In Abu Dhabi, the match fell off the edge of the Showtime Sports channels and appeared on Showtime Comedy. It gave me few laughs. Pete Sixsmith could easily have blamed Mike Riley’s extremely harsh penalty award – TV replays cannot seem to decide if there was contact at all – or indeed his predictable failure to see Kenwyne’s shirt being pulled halfway off his back – in the penalty box of course- in the first half. But he identifies other reasons for the unamusing setback in our quest for survival
At my age and with my experience of watching Sunderland, I should have grown wary of making predictions. The feeling after the Fulham game was that we were safe in the comfort zone. After a dispiriting defeat on Saturday, we could well end up in the Twilight zone.
What made Saturday such a disappointment was the fact that if we had shown the concentration and passion of the previous three games we would have blown Manchester City away. That we didn’t causes unnecessary worries after the other results lead to us looking over our shoulders to see if the likes of Bolton, Fulham and Reading could catch us.
I have done a trawl of the remaining fixtures and I am sure that one more win will guarantee safety but more performances like the one against City could well lead to us doing a Sheffield United come May 11.
We started and finished badly. Nyron had a shocking opening and if City had had anything about them, they would have taken advantage of our slackness and pushed on.
That they didn’t makes the result even more unpalatable. They looked like a side bumbling along in mid-table, with a slew of good players and some who did not look the part.
I liked the young goalkeeper, Joe Hart. I saw him a couple of years ago p;aying for Shrewsbury at Wrexham and he gave clear indications then that he was going to develop.
Incidentally, if you think our derby is a poisonous affair, try to see one of these, where Welsh dislike for the border English manifests itself in a way that would have Owain Glendower, Max Boyce and Leighton James purring in delight.
The rest were adequate. Dunne worked hard to control Kenwyne, their midfield struggled to get in the game and whichever grandmother of Stephen Ireland’s is still alive, could have put a better shift in than he did.
So, why the flop?
All week, pundits and clowns like myself have been saying: “Well, that’s it, we’re safe”. I am sure that Roy has not repeated that once, but players and fans often fall into swamps of self delusion – and these swamps can easily lead into the Great Grimpen Mire that is the Championship.
Our midfield struggled from the off. Richardson had another disappointing half, with misplaced passes, poor positioning and a general sluggishness about all that he did.
Reid did well in the centre but was less effective on the left. And while Whitehead worked hard, there are more and more doubts about his qualities as a Premier League midfielder. Chopra did well on the right although he is surely far better employed up front, where Murphy missed another good chance.
If we play like this on Sunday, the next few weeks are going to be unbearable. The Mags have already convinced themselves that next season they will win the League, the FA Cup, the Carling Cup, several Blue Peter Badges and the Greyhound Derby, so we need to sharpen up and avoid careless errors at the back. We fell apart in the last 10 minutes and the second goal was reminiscent of the rubbish goals we gave away two years ago.
Mike Riley did not help. The penalty was very harsh although Dean Whitehead is quoted in this morning’s local paper as saying that he thought it probably was one and so did the other players. Normally, I would give a referee the benefit of the doubt, but not for this idiot who just looks for controversy and seemingly cannot get through 90 minutes without it.
Let’s get it sorted for next week. Confirming our Premier League place for next season with a rousing victory over the Bar Codes would restore all Sunderland fans to full health.