Not quite the Last Word on Fulham v Sunderland. My fellow Craven Cottage Neutral Ender Pete Sixmsith will also be offering his thoughts on a day in the Smoke. Sunderland supporters are divided as to how good we were at Fulham, as opposed to lucky. Lars Knutsen found ample cause for satisfaction …
We started the day below Norwich, Wigan and only just out of the bottom three on goal difference. OK, we had two games in hand, but points on the board are what count in this, the best league in the world…
Should there be such things as “must-win” games so early in the season? Perhaps not, but a reverse at Craven Cottage would have meant three defeats in a row for The Lads, and that would have signalled time for the “ologists” to be called in at the Stadium of Light, or at least to the Cleadon training ground.
Thankfully the controversy involving Lee Cattermole in an anaemic first half did not involve our captain’s indiscipline, but instead focused on an ugly tackle by the big Norwegian, Hangeland – are there any small ones? The Fulham captain stood with his hand on Lee Probert’s left shoulder, looking down at the referee, but still had to walk. Catts went on to complete a terrific box-to-box game, with his later yellow card being his first of the season.
The goals – well, Johnson was involved in all three of them and he is now showing the creative skills he was bought for when it really matters. His ball through to Fletcher just after half-time was perfection, and the Scot made no mistake after a great first touch. Cuellar justified his selection ahead of Titus Bramble by heading home a Johnson corner in off the far post, and then Sess drove home a screamer to celebrate his return to the form we have come to expect from him.
Fulham did equalise and were repeatedly thwarted by the brilliant Mignolet in a very open second half, but this was to be Sunderland’s day.
Finally we achieved that elusive away win, and as predicted on these pages nine days ago, things had to come right at some point.
This win will boost morale; we scored goals and the team’s attitude was good, aside from the last 20 minutes when we could have pushed on to inflict a real hammering. There was a bit too much emphasis on keeping the ball, but that will soon be forgotten in the euphoria of a first away win in the league since February’s snowy encounter at Stoke City.
My definition of a football fan is someone whose mood is affected by the fate of their team, and I confess that I am pretty happy at the moment.
Many true fans may feel we should be up where next week’s opponents the Baggies are, in the ethereal heights of fourth place, but if one thing is clear from today’s game, it is that the team is capable of much more than we have seen. Let us hope this was just the start.
See Monsieur Salut’s contributions to the ESPN Soccernet pages: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/610?cc=5739