Once again, the ever-present Robert Chapman, snapped up in a Salut! Sunderland editorial swoop on the White Horse in Parsons Green, steps up to cover for Peter Sixsmith, who missed out on the bargain train fares and gave Fulham away a miss. He did see Shildon beat Consett 2-0 and doubtless was kept in touch with events at Craven Cottage by more comprehensive means than Monsieur Salut’s mistyped texts. Robert, who also supplied the seven-word verdict immediately after the game, reports on a marvellous afternoon to be a Sunderland supporter …
I enjoy going to Fulham. I first went with my dad as a nine-year-old in 1965. Because of the unique position of Craven Cottage by the Thames I can remember exactly where we stood at that match. I recall my Dad getting in an argument with a Fulham fan who was remonstrating with my brother and I as we were making too much noise with our rattles.
We lost that match 1-0 but over the years we have done quite well at this ground compared to others in the capital.
I have been to Craven Cottage many times and have some standout memories. A spectacular Bobby Moore own goal is one of my favourites. However that has now been surpassed by the Adam Johnson hat-trick. Could this be the most important hat-trick for Sunderland in my lifetime? Will it replace the Rowell triple back in 1979? We will only be able to answer that in May.
Visits to Craven Cottage invariably start at The White Horse on Parsons Green. Considering our position the mood was upbeat, largely as a result of the recent upturn in form. Everyone agreed that this was a must win game. Other points for discussion were the enigma that is Adam Johnson, how much we are paying him and why the inconsistency?
Fulham started the match the better side. In fact we could have quite easily been 2-0 down and on the road to defeat if Berbatov had taken two simple chances early in the game.
However, gradually we began to get a foothold on the game. Our top scorer Bardsley had a chance saved by Stockdale and by his standards Fletcher should have done better with a header.
By this time Johnson was beginning to get a grip on his game. If sides defend properly they will always double up against tricky wingers. In the past this didn’t seem to worry Johnson as he overcame this and emerged as an England player. Sadly since we signed him he hasn’t been able to reproduce this form on a regular basis. In fact being consigned to the substitutes’ bench in previous matches finally seems to have been the catalyst to wake him up and finally produce the form we know he is capable of.
A driving run down the right and then across the edge of the box resulted in a foul from Sidwell. With Larson on the bench and a confident winger back in the side there was only going to be one person taking the free kick and with due aplomb it went into the top of the net, although Stockdale would have been disappointed with his effort to keep it out.
Having gained the lead we continued to dominate and deservedly increased it with a well worked set piece. Instead of delivering a cross from the corner, Johnson drilled a pass to the edge of the box with Ki hitting it first time, it taking a slight deflection and into the goal. The Korean celebrated in style in the knowledge that we were well on the way for three points. We went in at half time well on top. There was a celebratory mood at half time behind the stand at the Putney End. The mobile beer vendors seemed to be doing a roaring trade. Are they unique in the premiership?
Within minutes of the restart we gave away another one of our sloppy goals from a corner. Alonso lost his marker and Sidwell nipped in with an easy chance. Here we go again I thought as Fulham gained in confidence and pushed for an equaliser.
Although I worry when we defend deeply it can give you the opportunity for a counter attack if you have quick players to do it. It was such an attack that led to our third goal. Ki, who was having an outstanding game, split their defence for Johnson to run onto and slide the ball under Stockdale. With that two goal advantage we were never under any serious threat, but remember this is Sunderland.
Fulham finally conceded the game with five minutes to go. Senderos attempted to tackle Altidore with a thigh high tackle in the box. I should imagine Altidore weighs about 14 stone but it was enough to upend him with a dive to suggest he may have chosen the wrong sport. I am not a great fan of Jose but at least he offers us some muscle up front when we need it. It seemed to take what seemed like five seconds before Mike Dean made up his mind, before pointing to the spot. Perhaps, like me he was so busy laughing with the dramatic acrobatics on show. To his credit he got the decision right and I got it wrong and Johnson duly put the penalty away for his first ever hat-trick.
With this win we have given ourselves a realistic chance of staying up. I always felt Brown, O’Shea and Cattermole would be our key players for survival. Could it be that Adam Johnson with a holiday in Brazil at the end of the season will be our saviour? Let us hope so!
Now off to watch Match of the Day 2. No names mentioned but there was one from Saturday and one from Sunday that I was especially interested in.
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