It’s a good job I’m grey already as being a Sunderland fan these days is giving a lot of us grey hairs. It was my first game at the Stadium of Light for a year or so and it was thrill-a-minute stuff with our team playing their part along with visitors Luton, who had no intention of putting up the shutters and were at it hammer and tongs from the start. From the proverbial neutral’s point of view it was an exciting, entertaining game but along with the majority of the faithful I was counting the minutes, and sometimes the seconds, till the final whistle and the points were in the bag. To make matters worse the scoreboards appeared to suffer from some kind of mental explosion late in the second half leaving me in a timeless angst-ridden limbo.
A combination of fading eyesight and missing the first part of the announcement of the teams resulted in me not realizing that Fulop had made his debut till I read it in the Sunday Post this morning (The Broons, Oor Wullie and Wojtek the Polish army bear – together with several perusals of the league table and the match report, it was the perfect Sunday morning reading). Anyway, such misunderstandings add a little mystery to life. He made a solid debut apart from one blooper in the second half when he let a cross slip through his hands. Despite going off the pitch briefly with what looked a painful injury, Kavanagh played with authority most of the time while Wallace too did a lot that was pleasing to the eye. I was particularly impressed with Murphy and if he doesn’t get fifteen goals this season, I’d be surprised. He made the first goal out of nothing really as he battled with Luton’s Barnett for what seemed a lost cause before powering goalwards and lashing it in from an angle. It’s amazing what a bit of praise from Roy Keane can do for a man. Connolly took his chance very well and swivelled to pluck the goal from nothing. We had several other good chances too but so did Luton.
So much for the more positive aspects of our performance but on the debit side, I have serious doubts about big Stan. Sure he wins a lot of balls in the air but a large number of his clearances went straight to Luton players and set up another attack. His prime error resulted in Luton’s goal very early on. We were lucky not to go 2-1 down after another defensive lapse when Vine somehow put it wide when he seemed certain to score. In the last fifteen minutes there were several incomprehensible instances of Sunderland players standing around while Luton’s nippy attackers raced past them.
I was pleasantly surprised that the crowd was over 30,000. Luton brought more than I’d expected, though early on some of them seemed intent on increasing the large exclusion zone around them by being escorted out. It was the first time I’d seen Stokoe’s statue and I thought it looked great, especially as he appeared to dance over the heads of the departing victory-
flushed crowd. Maybe that was merely a late effect of the Scrumpy Jack I’d had in Fitzgerald’s earlier coupled with euphoria and the early stages of hyperthermia. I haven’t been to the Stadium of Light many times but I’ve never experienced much of an atmosphere there though I look forward to seeing evidence to the contrary.
Still, all’s well that ends well and we extended our unbeaten run to six. Four wins and two draws from four home and two away games is promotion if not champions’ form. Burnley away next week is going to be a toughie and no doubt Gray will score against us but we should be able to get a good result against Palace the following Friday. Surely we can give Leeds a seasonal stuffing on Boxing Day, which would also give us some well-needed revenge against Dennis Wise. So, all in all, despite playing well in patches in between giving us the heebie-jeebies the rest of the time things are on the up and we should be in a position by the January transfer-window of looking to prospective employees like a club that’s going places. Before the game my mate was passing on suitably vague though delightful rumours of big names who’d soon be signing for us. Well, it’s something to keep you warm during these long winter nights.
(P for apology – computer problems and pre-Cristmas family visits have delayed this report.)