Monsieur Salut writes: in the absence of Sixer, almost recovered from surgery but giving this long trip a miss, Robert Chapman was given the Soapbox-ish commission as we stood waiting outside the Sir Percy Florence pub in Bournemouth, which was operating a one-in-one-out entry policy. Maybe wiser counsel should prevail: one win in 11 is not exactly top six form. But hey, it was our one win in 11 and the fabulous support was for once rewarded, so this is the first of two special reports from the south coast
The Observer’s Alan Smith was good player, is good company (I sat beside him the press box for an England game at Europe 2000 and once saw Niall Quinn’s face light up on meeting him at the SoL) and a good analyst. But he was hopelessly wrong to say Sunderland were ‘second best in every facet of the game’. Unless that is, superb goalkeeping, backs-to-the-wall resistance when a player short and robust hold-up play are not facets of the game. Yes, Bournemouth had possession and chances galore and looked smarter on the ball for most of the game, but we were well on top in the second half until Pienaar’s dismissal and had been a match for the home side for what remained of the first half after Anichebe’s equaliser.
Now over to Bob …
Usually I am organised when it comes to away games. The ticket is invariably purchased on the day they go on sale and then on arrival, it gets put into a drawer for safe-keeping. Transfer to the wallet occurs the day before the game. It’s routine and part of my obsessive football behaviour.
However, come match-day, standing on Bedford Station at 9.12am with five minutes to spare for the 9.17am departure to St Pancras, I realised I had forgotten my ticket.
Living in a village almost half way to Northampton, it was inevitable that the day would not go to plan. As my travelling companion Kevin Spencer was meeting up with his nephews at Waterloo, he decided to proceed and I would return home and catch them up later.
Driving back I thought, was this a sign to encourage me to stop going to the games. However common sense kicked in.
Why would you give up on them especially as one way or the other it was going to be a record breaking season! Written off by Christmas and then a New Year revival for the fifth time or relegation with the record minimum points; it has to be one or the other. Having a predisposition for the latter but a preference for the former I sped back home.
Fortunately, I managed to sneak into the house to collect the ticket and avoided waking my wife and our two cats. Had they been disturbed, tea and cat food would have been demanded, creating further delay. Soft or what! Yes I put my hand up.
Through good fortune I managed to catch the 11.05 from Waterloo and was back on schedule. The previous week against Arsenal I had my usual chat with Pete Sixsmith before the match. He told me that he wasn’t bothering with Bournemouth and was going to watch Shildon instead.
As we parted to our respective seats, he asked whether I wanted to do next week’s match report. I declined, taking the soft option, in the knowledge that I knew that a true professional, Colin Randall, was going. In reality, it’s always hard to write a report, when you have lost. Thinking back to the debacle last season at Dean Court I knew I had made the correct call.
On the train from Waterloo I received a message to say that Kevin was in the Sir Percy Florence in Boscombe. Apparently Sir Percy was the only surviving son of the poet Shelley. However, on arrival outside the only poetry that seemed to be emanating from inside began with the phrase “Shearer is …”.
Needless to say the venue was full and the doorman was only letting one is as one came out. In the meantime in the queue I had met up with Colin. Nearing kick off time, I always get more optimistic about the outcome and in a moment of weakness I accepted Colin’s kind invitation to write the report. What a day so far I thought, nothing is going to plan! With the queue not moving I decided to go further along the road to a bar which I had used last year which was empty.
Finally inside the ground I caught up with Kevin, who confirmed how lively and good natured the atmosphere had been in the Sir Percy Florence.
However, that soon changed. With only 11 minutes gone the back four got caught flat footed. Stanislav put a ball between Djilibodji and Van Aanholt for Smith to run on to and then cross for Gosling to finish.
Immediately, an argument broke out around me which seemed to be turning nasty. It’s a few years since I have seen fighting between Sunderland fans, but I suppose not unexpected considering how poor we have been.
Even some of the chanting was negative and I began to think that this was going to a repeat of last year. Fortunately Pickford was having a fine game. I think if Mannone had been fit, Moyes may well have taken him out of the firing line. The keeper had kept us in the game and then suddenly the atmosphere changed.
Link up play between our two strikers found Anichebe with his back to goal. With a quick turn he rifled his shot high into the net past Boruc. This was obviously the turning point and soon after Watmore found the net only to be ruled offside. Finally we were now competing and thinking that we may get something after all.
After the break Ndong forced a save from Boruc and then suddenly the game changed for me.
Instant defeat I thought as Pienaar received his marching orders for a tackle on Stanislas. With half an hour to go and me looking at the clock every 30 seconds I thought it would be a minor miracle if we survived the onslaught.
Denayer was brought on, adding extra strength as we defended narrow and deep. We were weathering the storm as Bournemouth created and wasted opportunities. The overrated Jack Wilshere was pronounced man of the match to much derision of Sunderland fans and probably any neutral there.
Suddenly with 15 minutes to go a combination of speed and strength from Defoe, Watmore and Anichebe engineered a penalty.
Whenever you have that combination you always have a chance up front even if you are under the cosh at the other end. Defoe converted which was expected as we haven’t missed one for ages.
Fifteen minutes is a long time with 10 men and the clock watching became more intense. With minutes to go Pickford produced another outstanding save, tipping a fierce shot from King over the bar. It was a Monty moment; this lad is going to go to the very top.
It was a nice moment when Bournemouth fans behind the goal applauded him when he went to have a drink from his bottle after the save.
In a long five minutes of extra time, the highlight was Anichebe using his strength, brushing off two defenders with ease by the corner flag.
It’s been a long time coming and with the international break a chance to get further players back from injury. The only disappointing part of the day being the man of the match award. Why does it have to be a home team player? The actual winner should have been able to finish his chance even when challenged by Kone. For me there were two outstanding players on the pitch, who deserved the award: Anichebe and Pickford.
It was a good journey home to watch all the evening football coverage. Sadly in recent weeks I have usually had nothing to cheer about. Let’s hope its a turning point! A good day after all …