Pete Sixsmith enjoyed the cartoons at a Private Eye exhibition he caught in London before heading back north. But he was pre-disposed to smile, Sunderland’s performance the night before having made him, eventually, a very happy soul …
Martin O’Neill finished “his” e-mail by saying this excellent and much needed win would guarantee “a nice trip home”. He may well have been heading for the Midlands, some of the team would probably be staying in London, while the rest headed back to the exclusive housing estates of Ponteland, Washington and Durham.
As for M Salut and his trusty sidekick (me), we made for Ealing, home of archetypal British comedy films, riots and the Embassy of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. The short tube ride from White City to Ealing Broadway was spent in joyous conversation with three Sunderland fans who worked in the capital during the week and travelled home at weekends. The win made their Christmas start a couple of days earlier.
It was a good win as well. We attacked the game from the outset, hit the post and then took a thoroughly deserved lead when Bendtner headed home an excellent cross from the impressive Kieran Richardson.
Denmark’s Finest Player looked something like the player he believes himself to be and after a run of games where he would have struggled to impress in the colours of Shildon Sunderland Supporters circa 1988, he lived up to the billing that the manager had given him pre-match.
He spent more time in the middle, made himself available rather than waiting for the ball to come to him as he had in his shocker at Molineux and looked so superior to Connolly and Gabbidon at the heart of the Rangers defence that I almost expected him to “give them a chance” by toning his game down.
We should have been ahead by more than one at half time and there was a feeling that Rangers simply had to improve after the break. The arrival of Taarabt led to an immediate improvement and Bramble’s excellent clearance off the line was a warning of what was to come.
But what was to come was also delayed by Sessegnon, who rattled in a tremendous goal that looked as if it had wrapped it up for us. He took advantage of some awful defending (we have seen a fair bit of that this season) and ran on to slip the ball past Paddy Kenny. Kenny was the lad who let five in at Bury on that never to be forgotten night 12 years ago and it looked as if he might do the same again as we now expected QPR to buckle.
They didn’t and took advantage of our defensive weaknesses with two very similar goals from Helguson and Mackie. There was disappointment in the upper enclosure of the School End and some anger that we were unable to hold the lead that we had worked so hard for.
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We steadied and settled and the introduction of Gardner and Colback gave us a base to push forward. Gardner’s excellent shot was saved by Kenny and it looked like a point until Wes Brown scored his first goal since Roy Keane was Sunderland manager and Ian Dowie was at Loftus Road. It was another fine cross from Richardson and a solid header from Brown.
The three points were very welcome and give us some breathing space in the scuffle at the bottom end of the table. The team looked more confident and much more pro-active – instead of waiting for things to happen and then dealing with them, we look to be more prepared to take the game to the opposition.
MON made two changes and they both came off. Bendtner had a very good game as did returning captain Lee Cattermole. Both owe the fans a string of good performances after their alleged misbehaviour in the vicinity of the Sports Direct Arena and Cattermole had one of his best games for the club. He passed accurately, tackled strongly and marshalled the side like Monty – Bernard, not Jimmy. Mind you, he was booked again for a needless trip on Taarabt.
The chorus of Jingle Bells rang out all over the narrow passageway that led into South Africa Road and there were many happy Mackems walking back to White City station.
The points were deserved and we were the better side, apart from that 10/15 minute hiatus. Neil Warnock’s assertion that Rangers were the better side by miles was surely an attempt to cover up the glaring weaknesses in his team. It was a pleasure to see the King of the Twitterers, Joey Barton, show us what an ordinary player he really is.
By the way, I know the story behind the dog that was celebrating Bendtner’s opening goal (it’s from Shildon). I might be tempted to tell it if you cross my palm with silver.
A jolly evening was rounded off with the enjoyable sound of bubbles bursting 282.5 miles to the north.