Whey yer bugger. Who’d have thought it? In all the many years I’ve been going to the “domestic appliance in the front garden” capital of the UK that is Croydon, I’d never have expected that result. As a hopeless optimist (the only way to survive as a Sunderland fan, in my humble opinion) I had a sneaky 1-0 as the best option of the day, but what we witnessed was one our best away wins in living memory. 4-0 for goodness’ sake! At Palace.
There is, in reality, no such time as 04:00 and it felt more than a little surreal to be setting the alarm for that ungodly hour, and using up precious brownie points for a lift to the station. Finding myself in the company of Micky (from what used to be work) and his mate, sleep wasn’t an option and we filled the Cambridge excursion (engineering works and that) with idle chit-chat and fetched up at King’s Cross at half nine. My plan to breakfast at Victoria’s Spoons was scuppered by it being absolutely busting at the seams with nuns (not, I suspect, real ones) at half ten so I headed for Thornton Heath. As our usual Spoons down the road is now called the Silverdene Goathouse (alternative drinking venue) I gave the Flora Sandes a try. By the time Rob, Winks, and Kev arrived, they were already shouting “leave it man, he’s not worth it” so we headed to the Railway Telegraph to watch Wenger turn into Montgomery Burns as his Arsenal side were steamrollered by Chelsea.
Anyhow, enough of that pre-match nonsense, what about the real thing? We’d sort of expected Oviedo to start, but wondered if Gibson would get an early look in. In our Embassy Regal, rather than our Summer Fruits, away kit (neither of which were necessary today. Sort it our man, Quinny) we lined up….
Jones O’Shea Kone Denayer Oviedo
Seb Ndong Rodders
We were a bit perplexed about Januzj’s inclusion, but Borini’s absence was no surprise. Kicking away to our left, and with the sun in the eyes of the visiting fans, two thing quickly became apparent. Firstly, we no longer like PVA very much, and therefore must be roundly abused at every opportunity and secondly, Cabaye is an ex-mag and as such must be roundly abused at every opportunity. That part was easy, and to be honest, the footballing part wasn’t much harder. We might still be less than 100% confident in the five-at-the-back routine, but when Denayer takes advantage of a less than potent attack and moves forward a few yards, it really works. Defoe ran into the inside left channel and fired in a decent effort which was saved, and things were looking promising. Just as we were thinking that we looked like we might get something from the game, we were awarded a free which Seb whipped in. One won the header at the back post, Billy Jones challenged for the ball with Hennessy, who didn’t make much of an attempt to win it and Kone picked himself up just enough to smash it into the net. Whoop whoop, that’ll do nicely.
Cabaye only lasted 25 minutes before he was replaced by Joe Ledley, meaning we could vent our displeasure solely on PVA. Tonkins had a chance to level things, but he put it wide and we breathed a breath of relief. Years of experience tells us fans that it’s not over until at least five o’clock, but Palace were truly woeful. Anyone who had any doubts about Oviedo because of his lack of games would do well to remember that he’s spent his premier league career in the shadow of the best left back in a decade in Leighton Baines, and our new signing looked the business as he won the ball, passed the ball, and generally did a job on Zaha (when Seb wasn’t hoofing the Palace man up in the air, but we’ll let that pass).
With a couple of minutes to go to the break, Rob took the beer order and nipped put the back. Ndong nipped in and stole the ball forty yards out, Palace stood off him, and he scooped a beauty inside the keeper’s left hand post with his left peg. Happy days, but about to get even happier. Januzaj found himself in acres and acres of space down the left as we broke up a Palace attack, and her had time to look up and wait for Defoe to run into the right place before making the telling pass. Left foot, across the keeper, 3-0 right on half time.
But it got even better. Januzaj came in from the left, and in the inside right position again waited for the right moment to dispatch the ball to Defoe, this time at the right of the goal. Our favourite striker simply held off his marker, who in all honestly should have done a lot better, and turned to smash another left-footer into the net. We kissed each other, Palace fans either left or ran onto the pitch to confront their players, Sam spat his chut out, and we went to find Rob who asked “what’s the score?” There were probably a couple of minutes added time (30 seconds a goal, at least) but I wasn’t counting. I can’t remember us ever being four up at half time away from home anyway – please tell me if it’s happened before.
They brought on Townsend, just to give us somebody else to ridicule, and PVA put on his gloves, which he probably nicked from out club shop – and he, being nominally the left back, was right in front of our fans. We took the opportunity well. In reality, the game was over, but being Sunderland fans we never take anything for granted. Rodders picked up an early knock, handing a debut to Gibson, then O’Shea had to leave the field, giving Lescott a great opportunity on his debut – 4-0 up away from home with the opposition about as fired up as a 1935 Land Rover. Easy peasy. Being four (yes, four) goals up meant that we could sit back and enjoy the ride, which made the statistics a bit meaningless. Yes, we conceded the majority of the second half possession to the home side, but (apart from Benteke refusing to score) they did nowt with it. Denayer and Vito combined to keep out their best effort, then Pienaar came on for Januzaj for the last fifteen – mainly to give him a run-out.
Anyway, there were four added minutes in which we could mock the home fans for leaving early (those that were left, that is), cheered the Lads off the field, then head back to the unsavoury delights of the Spoons at Thornton Heath and after that the 18:47 from King’s Cross.
Happy days indeed. Man of the Match? Defoe scored two poacher’s specials, but I’ll give it to Ndong, and with a special mention for Rodders who has, at the umpteenth time of asking, started a game that we’ve won.
Keep the Faith (unity is strength, apparently)
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