I don’t know about that but I was just prepared to settle for three points today.
We managed to survive that wobbly period that follows scoring and next thing McNair went down with a knee injury. There were clearly going to be a few minutes of stoppage-time time. McNair was able to continue and three extra minutes were announced. It was crucial that we didn’t concede before the break and we managed it but we could have increased our lead if Jones had taken a shot instead of hesitating in the dying seconds. It had been a nerve-wracking half but I couldn’t complain about the score so far. Commentator Gary Bennett had kept screaming for our players to pass to Anichebe’s feet but they hadn’t done it much so we needed a lot more of that in the second-half. Swansea had taken a late lead at Everton, which was bad news but there was a long way to go for all of us.
I was hoping Gooch would come on for McNair asap to give us more zip. From the off we were playing it to Anichebe so the message had got through and we had a good chance early on but Marshall palmed away Watmore’s effort. Next thing there was a power-failure at the SoL and the commentary cut out for a while. The game had to stop of course despite the fans shining their phones and thankfully the lights slowly came back on. It would have been awful if the game had been abandoned with us in the lead. I wouldn’t have minded if it had happened in most of our other games so far. ‘Stadium of Darkness’ will no doubt be a headline somewhere. We finally got underway again and there were still about forty minutes to go. Commentator Nick Barnes said it was a game of three halves. We won our second corner of the game but it came to nothing and next thing we survived a poor Pickford clearance that set up a good chance for Hull. With half an hour to go I was finding it hard to keep sitting down and started to pace the room.
We were putting together some decent attacks but the final ball was going astray too often. My nerves were considerably calmed when Anichebe put us two-up with a left foot shot after good work down the left by PVA. Pickford made a great save when he tipped over an overhead shot from Snodgrass. There were still twenty-five minutes to go and that seemed an awful long time. Bowen came on to replace the seventeen year-old Tymon, who knew he’d been in a game against Anichebe. There was a lengthy delay when Clukas was down injured so I was all over the place about how long was left. Swansea were still ahead at any rate so I prayed for an Everton goal or two. David Meyler came on for Mason and got a good ripple from our fans. Pickford made a great stop on the line and PVA promptly did the same twice as we survived a Hull corner and after that I dared to reckon we’d win. Everton equalized against Swansea and with ten minutes or so to go we made our first substitution, bringing on O’Shea for Denayer, who’d been struggling with a hamstring. Hull were doing most of the pressing and were racking up the corners so it was no easy ride for us.
Any remaining fears were ended when Anichebe smashed his second and our third into the roof of the net. He’s answered his critics, me included, in the best way possible. Of course we still wanted to keep a clean sheet despite the result no longer being in doubt. Love replaced McNair with a few minutes left and then Djilobodji made another daft tackle before receiving his second card of the afternoon and taking an early bath. There were four minutes of stoppage-time but we held out till the match eventually finished well after 5.00.
This was a great win and the clean sheet is always welcome. We’re off the bottom and are snapping at the heels of Hull with a far better goal difference. Palace lost too and that’s all to the good. Now we can sit back and hopefully enjoy Spurs beating West Ham. See you at Anfield.
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