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

Today’s game has got to be easier than playing Chelsea and we didn’t do that bad against them. Watford are doing a lot better than us, though, and Troy Deeney has been stuck on ninety-nine goals for Watford for a good while so he’ll be eager to get one more today. Pants and Kaboul should be in their squad, which will add a bit of spice to the match. For us Kirchhoff is definitely out and more importantly Anichebe is a doubt. If he plays, I think we’ll win. I’d like to see Khazri start as he has flair and invention. Other results could well fall in our favour and the day would get off to a good start if Chelsea beat Palace in the 12.30 match. Boro play Swansea and I suppose a draw would be best for us while Hull are away to West Ham and I think they’ll lose that. Burnley are away at Spurs tomorrow and I can’t see them getting anything there so three points for us today is vital. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.

When the team-news came through it was good as Anichebe was fit. Love was also starting in place of Jones and I have to say Love did well when he came on against Chelsea. Ndong was back, replacing Kirchhoff, while Khazri, Seb and O’Shea were on the bench. Kaboul was in the starting line-up for Watford. Chelsea beat Palace 1-0 and that added to the good feeling. I got the game on Firstrow Sports and awaited developments.

I always enjoy the minute’s silence during the last home game of the year and I love the roar at the end of it. We started well, winning a corner in the first thirty seconds but Watford promptly won one of their own. Amrabat hit a great shot that Pickford saved well, turning it over for another corner. Anichebe started making his presence felt upfront and PVA went on a good run down the left before putting in a low cross so we needed to keep all that up. In the twelfth minutes Ndong fouled Capoue on the angle of our box but we cleared it only to soon find ourselves in trouble when Deeney beat our offside-trap to race through and put a dangerous cross in that we cleared for a corner. Next thing a flick by Love took it off the toe of Ighalo and went for Watford’s fourth corner so they’d definitely been the more threatening so far. We had our first real attempt in the twenty-first minute but Britos blocked Defoe’s shot. Our fans were quiet and they were no doubt feeling as tense as I was.  Denayer fouled Ighalo almost on our goal-line and from the free-kick I thought a header had gone in but mercifully it hadn’t. We conceded two more free-kicks in quick succession and needed to stop giving Watford chances to lob it into our box. Kabasele replaced Prodel around the half-hour mark after the latter had earlier being splattered between Kone and Anichebe – I’m surprised he survived. Januzaj was booked for a pull-back but we cleared the resultant free-kick no trouble. A few minutes before the break Kabasele’s face came into contact with some part of Anichebe and I had the horrible feeling that Vic was going to get a red but he only got a lecture. Anyway, it remained goalless at half-time. Watford had definitely had the upper hand and had looked a powerful side. It seemed that one goal would be enough to win it so we’d need to give Defoe a lot better service in the second-half if we were going to be the ones to get it. Elsewhere Boro were two up against Swansea and Hull were drawing 0-0 with West Ham.

Four minutes after the restart we went one-up and it was a beaut. Januzaj started it with a darting run down the middle before passing to Defoe on the right. It looked like he’d gone too far but he passed it into the box where PVA also looked as if he’d lingered too long but he swivelled and smashed it into the top left-hand corner.  The goal gave us a real shot in the arm and we soon created several more chances putting our fans in good voice for the first time. Watford made their second change after ten minutes, bringing on Success for Zuniga. Just after the hour that Januzaj-Defoe combination nearly worked again but the ball ran away from Jermain’s toe as he shaped up to shoot. A low Anichebe shot went just wide of their right post after a great back-heel of all things from Januzaj out by the corner-flag. Success barged Ndong over near their right corner and from the free-kick a Kone header went for a corner. We’d stopped Watford attacking for ten minutes or more and things were looking good. Twenty minutes to go and Watford had got back into it more. It was going to be a nervy ending. Deeney went close with a diving header and soon afterwards Kaboul was yellow-carded for a foul on Januzaj, giving us a free-kick in a tasty position. We wasted it, as usual. Kaboul received some applause from our fans as he was subbed with about twelve minutes left. We still hadn’t made any changes. Moyes promptly brought on O’Shea for Januzaj, who received a lot of applause and deservedly so. Ten minutes to go and Watford were still having a go. They continued to rack up the corners and from their tenth Pickford saved well as the ball came through a ruck of players to keep us ahead. With about three on the clock Seb came on for Love. Watford were awarded a free-kick right on the edge of hour box but Holebas blasted it well wide, thank God. Five minutes of stoppage-time were announced, which was all we needed, and Watford won another corner but we got it away. Khazri replaced Borini in the final minute and we held out till that whistle finally went and we’d gained three precious points.

We had to win and we did while both Swansea and Hull both lost without scoring. We’re off the bottom at Christmas and snapping at Palace’s heels.

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