We went into the weekend with only the faintest of hopes. Surely the Lads couldn’t fire yet another blank. They’d be really up for it, for the two wins in four days that might, just might spark revival. Robert Chapman, standing in once again for Pete Sixsmith, saw the reality. Another lame defeat and the Gap grew wider at Watford. Robert looks back on a match that seemed, despite the premature mathematical interpretation, to dump Sunderland into the Championship …
So it was April Fool’s Day; a day for surprises and stunts. Could Sunderland possibly call all the pundits wrong, get three points and embark on the next great escape?
The corresponding fixture last season had been a good day out. It was the final game of the season with survival already guaranteed. The day had started out at the Tavistock in Bedford for breakfast, before heading down to Mables Tavern off the Euston Road and then up to Watford for the match.
We did enough to win it, but came away with a creditable 2-2 draw. Big Sam had indeed saved us and onwards and upwards to midtable stability we all thought for next season.
The word Brexit didn’t exist and any talk of Europe was only whether we could challenge for one of those elusive slots at the end of the season.
How things have changed. The club is up for sale. The owner has gambled and is definitely on a losing streak. Whether we like it or not the club is going in one direction. Britain is on Brexit and Sunderland is on Sexit.
The same as last season, the day started off in the Tavistock for breakfast. It was a party of two as opposed to eight that went last year. By midday in Mables Tavern we were up to three! Retirement, working in London, middle-aged ailments and of course Brexit were all discussed. Sexit was not mentioned, an inevitability we all thought.
On arriving at Vicarage Road there was no surprise with team selection. You don’t get surprises with David Moyes.
Although Kone was back in, there was no place for Ndong or Khazri. We made a decent start and on 10 minutes Gomes had to make a smart save from Januzaj.
Although it was probably a cross, it was still more than we can usually muster up early on in most away games.
Watford themselves replied by forcing Pickford to produce two excellent saves. His price is increasing all the time.
Wouldn’t it be nice if he decided to stay, just like Tom Heaton at Burnley when they were relegated? Sadly it probably won’t be in his hands and I suppose the £25m will be willingly accepted by the club. At the other end of the pitch Defoe was his usual isolated self. Watford probably had the edge and probably felt that they should have been in front when half-time came.
During the break I visited the toilet and found myself smoking again after 35 years. Not a pleasant experience and not a steward in sight.
After the break Watford continued to press. Still no support for Defoe so it was no surprise when Watford took the lead. From a corner a Okaka header deflected off Borini onto the bar, head tennis ensued and Britos appeared at the back post to easily overpower the flat-footed Rodwell and put the ball in the net.
Almost immediately Moyes brought on Ndong for Gibson. This was soon followed by Khazri for the enigmatic Januzaj, who had earlier wasted a good chance. I know these substitutes have their critics but I would have started with both of them and once they were introduced we offered more threat, although there was still an inability to get chances on target.
In fact the only real chance we created was a shot from Borini which was well saved by Gomes. In the final minutes Kone was pushed up front in the hope of rescuing a point but it was to no avail.
With the news that Big Sam had got a result at Chelsea and Hull had beaten West Ham, it seemed to me that it was all over. David Moyes had promised us a relegation battle at the end of the season. As I see it we are no longer involved in that battle …
So Sunderland were not able to pull off the April Fool’s Joke and Sexit has well and truly begun. Unlike Brexit with Sexit I know exactly where we will be in six months time, but where will we be in two years time is anybody’s guess.
What do you think?