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Sunderland AFC v southampton (A)...
sobs' blog

You always say that a point away from home is a good point (and it is) but to get ahead so late, then concede even later, is what the pundits refer to as a reet knacker. Shades of last season, eh? Ones apiece, we'll take that.

Thanks to the efficiency of Kev's Kabs, we were parked up in town and perusing the Spoons a la carte menu well before noon. A quick wet there, then on to the Platform Tavern beer and sausage festival. Well, it would have been rude not to. The special bus to St Mary's was boarded by 2:15, and the ten Mackems sat impatiently for twenty minutes until Tony (aka Bernard Cribbins) was persuaded to lowse. We needed time to spend the tenner handed to us in a snazzy Virgin Media envelope at the turnstiles, but we didn't get it. Twenty's plenty, read all about it. Not even time to check the 1800 Virgin Media envelopes on the floor in case someone had hoyed theirs away without looking inside. Honest, some folks did.

In our smart Embassy Regal white with a hint of blue) away kit, we lined up....
Pickford
Manquilla Kone Papy PVA
Rodwell Pienaar
Borini Gooch Januzaj
Defoe

That's more like a team, we thought as we stood in the blazing sun and topped up our tans. We kicked away from our end, and after ten minutes of sizing each other up, Austin got the first shot of the day away, but Pickford was down to palm it away for a corner. Kone's presence had caused a bit of discussion, but if there is any doubt in his mind about his future, it didn't show as he won headers and forced their forwards out of danger areas.

Having worked out who was doing what for the home side, we started to impose ourselves on the game. PVA's corner found Kone, but the header went wide. Could have done better. Redmond got a yellow for whining on after he'd fouled near out box, then Van Dijk did likewise just outside their box (minus the whining on) but PVA's free kick wasn't up to much. We then enjoyed a spell where we looked the more likely side to score, with Defoe getting on the end of Borini's good work on the right and Rodders heading Januzaj's free kick off target. Looking canny, Lads, with the defence preventing Saints from getting many shots away, and those that they did manage being dealt with by a confident Pickford. The single added minute, presumably for Redmond's moaning, brought nothing of note apart from a Borini run and an air-shot from Fonte.

We dodged out of the sun for a cool off beneath the stand, bumping in to the Swindon Mackem and the Somerset Mackem in the shade, reaffirming that I'm nowhere near too old for the nonsense that is following us around the land, wondering how long Pienaar would last, and why Defoe was captain when PVA had done ok in that role on Wednesday.

No changes for the second half, but Davis was soon booked for a naughty foul on Manquillo, then Austin was caught offside. We were treated to a run from Januszaj, who drifted in from the left and along the edge of the box, weaving between defenders like Jim Baxter on acid (ask your granda) before having his legs taken away. Borini chose to try and place it, but while the effort beat the wall, it was six feet from the post and easily gathered by Forster. He also managed to hurt himself n the process, the silly bugger, and was soon replaced by Watmore.

Pienaar, who'd shown some nice touches, got booked and quickly replaced by Lens with just under half an hour to go. With Watmore doing his usual head down run at them job, there was hope of a goal, but the home side engineered the better chances. Thankfully, Pickford was equal to anything, flinging himself left and right to make saves, and claiming crosses under pressure. They took off Austin in favour of Rodriguez with fifteen to go, but it was Lens who made the next vital contribution. Moving down the right, he played the ball low to Defoe on the edge of the six yard box. If the turn was sweet, which it was, the challenge was as sour as you'll get. Not only did Fonte take Jem's legs away, he also put his foot clearly between our man's legs just to ensure the ref couldn't do anything but point to the spot - then protest his innocence. No Borini, so Defoe took a little shuffle and blasted it high to Fortser's right and into the net. Merry mayhem in the sun-baked away section as we celebrated, then praying that we could stay on the front foot and see out the remaining twelve or so minutes.

Gooch, who'd run out of steam a bit, made way for Love and we hoped that young Don   ald would continue his habit of passing to any shirt but red and white. Strange choice, but I'm not the manager
Pickford punched clear as we looked like we might just do that, but when Rodriguez's effort from just outside the box took the teeniest deflection, he couldn't stop it squirming under his body. Should have done better, but he was at the heart of keeping out the home side as they got hold of the late stages of the game and pressed for a winner. Fittingly, Targett fired off-target, four minutes were added and we held on for a well -deserved point that looked, for a few minutes, like it was going to be three.

Man of the Match? To be honest, it was going to be Pickford until their goal, as he backed up some great saves with a generally dominant performance and his trademark excellent distribution. Criticism of him on MOTD was a bit harsh, with many more experienced keepers making many more errors.

Manquillo looked like a 21st century Dick Malone, combining defensive solidity with an overlapping side to his game. For a debut, he looked very established.

PVA did what he usually does.

Papy combined well with Kone, meaning that we might not miss Kaboul as much as we feared, while Kone showed what he can do when the off -field nonsense is not occupying his mind (or his back)

Rodwell showed some decent movement, but did allow their players to get away from him at times

Pienaar looked ok in his new, deeper-lying role, and Gooch was again difficult to knock off the ball but needs to improve his choice of pass a bit. 

Januzaj showed some lovely control, with THAT run being worth the £20 on its own.

Borini did ok, but hurting yourself taking a pretty manky free kick isn't very clever, especially when you've worked as hard as he had.

Watmore has already been summed up, and the opposition certainly don't like a direct runner in these days of stepovers and shimmies.

Lens was a combination of strong runs and then being caught out of position.

Love did ok as he added a more defensive edge to the midfield in the last fifteen minutes.

Defoe, last but far from least. He gets my vote because he took the knocks, led the line well, and took a cracking penalty.

Listening to the home fans moaning their way back to town - apparently we were "nothing but muscle" and that Defoe had gone down "as if shot by a sniper" made me giggle, but also made me wonder how lop-sided my post- match opinions are.

Keep the Faith 

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