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Sunderland AFC v watford (h)...
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Against a Watford side that had continued last season’s sort of decent form, but with a (until today) misfiring Ighalo, we were rightly hopeful of three points – and we got them. Maybe it was a bit harder work than it should have been, but it’s three points and we’re off the bottom for Christmas. Which is nice.

Our last encounter, on that happy, sunny, safe day at the end of last season had been a five star job, entertainment-wise.  This one was a bit frantic, but in the end the result was correct.

It was only last week that I discovered that Kirchhoff had two “f”s, ‘cos I don’t pay attention, and this week discovered that he most definitely make of balsa wood as yet another injury threatened his participation. At least Borini and Seb had looked up for the battle the other night, and with Ndong back from suspension, at least Moyes had some options to consider. Having survived our marathon journey to and from the match on Wednesday, we’d packed winter rations just in case we were lumbered with the same transport option, and chatted through the latest backroom departure – that of commercial director Gary “the hair” Hutchinson, he who’d sorted lots of the non-football stuff that we’re now trying to put to the back of things as we strive to become Sunderland again. There have been rumours of a falling out with Martin Bain, but I guess that the real and complete reasons will remain within the club. At least his departure in the New Year won’t (shouldn’t?) have any impact on our ability to sign players. For free, obviously, ‘cos we’ve got no money to spend. If only all the other clubs were as financially honest as us. Bearing in mind how long it had taken us on Wednesday, Peter Kay joined us for today’s trip, looking for inspiration for his new series “bus share.”
Love Kone Papy PVA
Denayer Ndong
Borini Defoe Anichebe

The returning Kaboul tried to spoil things by making us kick North in the first half, and it only took us half a minute to win a corner when Kaboul had to stop Vic getting in, and the looping header from the kick was saved. Good start, but it was Watford who nearly struck straight afterwards with a shot from distance tipped over the top for the first of many corners to the visitors. We were only six minutes in when PVA went on a run and got a cross in, then Vic shot against Kaboul again. While there was lots of effort all over the pitch, there wasn’t a great deal of shape, with Watford’s game plan seeming to be win a free kick and launch it into our box. Thankfully Kone, and in particular Papy, were up for this sort of thing – against two standard centre forwards they enjoyed their afternoon, I think. Mind, Ndong did nearly blot his copybook by giving it away and allowing them to win another corner, which Pickford took comfortably.

We broke swiftly down the left and won a corner which resulted in us having more shots blocked, then Watford went forward again and we had to thank Love for galloping across the box to cut out a Deeny through ball. We looked to have a decent chance but Defoe was called offside, then Watford’s number 7 produced his first (of many) dives of the afternoon to con the very impressionable ref into giving a free kick right in front of Moyes, who looked ready to clatter the lad himself, and I wouldn’t have blamed him. They launched it into our box again, the header was saved, and we built an attack of our own, with Anichebe’s shot being blocked and going off the keeper – but resulting in a goal kick. Prodl had to leave the field injured as Watford seemed intent on lying down and crying at every opportunity, but we needed a great tackle from PVA after a lucky bounce had allowed them through.

On 35, Januzaj was booked for pulling their man back, then we cleared the free kick and got back down the other end, where a Borini backheel found nobody – worth a try, I suppose. With five to go to the break, Vic won the ball, their man went down without really being touched (one for MOTD tonight, methinks) and the ref halted our attack to allow treatment – bad, bad reffing.

Two added minutes were announced, we had a series of throws down our left then there was a booking for a foul on Januzaj right by the corner flag. No score at the break, and while we might have had the better of the play, we hadn’t made the cowardly, gumshield-wearing Gomes work nearly hard enough.

No changes for the second half, and it took only three minutes to do the necessary. Defoe went down the inside right channel and put in a low cross that caused confusion, and PVA spun in the middle of the box to fire it inside the far post. Magic, and no more than we deserved., and it was nearly doubled soon after (well not that nearly) when Defoe fired well over. The crowd were well up for it, and the players tried to respond. Januzaj tricked his way into the box and was crowded out, then Vic blasted one that was well off-target, but still nice to watch.

They replaced Zuniga with the worryingly-named Success, and he caused us bother down their left.  Love took a knock, but was back up to help defend – at the cost of yet another corner, which was volleyed well over by their number 7.  Another Watford attack was thwarted by a Papy clearance to Januzaj, who fed Defoe but he ran out of space in the box on the hour. Another goal was what we really needed to settle things down, and we so nearly got it when we cleverly worked it down the right, the low cross was behind Defoe so he left it to Vic – and he shot just wide.

Ndong was barged over near  the corner flag and Kone’s header hit a Watford head for a corner, but we kept plugging away, and Borini’s return pass to Ndong looked to have set up a decent attack, but Didi’s return pass was way too strong and it ran out for a goal kick.  Kaboul was booked for a foul on Januzaj, then he was replaced by Janmaat to a mixture of applause and boos. With ten to go, Denayer drove into the box but could only tickle it to the keeper, so we brought on O’Shea for Januzaj and reverted to five at the back.

Love lasted only a few more minutes before limping off to be replaced by Seb, with Denayer moving to fullback, and we had defending to do with Papy at the heart of it. Deeny looked to handle on the edge of the box, but the ref gave it against Papy. Thankfully the free sailed harmlessly into the North Stand, but we had to thank Pickford for a tremendous take that flattened Papy as collateral damage in the five added minutes. Borini made way for Khazri and we pushed forward to run the clock down, with Vic doing sterling work holding the ball up, and that’s where it was when the whistle went.
Hard-fought, but well deserved.

Man of the Match? Probably Papy, sound as a pund alongside Kone.

Keep the Faith

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