Does anyone care that they woke up this morning feeling very rough and groggy from the alcohol abuse all set up by a brilliant victory at the Stadium of Light last night? Nope, thought so! What a way to end the home games this season in a thrilling encounter which was seriously not good for your health but that’s exactly why we love football so much. Any chairman who can celebrate the winner as madly as his own fans just goes to show how loyal this man is, and what he wants this great club to achieve in the future. Now we will have to wait and see what happens today at St. Andrews and then at our bogey ground Selhurst Park before we can really celebrate what has been one of the best seasons as a Sunderland fan for sheer excitement.
Keano was delighted to have Simpson back in his position and keeping his record of playing in the winning side every team he has pulled on a red and white strip, long may it continue. This allowed Deano to work hard and cover every blade across the park in midfield. Liam Miller partnered Whitehead in place of Dwight Yorke and Stokes replaced Stern John who made way to sit on the bench. The team that he selected was one of his strongest and a team that I would have started as Murphy has huge potential and showed it last night in a gut-busting performance.
The game started very brightly for Sunderland who looked hungry for goals to send Cotterill’s men back home with nothing, Edwards was always open and able to get down the right and the first real chance fell to him in the 12th minute. Stokes, for once, found the right pass and played Carlos through on goal but his low shot was saved well by Jensen. The roar from the 44,000 faithful was back to its best and the fans sensed that if the pressure remained the opening goal would come sooner rather than later.
Sure enough Connolly, who took his time, drifted in a lovely low cross to find Murphy in acres of space to flick past the oncoming goal-keeper. It was a brilliant start and exactly what the fans and players needed to settle any nerves on the night. The game took another unpredictable twist as we received a penalty in the 21st minute; yes you did read correctly we were awarded a some what dubious spot kick. Having seen the replays now from Sky it was definitely a penalty as he caught Connolly’s standing leg and prevented him from going past him. Connolly who must be low on confidence after such a long streak without a goal stepped up but unfortunately went the same way as Jensen to have his penalty tipped wide. Yet again, Sunderland were making life difficult for themselves and this miss came back to haunt Connolly 19 minutes later.
The ball was played through by Djemba-Djemba to Elliott and Ward came out like he did at QPR, with the same result, conceding a penalty. The referee this time got it wrong and was backed up by the Sky cameras as he got a touch to the ball. Up steps the prolific Andy Gray and makes the game 1-1. Bugger!
The penalty miss did affect the Sunderland players who lost their momentum and were looking forward to the half time whistle. You could tell Burnley were no match for Sunderland and got a bit lucky with a dodgy decision but overall I felt confident at the break that we would go on to get a few more in the second half.
Keano made no changes and a shock looked on the cards as we went a goal down out of no-where with a simply brilliant effort from Wade Elliott. At the time I was not impressed with Stokesy’s contribution and looked to be non interested at times, he made his case much worse when he gave the ball away and allowed Elliott the room to score his wonderful strike. It may be an idea to send Stokes back out on loan or at least try him up front against Luton because left wing is definitely not his role.
This now brought out the Sunderland that we have seen take shape since Keane’s arrival, backs against the walls but having the ability to bounce back (bouncebackability some may insert). The pressure was on and everyone in the Stadium helped lift the squad and get the points we desperately needed. The 2nd penalty in our favour was awarded as a brilliant ball by Miller picked out Edwards who killed the ball and rounded his marker. The keeping took his legs and the game was still alive. The referee, who should have sent the keeper off as he was the last man, failed to notice this and allowed him to stay on somehow. Connolly took the responsibility and in all fairness showed great belief in his own talent to convert the spot kick and set up a thrilling last 30 minutes.
The atmosphere was simply superb not just in the SWC where I am located but all around the ground and even in the Premier Concourse fans were standing and adding to the excitement. The noise at some times was deafening and brilliant to see return at a moment where we needed it at the most. This could be the start of something we will see as normal from next season in the Premiership, hopefully.
Sunderland created numerous chances and attacked throughout the second half in a search to find the vital winner and when it came it was worth the money and wait. In a move that started in the left back position the ball was played down the line and flicked onwards by Leadbitter to Murphy. This allowed Daryl to head goal wards in acres of space; his vision picked a simple ball along to the right to find the ‘Roadrunner’ Edwards. One touch, two touch….. Explosion into the top corner…. madness ensues. It took literally five seconds to actually realise what he had just done so to celebrate this wonder goal I ended up three rows in front hugging my friend and screaming in delirium. No-one could believe that he scored from so far out but no-one cared because we were now just in touching distance of the Premier League.
I don’t care what happened in the last ten minutes as the chants bellowed around the Stadium the final whistle came and more happiness followed. A perfect end to what could be a perfect season.
As the players joined in with the lap of honour after the game, nobody in the crowd could imagine that after last seasons horror show we would be top of the league and one win away from a quick return. The effort and determination that we have shown since Keano has moulded his team of grafters is nothing short of a miracle. Many thanks to Quinn and all the staff for making this a brilliant season, let’s hope Luton is a party to remember. And since I have the chance I may as well ask for a Luton ticket if anyone has one to sell for Mr. Wiggum….. Worth a try!
MOM – Carlos Edwards – we all know why.
Aka – Gary Johnson