Colin Randall writes: as I was saying at ESPN – http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/2811?cc=5739 – the day started and ended well. The only problem was the bit in between, as bad as Newcastle had been good. Hull’s dominance of possession was so overwhelming at times that it was frankly embarrassing. Being down to 10 offers part of the reason but if, as Eric Bowers has put it elsewhere on these pages, Gary Bennett thought Hull would have won even with 11 vs 11, I fear he may have been right. Let Pete Sixsmith, my excellent host for part of the weekend, take up the sorry story …
That’s the last time we will ever play Hull City and, having been a handy points cow for the last few seasons, they have taken six points off us in their final season as City. Maybe we will do better against the Hull Tigers – if we are in the same division in 2014-15.
No grumbling from me at this one. I apologised to those around me for my poor behaviour at the Stoke game and sat stoically as Wes Brown committed professional suicide after three minutes to leave us with the proverbial uphill task. That we hardly moved the boulder a few metres was, to put it mildly, a disappointment.
Monsieur Salut made his seasonal debut at the Stadium after a very pleasant morning visit to Locomotion at Shildon to see Mallard and Union of South Africa, (Gresley A4 locos for the uninitiated; all six survivors from the class are there from Feb 15t to the 23) was followed by an equally pleasant light lunch in the Seaburn.
Then, after parking near the Clock Stand and the Roker Pie Shop, wiping away a nostalgic tear, we set off to the game with a spring in our step and a hope of three points and an optimistic feeling that we will be looking down on the Hulls, West Ham’s and Crystal Palaces of this world come 5 o’clock.
Except it didn’t work out like that. Three minutes into the game Phil Bardsley (from hero to villain in 180 seconds) played a dreadful pass to goodness knows who which was intercepted by Shane Long.
Off he went for goal with Brown vainly trying to catch him. Unfortunately, he tackled Long from behind, just outside the box thus preventing a “clear goal scoring opportunity”. Mike Jones had no option to pull out a red card and Brown (another hero last week) trooped off for the third time since November.
The general consensus was that Brown should have let him go on and try to score. Who’s to say that he would have hit the target or that Mannone wouldn’t have saved it? But, as we all know, football is an easy game to play from the stands. Brown did what most players would have done and made an attempt to win the ball. Long was quicker than Wes and Wes was slower than Long and it resulted in a red. Gary Bennett said that he would have done exactly the same.
So, no options for the referee, but Gus Poyet did have some. He switched Bridcutt to cover the back while Vergini was preparing to come on. Much discussion about who would go off. Would it be a midfielder? Might he play a back three and withdraw Bardsley? What about losing Altidore? Why not leave it for 20 minutes and see if Bridcutt could deal with City’s forwards alongside O’Shea?
What he did was to take the easy option and withdraw Borini. The Italian looked bitterly disappointed as he trudged off and there were murmurs in the crowd that this was a negative move. Vergini slotted in alongside Brown, Johnson tucked in behind Altidore and we desperately needed to ensure that Hull did not score.
We didn’t and they did. Mannone made a good save from the impressive Livermore. We failed to clear the resultant corner and Long turned the ball in with a glancing header.
That mountain was getting higher and the boulder bigger as we tried to claw our way back into the game. Altidore worked hard but had little support and we were unable to create any tempo at all. Hull ran the midfield, with Huddlestone and Livermore strong and impressive and David Meyler picking up any loose balls. City hit the post and Mannone made a couple of excellent saves while Harper at the other end, had a Johnson volley to deal with – and that was about it.
Once Jelavic headed home the second, 20 minutes into the second half, the game was over. That both goals came from deflections was no consolation and we cannot blame misfortune; at the end of the day, we were beaten by a better side who managed the not too difficult task of keeping 11 men on the pitch.
Yet another home defeat to one of those around us, following on the heels of Fulham and Villa. Games are running out and it is not great to rely on others losing. That Cardiff and West Brom did yesterday and (hopefully) Fulham will today, keeps us out of the relegation places (Fulham inconsiderately refused to lose at Old Trafford but stay bottom – ed), but Manchester City and Arsenal away will do well to yield us one point. Two would be a bonus, three would have me ecstatic and four will take me to Nirvana. Six would see Mephistopheles popping round to claim my soul.
Two steps forward, two steps back appears to be the way that we are tackling this season. The home form is a real worry and the contrast between this and last week quite worrying.
Has Bardsley been reading all the nice things that have been written and said about him this week? He certainly was not concentrating as much as he was last Saturday. The pass was casual and costly and he continued to have the kind of game that makes me think that we will never make any real progress as long as we have players like him in the team. Poyet would have been better replacing him with Vergini and pushing Bridcutt to right back.
I can’t imagine that Roy Hodgson will be booking his first class seat on the Grand Central again between now and the end of the season. Johnson grafted, put in his excellent volley but was given little opportunity to show much else to merit a recall for the national team.
Many in the crowd started to drift away after 80 minutes as the game faded and Hull looked a confident and comfortable side. They were neat and tidy, with Curtis Davies controlling Jozy Altidore with consummate ease and deserving the City fans chant of “Davies for England”.
Too many players were below par. Ki seemed to have little stomach for the fight and Colback looked more like the adequate player that he too often appears to be rather than the man who ran Newcastle ragged last week.
Altidore floundered, Wickham did little when he came on and Gardner tried to get us into the game but failed. He came on for Bridcutt who could be reasonably satisfied with his home debut. He was withdrawn after referee Jones (who, after the red card, got more wrong than right) had spoken to him and told him that one more foul and it would be a repeat of the KC in October. Bridcutt had been booked just before half time for a good challenge on Livermore. The Spurs loanee made a meal of it, not for the first time.
We will stay out of the bottom three this weekend, but could be back in by 21.30 on Wednesday night as Cardiff have a winnable game against Villa. Then, Arsenal and then two absolutely crucial home games against Palace and West Ham. If we can muster 12 points from them, I am willing to provide the Prince of Darkness with as many souls as he wants.
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