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Bogey side Hull arrived at the SOL for Charley Hurley Day, which was nice, as he’s by far the greatest centre half the world has ever seen – as the song almost went, and does go nowadays. When he and his surviving team mates from the 63-64 season walked onto the pitch, I got something in my eye. Somebody recently asked me what Sunderland meant to me, and I couldn’t give a proper answer, but when those Lads walked out, I knew what it was…and a nice 3-0 win added to that, with Pickford getting a much-deserved clean sheet.

For once, we Sunderland fans didn’t want an International break because we’re on a winning streak, we wanted a game straight away to keep it going. OK, we’d only won the one game, but it was a start. The reality is that the break came as a bit of a blessing, allowing the likes of Larsson, Cattermole, Kirchoff, Manonne, and Borini to get closer to fitness and O’Shea to recover fully from his latest niggle. Of course, the curse of Sunderland has struck Catts in the hip, meaning we’ll be licky to see him before Easter. Seb’s already played a game and a half, including helping us closer to Wembley in the Checkatrade Trophy, and we need the experience of all of these players if we are to climb up the table. It also gave The Anichebeast the chance to recover from his exertions at Bournemouth, and give Moyes the option of an experienced front two – a good option with (one of) our current bogey team(s), Hull, being today’s opponents. Apparently, they’ve got as many injured as us, which was a bonus.

Of course, Pickford - who’d had defo have saved that second Spanish goal – didn’t get a run-out, and Scotland were….erm, weak as watter, which prompted rumours of Strachan’s imminent departure and inevitable replacement by Moyes. It would be just our luck if that happened, but let’s not dwell on it until it becomes a real thing.

Apparently Robbie Keane wants “one more challenge” before he hangs up his boots, and, as we were linked with him during each of his previous seven transfers, we’ll probably be linked with him again. Are we that desperate? Probably, given our position. Anyway, given that we had a week off, and that it had been quiet on the news front, we went to see Billy Connolly at the City Hall, and being posh sorts, we stayed the night. Nice bit of scran, the inevitable time spent sitting with similarly disinterested blokes outside the likes of John Lewis and Next, a couple of pints, then a great show. It was a nice surprise to meet up with one of Judith’s former colleagues in the breakfast room. “Been to see Billy Connolly?”
“No, Sean Locke”
“Isn’t he on next week?”
“Yes, we know that. Now”
Two people, two days off work each…The Big Yin would have loved it.
Anyway, on to the main event.
Pickford
Jones Papy Kone PVA
Denayer
McNair Ndong
Watmore Defoe Anichebe

As is the correct way of things, we kicked south, but it was Hull who made the more positive moves in a fairly open first fifteen. It was they who won the corners, it was they who forced a good save from Pickford, and to be honest it was they who looked the ore likely to open the scoring. Thankfully, we got a grip of things with Denayer prowling in front of our defence and McNair and Watmore swapping left for right. We tried, but never quite managed, to get the ball to Defoe’s feet, despite Big Vic winning and either flicking on or holding up most of the balls that came at him. Vic charged into the box and things looked promising but as Defoe was set to pull the trigger a touch put the ball on a Hull toe and it was cleared. Another Hull effort went harmlessly over the top before Jones had a shot deflected for a corner, and we thought a goal was coming our way.

We thought it even more when Anichebe found room for a shot, but the ball was moving across him and it and the shot was slashed off target. Still, we’re looking canny, despite the central midfield struggling to sort out who was supposed to be where – probably just where Moyes had told them to be, to be honest, but it didn’t look that organised. On fifteen or so, Watmore, looking his usual energetic self, flew into the left side of the box and the keeper went down and cleaned him out – no question, but Lee Mason waved play on. Poor decision, as the keeper had clearly got nowhere near the ball and simply taken Dunc’s legs away.

The game continued in the same vein for the next twenty minutes, when Watmore got a vital touch (again) to find Defoe, and the little fella left defenders for dead as he worked the position he wanted to let fly with his left peg and put it past the keeper’s left hand. Great goal, and we were fully expecting his shirt to be raised to reveal a John Cooke T-Shirt with the hand-written logo “150”, but Jermain has more class than that.

Another Anichebe shot from distance went wide, then McNair took an accidental kick to the lower leg and looked in trouble, but saw the half (and three added minutes) out. 1-0, well worth it.

No changes, which was a bit of a surprise, for the second half, and we were following the same pattern as the end of the first half, with Watmore drawing a good save from the Hull keeper when the ball broke to him at the near post, then it went a bit daft. Samson the Cat, out the back for a lie down, had a bad dream and chewed through something of importance and electrical. Pop. Out went the lights, and almost instantly thousands of mobile phones lit up as the crowd sang “we are Sunderland, we’ll play in the dark”.

Ten minutes of inactivity followed, the big lights came back on but the scoreboards didn’t, which knackered any chance we had of keeping time. Hull (Mason, I think) missed a fair chance to score for Hull, and we flew down the other end of the field. We played the ball in from the left, and Anichebe held of his marker to turn and hit a fierce shot from the tiniest bit of space and it flew into the net. Gerrinnnn! That’ll do nicely, and Big Vic spent the rest of the afternoon holding the ball up with apparent ease as Hull simply couldn’t cope with his strength. There was a shout each for penalties, but the ref was having none of it, and Pickford produced a few more top saves – one coming in a remarkable passage of play that saw PVA hack the ball off the line twice as Hull somehow failed to pull one back.

With seven minutes left, McNair, who’d taken another knock, was replaced by O’Shea, and the skipper started the move that ended up with our third goal. A simple pass from halfway found PVA, who played in Defoe (still moaning at PVA for an earlier misplaced pass) and he set off across the edge of the box from the left. As we waited for the shot, he hit Big Vic with a pass that initially looked a bit on the heavy side, but the man of the moment controlled it and, again holding off his marker, smashed in his second. Boom, that’ll do nicely. On came Love for Denayer, a clever move by Moyes to give young Donald’s confidence a bit of a boost, but as we calculated the last minute was upon us, Papy put in a tackle that was far sillier than malicious and got his second yellow. Daft Lad. We saw out the added four minutes, took the points, and moved up the table. Two above Swansea – it’s a shame we’re reduced to celebrating 19th place in November, but a win’s a win, and exactly what we needed. Now all we have to do is to keep repeating it.

Man of the Match? Another sound display of the sort we’re taking for granted by Pickford, another solid game from Jones, another typical game from PVA. Papy was having a canny afternoon until about five o’clock, and Watmore was a constant pest. A classy landmark goal from Defoe, but it has to go to Big Vic. How on earth he’s scored next to nothing for the last two years baffles me with a performance like that. Him alongside Defoe could well be what saves us this season.

I think Charley and his marras will have enjoyed their afternoon.

Keep the Faith

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