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Sunderland AFC v southampton (h)...

The Palace match was the most uplifting football experience I can remember for decades but now optimism has reared its ugly head and I’m expecting us to win this afternoon. Southampton are on a downward spiral at the moment, having lost six out of their last seven league games, but I doubt if they’ll really get caught up in the relegation scrap. Like me you’ve no doubt been scrutinizing the Premier League table over the last week and even though we’re still bottom, there’s only two points between us and the sixth-bottom side. Hull have been doing well but they’ve got a tough away game against Arsenal in the early match while Palace, who looked lousy last Saturday, also have a hard away game at Stoke. Boro are at home to Everton, who banged in six last time out and something’s got to give in the Swansea v Leicester game tomorrow. So, even a draw today could move us up two places while a win could move us out of the relegation places. Rodwell won’t be fit for today’s game but Januzaj should make it and his telling passes against Palace were crucial to our victory and finally showed what an asset he could be. Oviedo was an instant success and hopefully he’ll play as well again today. Getting so much money for PVA and using only some of that to replace him with Oviedo is looking like a very good piece of business. I’ll be watching the game on the internet and I have a friendly bet on the result with a Southampton-supporting workmate. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.

Arsenal had a rather flattering-sounding 2-0 win against Hull so that was a great start to the football day for us. When the teams were announced there was only one change for us with Gibson replacing Rodwell. I couldn’t find my usual stream online so in a flurry of panic managed to get SAFSEE on instead. We started with five at the back as usual these days and pressed from the off, winning two early corners. We won a couple of free-kicks too in the opening ten minutes or so but couldn’t make anything from them. Our best chance so far came just after the quarter-hour mark when a Januzaj cross from the left didn’t quite fall right for Defoe and his effort went wide. A few minutes later Southampton had a chance when new boy Gabbiadini, who scored last week, shot just wide. He looked a bit untutored on ‘Match of the Day’ but also dangerous in a wild kind of way. By the midway stage of the half Southampton were starting to get back into it after our earlier dominance. Elsewhere Boro and also Palace were drawing 0-0. In the twenty-sixth minute Southampton went close when Gabbiadini crossed for Cedric to blaze a shot over the bar so we really had a match on our hands. Next thing we were 1-0 down when a cross from Bertrand was steered home at the near post by Gabbiadini after he’d got through our defenders, making it two goals in his first two games. There was still an hour to go so we had plenty of time to get one or two back but we’d have to win back control of the game. With about three minutes to the break we had a penalty shout after a corner but referee Tierney wasn’t having any of it. Right on the break Gabbiadini got his second when he got the better of Kone and fired past Mannone. It was a terrible time to concede and soon the whistle went to send us in 2-0 down. Southampton had wrested the match away from us and we’d need to make a swift fightback if we were going to get even a point from the game.

Pienaar was on for O’Shea as we started again. Southampton won a corner early on and Vito saved from Gabbiadini, which didn’t bode well, and it crossed my mind that we might lose 4-0 but I dismissed the thought. Southampton piled the pressure on and we were getting nowhere. Borini came on for Seb around the hour-mark and we switched to a 4-3-3 formation as we really needed to go for it. The attacks that we managed to put together sounded sluggish and commentator Gary Bennett said Southampton wanted the ball more than us. Januzaj had reverted to his usual form after last week’s much better display so with Khazri on the bench, surely he’d be brought on. Stoke went one-up against Palace so there was a little bit of good news at any rate. With about twenty minutes to go it didn’t seem that we’d get even one goal back while Southampton sounded far more dangerous. Gabbiadini went off and though that was good news, his replacement was Long who’s quite capable of getting a goal or two. Within a minute or so Vito had to tip over a Long header while we hadn’t put any pressure on Forster at all in the second-half. Vito saved well from Redmond to keep it to 2-0 but with only twelve minutes left, many fans at the SoL were starting to go home. Finally Khazri came on, replacing Gibson, but it was ten minutes too late for me. With about seven minutes left SAFSEE went offline so maybe they’d gone home too. We won a couple of corners and then a free-kick that led to a third corner. Finally we made Forster do some work and this was all due to the late arrival of Khazri. My Southampton-supporting mate texted to say how surprised he was that it was 0-2 but it wasn’t over yet, unfortunately, as instead of us snatching a late consolation, it was Southampton who got a third and it was a Denayer own goal when he turned a low cross into his own net. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Long got a fourth in stoppage-time to make it 0-4 and my worst fears were realized.

After the great joy of last Saturday this was extremely disappointing. After a bright start we created next to nothing till Khazri came on and we got what we deserved. Anyway, see you at Goodison in a fortnight.

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