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Sunderland AFC v watford (a)...
LINES FROM LONDON: EXILES BLOG

For once I watched an England game on Sunday and wasn’t at all surprised to see Defoe get a goal. I just hope he can get one or two for us this afternoon as we haven’t scored for a worryingly long time. I’d seen reports earlier in the week that both Catts and Anichebe would be in the squad today but that’s sounding less likely now. Kone’s fit anyway and that’s all to the good. Watford are on the slide and Deeney is a doubtful starter so I think we can get at least a point today. Palace are away to Chelsea and I really can’t see them providing a shock result while Boro play Swansea tomorrow so something’s got to give there. So, we have to get something from today’s game to start closing that seven-point gap. I’ll be at the game and we’ll have plenty in our end making a racket in that small stadium to roar them on. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.

After a couple of cold drinks in the Metropolitan Bar at Baker Street my old schoolmate and I got the tube up to Watford. He had to collect his ticket from the office at Vicarage Road and this turned out to be a bloke in a hi-viz jacket standing just outside the ground. I suppose it saves on overheads. The queue to get in was long and took ages to go down so we missed the first minute or so of the game and it took me a while to figure out who was playing. Catts was on the bench at any rate but Anichebe wasn’t. We made a bright start and won four corners in the first ten minutes but unfortunately that was our best period of the game. Watford soon turned things around and looked threatening down both flanks Pickford was kept busy, diving to push low shots out for corners in quick succession. Watford went close from good shots by Doucoure and Capoue. We had our best chance so far shortly before the half-hour mark when we broke quickly but Borini passed into a space completely bereft of a Sunderland player. Kaboul went down injured and finally had to go off, to a fair ripple from our fans, to be replaced by Janmaat, who was loudly booed for his Newcastle connections. In the final minute Kone produced a shot from close distance that went narrowly wide. It was goalless at the break and though we’d defended solidly enough we’d soon lost the initiative and allowed Watford to press forward. Luckily Pickford had been a match for all their efforts so far.

Just after the restart Defoe went down injured but mercifully he gradually recovered and resumed playing. We were on the back-foot in the opening quarter of an hour while Watford racked up the corners till finally they went ahead in the fifty-ninth minute. We failed to get a second corner in succession away and after it had bobbed across our box twice it was nodded in by Britos. Shortly afterwards N’Dong replaced Gibson and things looked better for a while in that N’Dong displayed some rare creativity and forged a couple of good chances down the right. He laid a great chance on a plate for Januzaj, who had time and space to pick his spot from inside the box but he only managed to hit a weak low effort straight at Gomes in goal. Januzaj hasn’t exactly been taken to our warm bosom and when he went off five minutes later, to be replaced by Khazri, he was loudly booed. Denayer had a shot that almost went for a throw-in and that typified the skill level that we displayed at times. Jones was yellow-carded for a needless foul and Khazri got the same for arguing with the referee’s assistant. I thought he was going to nut him for a moment. Time was rapidly running out and with ten minutes to go we created the kind of chance we should have been creating all game i.e. get the ball to Defoe in the box. It didn’t work out as it happened due to the assistant’s flag being raised for offside and Gomes took it off his toe anyway but it offered a glimmer of hope. We tried to get that equalizer but it never really looked like coming while Watford looked comfortable enough, winning headers and marking Defoe out of the game. In the dying moments of four minutes of stoppage-time we were awarded a free-kick in a great spot just outside the centre of their box but Khazri shot it straight at the nearest defender and that was it. My mate summed it all up rather nicely when he said, “Well, that was a load of shite.”

As I left the ground the other results were announced and to put the icing on the cake Hull had beaten West Ham while Palace were winning 2-1 at Chelsea. If there was a faint hope that we might avoid the drop, surely it’s gone now. See you at Leicester.

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