Sunderland vs Crystal Palace: can we have more winning goals from Fletcher?

Jake: 'this is a  big, big one, Lads'
Jake: ‘this is a big, big one, Lads’

We’ve tried our best to be busy in the aftermath of a fifth successive Wear-Tyne-Wear derby win, and in the build-up to Saturday’s equally important game at home to Crystal Palace. See the home page – – and you can find analysis, comment and wit galore, on both topics.

About the Palace game, I have said at ESPN that this is a golden opportunity to reinforce our survival hopes, us at home in a tough but winnable match while all the other strugglers have nominally trickier games whether home or away. I also say it was time for the players to repay and reciprocate the love for SAFC that Niall Quinn talked about on derby weekend.

The win against Newcastle gave us plenty of reason for fun but it’s time to look forward, which we can do by looking back to Pete Sixsmith‘s sofa-bound report of our 3-1 win at Selhurst Park in November. If you think Palace fans have got over the unawarded penalty row, take a look at one of their sites. Here’s how Pete saw it …

Pete Sixsmith declined the option of a bleak night out at a poky little ground with abysmal catering in the middle of South London nowhere, preceded by a country-length trek. He watched it at home. The Soapbox fitted neatly onto Pete Horan’s sofa …

I could get used to watching the games on TV.

No more getting up at the crack of dawn and getting home late at night. No more sitting on a coach or a train aimlessly watching the miles roll by. No more daft youngsters throwing lager around and singing songs about Shearer, Cabaye, Pardew and Lee Howey’s brother.

Instead, I left home at 6.45 and by 7.15, I was sat on Pete Horan’s couch, drinking a cup of tea and having my crotch sniffed by Mack the new (and gigantic) German shepherd. The seat was comfortable, the sniffing less so.

I rarely watch a live game on TV. I took out a subscription to BT Sport and have been treated to St Johnstone v Motherwell, a game that failed to capture my attention and had minimal impact on the population of Perth as a the “crowd” of 2,551 indicated. Simon Ramsden (remember him from the good old days at New Ferens Park) played for the Steelmen and has done for quite a while.

Gritting the few remaining teeth that I have, I succumbed to MurdochLand and found it a fascinating experience. Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher were sharp and lucid studio experts. Alan Parry droned on as he has done since the mid 70s; I expected him to refer to Palace as the Glaziers and us as the Rokerites. He was abetted by Dave Provan who, as a Scot, fawned over Steven Fletcher but appeared to favour the Londoners over the North Easterners in general.

Jake: 'this is a  big, big one, Lads'
Jake: ‘this is a big, big one, Lads’

Guess the Score in Sunderland vs Crystal Palace

You do get a more complete picture on the telly. Our players seemed tense and nervous and they couldn’t relax as they came out, while the Palace men went around fist bumping and high fiving each other.

That tension was heightened when Vergini clattered into Fraizer Campbell in the first minute. It was a clear penalty and Vergini could have been sent off. Maybe Phil Dowd (god bless ‘im) thought that the Giant Pantilimon had got the ball and Campbell had stumbled over him. Maybe he didn’t want to give such a crucial decision that early.

Or maybe he just wanted to annoy the flag-waving, all-singing, all-dancing but never-watching juveniles that make up the Palace Ultras. If he did, good on yer, Phil!!

It took us 20 minutes to settle as we failed to win the ball and, when we did, gave it away with regular monotony. The back four looked decent and Reveillere seemed to settle in well. Van Aanholt did a good job on Zaha, keeping up with him and stopping the latest Palace show pony from actually creating anything.

We both thought that O’Shea was outstanding in that he marshalled the defence well and rarely missed a ball. Easier against a poor Palace attack than against Lukaku and Naismith next week and Pelle and Long a couple of weeks ago, but it shows that we can do it.

The goals were excellent. Fletcher’s first was a very good header from a great cross by van Aanholt and was the kind of goal that we need to score; well engineered and well finished rather than a scrappy effort.

Gomez took his well after a good pass from Buckley and Fletcher’s second came when Palace (and most of their fans) had gone. Bridcutt did well and should do against teams that are in the lower part of this league.

Kellie Shirley with Palace friend Billy Stookes
Kellie Shirley with Palace friend Billy Stookes
The SAFC vs Crystal Palace ‘Who are You?’ with actress, Palace fan and wit Kellie Shirley:


Salut! Sunderland
: Can the presence of more and more women at football be a civilising factor is that almost as sexist as saying girls know nowt about the game?

Kellie: Some MEN don’t know nowt about the game!!

Palace huffed and puffed but actually created very little. Their goal was fortunate in that the Giant Pantilimon had made a good save and clearly, Wes Brown was so impressed that he wanted to see if the Romanian could do it again. He couldn’t.

After the game, Poyet accepted that we had had some good fortune but pointed out that we had worked hard and had shown high levels of concentration throughout. Warnock just moaned and tried to throw a smokescreen over his team’s poor performance describing them as “superb”.

The TV experience was rounded off with a celebratory glass of wine and a drive home in the cold. But there was an inner glow as we celebrated win number two, the first one on a Monday since Claudio Reyna beat Leicester City and the first one at Selhurst Park since we managed to miss three penalties in the 1990s.

Is the patient improving? Can we maintain this impressive unbeaten run? Will Lille tire Everton out on Thursday? How does Neil Warnock get managers jobs? Will I get a Sky subscription?

All will be answered on Sunday. [1-1 at home to Everton – the first of three draws in a row – Ed]

* We also published a Palace view of the match, from Jay Crame, editor of The Eagles Beak fan site:

M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake
M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake
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