Pete Sixsmith is a happy man. It is not always like this after football, but he saw so much to warm the soul last night that he even feels optimistic about facing up to the (alleged) Britannia Bruisers …
That was as easy a win as we have had since Southend United were brushed aside in Roy Keane’s promotion season. I was able to sit in the East Stand and never once worry about the opposition getting back into the game, as we totally dominated the Canaries and stopped them from singing until they finally fell of their perch.
In fact, we have now won our last two games against bird-related teams – the Swans 10 days ago and the Canaries last night.
Can we consider giving Stoke and the Boro avian names to guarantee two more wins? Stoke could be the Vultures as they seem to pick over the carcasses of our former players, while Boro could take on the persona of the booby, perhaps?
I digress. Let’s return to last night’s stomping win and to do it justice, we need to go back to September and our visit to Carrow Road, which convinced many people that Steve Bruce’s days were numbered.
I described it as a game between a team that was fluid and flexible and one that was plodding and predictable. Then, the first phrase described Norwich and the second us; four months later, the phrases could well be reversed as Norwich were ruthlessly swept aside by a rampant Sunderland side.
Once again, we scored superb goals. Fraizer Campbell’s opener was quite special; he picked up a neat pass from James McClean, brought it down and then sent a sumptuous volley across John Ruddy. Once again, off he went on a lengthy run around the stadium to revel in the adulation of fans who despaired of ever seeing him again.
If that was a great solo goal, the next one was a wonderfully crafted team goal (Andy Gray was positively drooling about it on TalkSport – ed). It started with Sessegnon (who had looked dazed and confused in the earlier game) picking up the ball and running at the City defence, then playing a pinpoint pass to Campbell. Fraizer took it on, looked up and delivered a fabulous cross right on to the head of Sess, who had sprinted ahead of the labouring Norwich defence, and he planted the ball firmly into the net. It’s what I call a Magnus Magnusson goal – “I’ve started so I’ll finish” (come on, Pete, surely Bamber Gascoigne – ed) and it took the game well away from the Canaries.
That sealed the game as we tightened up the midfield and prevented City from creating anything. Gardner pushed forward while Colback sat in front of the back four. Both were equally impressive and Cattermole and Vaughan were hardly missed. With Larsson and McClean running the flanks and Sessegnon a constant menace situated just in front of the midfield, we were able to utilise the pace and enthusiasm of Fraizer.
The back four was tidy, with Richardson making it very clear to all and sundry that he was not prepared to sacrifice his place to the incoming Wayne Bridge. He pushed forward to support McClean and tackled and harried very effectively. Mr Peter Horan (not one of his greatest fans) marked him down as his man of the match.
Colback was mine. I thought it was his best game in a Sunderland shirt. He made it look easy as he broke up the Norwich midfield and seemed a perfect fit with Gardner; one goes forward, the other sits deeper.
But it’s the whole change in attitude that is different. No longer are we “plodding and predictable”. We have pace and power and we look a very competent Premier League side. We are happy to let the other side have possession, but the difference between now and then is that when we get the ball, we know how to use it. We don’t give it away anywhere near as much as we did earlier in the season.
The squad is full of good players and once again, all credit to the previous regime for bringing them in. But it is the new regime who have them organised and looking like a team and not a hastily assembled bunch of individuals running around with little evidence of a game plan. Now we have players who appear to be given clear instructions as to what to do and are trusted to go and do it.
This was a good start to a tricky month in which we face teams who we are equally capable of beating or losing to. Norwich came to us on a high, having gone six games unbeaten. Their 800 followers (good turn out for a Wednesday night in the middle of winter – brilliant fixture planning, that one!) must have had a thoughtful journey home, knowing that they had been well and truly cuffed by a far superior side. They looked short of inspiration and may need to be careful over the next few games if they are to avoid getting dragged into the nether regions of the league.
Stoke on Saturday will be a completely different kettle of worms. They will attempt to batter us, but we should be capable of getting hold of the midfield and unleashing Sess, McClean and Campbell at them. Twelve months ago, we disintegrated in the last 10 minutes and barbs were aimed at the Potters rather than at our own defence. I would be surprised to see a similar capitulation this year.