I was out celebrating my step-son’s birthday as the lads were (eventually) battling their way to a point on our very first visit to the Cardiff City Stadium. Checking my Twitter feed for updates I decided it was a lost cause at 2-0 down after around 75mins. A final check getting in the car home brought the surprising news that somehow we had managed to haul ourselves level for a vital point. Very un-Sunderland like this; first passing, now comebacks? What on earth is going on Gus?
The incredible comeback can't completely cover the cracks evident particularly in our back four, neither can its importance be undervalued. Not only does it continue our unbeaten run into a huge January - but it ensures we creep that bit closer to 17th. It's that grit and determination which could ensure our Premier League survival. Time to rate some players then…
Now this is all just getting really, really ridiculous. How is a person supposed to lead a happy, healthy lifestyle in tandem with enduring relentless torture every time Sunderland step on the pitch? Incredibly, we play the worst 75 minutes of football since our last trip to Wales, yet somehow score two away goals in one game for the first time this season to rescue a point – creeping ever closer to safety.
After the much welcomed novelty of winning at Goodison Park – in this of all seasons – we head for our first ever league match at the Cardiff City Stadium in good cheer for once. The same can’t be said for the Bluebirds (or is that Red Dragons?). Bonkers, despot leader sacked manager Malky Mackay on Friday in the least surprising managerial axing ever. Scant reward for ending Cardiff’s 50 year plus exile for England’s top division last year. Often when a team change manager there’s a big response from the players due to a sense of relief, being able to draw a line under past performances and move on. You can’t quite see it the same way this time though, with players and fans lining up beside Mackay rather than Bond-esque villain and owner Vincent Tan. So a possible chance to capitalise on a club in chaos perhaps?
The bigger bonus than your Christmas box I’m sure, this was such an enormous and unexpected win. Simple maths would have you realise if we lost as we were expected to we’d be six points adrift. No prizes for guessing who got our man of the match…
Wey, we’ve only gone and beaten Everton away. Perhaps we didn’t do it with much panache and we certainly rode our luck throughout the second half – but for once this ride on the fickle lady didn’t end before full time. A win made even more gargantuan by Palace and Fulham’s irritating away victories, but we are just three points away from safety.
We stand one point closer to safety than we did last week, but the reality of our predicament has long been clear. A monumental surge in form needs to happen for the club to remain in the Premier League and long-term planning has to begin to ensure that if the seemingly inevitable does happen, we can compete in a difficult league below us.
I'm really trying my best not to be generous with these ratings, such is my overwhelming frustration. However, the fact is overall we were not poor, but we relied on players who were poor to win us this match. Perhaps it's players who take the brunt of the blame, but maybe Gus Poyet deserves a little criticism. That is purely in hindsight mind, I don't think too many were arguing with the team selection before kick-off.
I think we all needed last night to cool down a little, gain some perspective and realise that yesterday was actually...yeah who am I kidding. This cloak of positivity is much too small to cover the major cracks oozing through.
There isn’t much point in me raiding the vocabulary bank in search of some superlatives which may vaguely describe just how important this match is. Quite simply the only thing that truly matters in a game like this is winning three points. We need to turn the mountain that is survival into a molehill and replicating the quality and application shown in the latter stages of that incredible win over Chelsea will go some way to securing that. We probably all earmarked this game at the start of the season as a win but let’s not be too naïve in dismissing the very real possibility that Norwich can cause us problems.