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Sunderland AFC v southampton (A)...

I imagine the Saints fans are feeling a bit like us at the moment, having seen their manager and a few of their best players leave over the summer. Vito’s injury was a further blow so Pickford will have to endure greatness being thrust upon him – he made a class save on Wednesday so he may well cope. We’ll surely be getting some goalkeeping cover - Joe Hart’s not doing much these days. Getting Manquillo was good news at least and surely more new players will arrive in the next few days. Borini, Kone, O’Shea and Lens are all in doubt for today’s match too so we’ll have to wait and see. I’ve been impressed with Januzaj and Gooch and am suret they’ll do well for us. This will be my first match of the season and I’m feeling fairly confident that we’ll get something so my match prediction is a 1-1 draw.

I got to the stadium at 2.15 and on entering was given an envelope emblazoned with a well-known media organisation’s logo and the message Twenty’s Plenty for Away Fans. I expected it to contain more guff about how great their wifi packages are but instead there was a crisp ten pound note. I immediately repaired to the bar and purchased a pint of Somersby cider, which got into the mouth quite nicely. Manquillo, Borini and Kone were all in the starting eleven and that was good news while Pienaar was also starting and Defoe was captain.

We were playing in a largely white strip and not that pukey pink one, though plenty of our fans were wearing those. Pickford was in the thick of it after thirty seconds when he was fouled at the feet of an onrushing attacker. We were sharp going forward in the opening stages but in the tenth minute Tadic had the best effort so far when he shot just over. Our fans were belting out great support as we survived a spell of pressure and then we won three corners but little came of any of them. We were defending solidly on the whole but Pickford was looking a bit jittery. Redmond picked up the first yellow card of the game for a foul just before the half-hour mark. We were putting together some stylish attacks but as so often the final pass went astray and it was all a waste. This was exemplified by a great move down the right created by a nifty Borini back-heel which led to a pass into the right side of their box but it was just too far ahead on the onrunning Defoe. It’s great to have Borini back by the way. There was a chant of “Play up, Pompey! Pompey play up!” from our fans in an attempt to get the home fans rattled; they were very quiet for a home crowd. Pickford increased in confidence as the half went on and he made a couple of very good saves. It was goalless at the break and we’d managed to keep Southampton quiet for most of the last twenty minutes or so. If we could just make a corner or a free-kick count and sort out those final passes we could well nick it. I was waiting for Watmore to appear of course.

During the break there was the usual relay-race between two teams of young home and away fans and I found myself getting surprisingly involved in it, uttering a cry of joy when the final Southampton runner slipped on his arse after his team had blatantly cheated by throwing the ball forward to their next runners instead of handing it over. They still won though, as our lad shot wide of the open goal. Sounds familiar.

Eight minutes in I thought we’d taken the lead but Djilo knocked it just wide after a free-kick that the home fans had vehemently protested against. Our fans were really belting out their songs and there was a great atmosphere in our end. Just after the  hour we won a free-kick right outside their box but Borini shot it low, to the left and straight at goalie Forster. Watmore replaced Borini shortly afterwards and was immediately fouled then Pienaar, who’d looked a good asset to me, was yellow-carded and was promptly subbed by Lens. Moyes knows him well and may have reckoned he was going to lose his rag. Anyway, with Watmore and Lens on we started to look more formidable but Southampton forced Pickford into making two diving one-handed saves within a minute. With around twenty minutes on the clock we were on the back foot for a spell and struggled to get the ball clear and then the popular Rodrigues came on for Charlie Austin. We swapped Love for Gooch, which baffled a number of us and that was our final throw of the dice. Defoe had just failed to make more out of a good Watmore move down their left when the move was quickly repeated and this time it paid off. Defoe was clearly brought crashing down and when the penalty was finally taken, it was Defoe who lammed it hard down the left to put us ahead. Southampton fought back strongly and Pickford made two more good saves but with five minutes left a loud chant of “David Moyes’ Red and White Army” was completely silenced by a low Rodrigues shot into the bottom right corner that Pickford should have done better with. My pulse was going haywire as the play switched from end to end and things weren’t helped when four minutes of stoppage-time was announced. We conceded two corners and Djilo booted the ball clear out of the stadium at one point, which takes some doing as it’s no garden shed, but we held on and the game ended 1-1.

I was happy with the result despite there being a lot to improve in our performance. Progress in the EFL Cup and a hard-earned away draw against a good side isn’t bad for one week. The arrival of Manquillo, who had a decent debut, and the promise of more players to come has also cheered me up. As I waited at Southampton Central for the train home a loud-mouthed Saints fan had just finished making some disparaging remarks to a member of our faithful as he boarded the train before ours. However, his triumphal exit was somewhat marred when he left it a little late getting on and he was temporarily squashed by the closing doors much to the amusement of the Sunderland fans present. No harm was done and he was safely able to receive a number of insults hurled in his direction through an opened window. Karma?

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