A visit to the home of the Mackems is never the best of away trips but, in our present league position, one that engendered both excitement and dread. Could we make it seven wins on the bounce? Could we go 4th? Could Barry survive a 10th yellow card? Well... 'Yes' was the ultimate answer — but not without a rollercoaster of emotions. Top versus bottom, and add to the mix both teams desperate for a win, for differing reasons, was always going to produce a game that pitted two teams fighting for their lives against each other and (in true football folklore) the game would be decided by no more than the rub of the green.

The moment of silence was interrupted a little by late arriving fans but otherwise very respectful. The game started with Sunderland fast out of the traps and looking for an early breakthrough; their start did seem to unsettle us a little and our usual flow was definitely short-circuited. We eventually settled and had forays forward that looked promising; by the 25-min mark, we had Deulofeu racing forward and twisting and turning to make space for a shot that went straight to the keeper, as did one from Lukaku after he was put in. Then the big chance when I think Baines fed in Naismith who did a delightful turn but blasted over which was a bit of a shock after the goalscoring form he has been showing of late.

You could say that, by now, we were mostly in control without looking particularly sharp where it matters. Sunderland were making it difficult, as you would expect, but it did not account for both Baines and Deulofeu putting in crosses from dead-ball situations that were best described as flat and poor.

Sunderland were always looking to break and in the final fifteen we almost paid the price for momentarily switching off when their attack ran out of steam, allowing Baines a free kick at the ball; he chose to pass back to the keeper without looking and did not put enough pace on it, allowing a Sunderland attacker to pounce as Howard was left stranded... but for the excellent Stones getting across to clear from the line, then who knows how the game may have gone? We did get a free kick near the edge of the box; real Baines territory, you might say... but, alas, his dead-ball kick was again poor as he merely hit the wall and the chance was gone in a flash.

Into the last five minutes of the half and Sunderland had a right go; but for the energetic McCarthy making three blocks, we may have paid a heavy price, as the half ended in scrappy fashion.

Half-time and chat centred on Spurs 3-1 down and many a call for the manager to change it during the break with most favouring Mirallas and Barkley for Deulofeu and Osman. Roberto’s response – No change.

Second half and it started as the first had ended, producing a game that was a contest between two desperate teams, a league game with cup-tie connotations that ensured end to end stuff with no quarter asked or given.

Fans were on edge and our crowd sort of sang, sort of chanted... but, such is our desire for CL footy, the best we got was a roar for a foray forward and a slightly different roar for rearguard action to be completed.

The hour mark came and we are under some pressure, so the manager swops Osman for Barkley, which was quite well received, but Sunderland had a corner that almost undid us; from my seat it resembled a mass of bodies... somehow someone got a boot to the ball and we set off on a break via our outlet ball to Deulofeu who, at pace, reached the by-line but yet again his final ball was poor. For once the ‘Martinez way’ was abandoned from time to time as the defenders under pressure decided to lump it but, just like the old times, it kept coming back. Yet, from one of these lumps, the ball fell between keeper, defender and Naismith, it was kind to our man who had an open goal to aim at but alas he hit it horridly and wide. Two sitters missed by Naismith! Almost unheard of these days.

Time was moving on – ever faster, it seemed. All were getting edgier and edgier as most feared another three points dropped to Sunderland in one season could well see our season end. We were living on our nerves now. Almost a goal when Big Rom spotted Barkley at the far post and crossed, Barkley didn’t get the best connection and allowed the keeper to put it behind for a corner which Baines took, hit in low and the chance was gone. We got another corner on the other side, how would he take this? Much better, it turned out, and Big Rom headed just wide – Oh the tension!

Into the 70 minutes now and Sunderland swop Colback and find renewed energy: from one sustained attack, Ki fires hard and low but Howard saved yet the ball got away from him but he was up like Big Nev and gathered at the second attempt and started an attack which yet again saw Deulofeu race his way into the box but yet again prompting me to call for Mirallas to replace him – good job I am not the manager, eh!

As we go on a forward spell ourselves that sees Barkley mis-hit one from 20 yards; then, on 75 mins, Deulofeu was played into the box again: same scenario, twists and turns and a cross from the by-line but this time he pulled it back a little, hit a defender and into the net — Pandemonium on pitch, terraces and wherever Blues were watching the game. I imagined fans coming from behind sofas and dancing around rooms yelling as though demented. A scrappy goal, yes, an undeserved blow to our hosts... but, at that moment to us, it was the goal of the season.

I am not sure what happened in the next few minutes as we were still taking the goal in and, in true fan fashion, no fretting about not letting that lead go. I got back into the game on eighty minutes when our manager swopped Deulofeu for McGeady and he left the pitch to a hero’s acclimation; would it have been the same without THAT cross?

Ten mins to go and Sunderland, with absolutely nothing to lose really, went for it with and our rear guard was tested with Stones probably having the coolest head of all and without doubt saving the day on two occasions when you thought ‘that’s it’.

The clock ticked down ever slower, Sunderland didn’t afford us any time to show our Olé football, à la Arsenal, so hoof it was again witnessed – but did we care? Did we hell! "Keep 'em out!" was the drill we wanted as we saw more and more attacks on our goal and, more and more, we were equal to it. Get it down and play seemed the obvious way but, in these sorts of matches, it is not easy at all so defending that was effective was the new ‘tika-taka’.

Watches and clocks were checked every ten seconds and it still seemed to indicate five to go. We won a throw-in and cheered the chance to the rafters as Coleman took his time, it really was that sort of game now. We had an attack from McGeady but he lost the ball and Sunderland broke quickly and hearts in mouths as we give away a free-kick to break up the move but it was within range, yet we scrambled it away to again loud cheers from the faithful. Big Rom went on a run but a poor pass let that move down and they came again as 3 mins of added time went up. Distin fouled in making a tackle and gave away a free kick some 25 yards out. Johnson took; Howard saved, more cheers – nervous ones mind.

We attacked from the clearance but it breaks down and they get the ball forward in dangerous fashion but the roar from the away end was of relief as the linesman’s flag was raised for offside — phew! "Blow, ref, blow!" I yelled; he did... we had won. Not in the best manner but that’s often the game you get when two teams collide and both have vital but differing reasons for a win. Seven on the bounce – we are on our way, with just five more to navigate to wins. We can – Can’t we?

MotM. No-one really stood out but all battled really well. I would nominate Barry/Stones/McCarthy as the pick.

So, 1-0 win via an own-goal against the bottom team in the last-chance saloon does not sound great... but it will go down as a vital win when set against the importance of the game to both teams. Although Sunderland had us under the cosh for long periods of the second half, they failed to create or look like taking half chances; in the end, it was probably our quality on the pitch and from the bench that created enough to force an own-goal.

Palace on Wednesday and their win today that almost ensures their safety may help us; hope so. Time now for the players to recover – along with the fans' voices. Exciting times coming thick and fast; we have the momentum... now let’s get the points!
UP THE BLUES

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Peter Creer
678 Posted 13/04/2014 at 02:27:29
Thank you Ken for another great report. Watching the game live here in Canada was a very different experience from last weeks thrashing of Arsenal, however, at the end of the day we ended up with the win and that is brilliant.

I know that Deulofeu ended up making the goal but when the game started and the first half progressed I was struggling with his lack of motivation to track back or make any attempt to put any pressure on the defenders, especially when he had lost the ball. Even Seamus started to get on his back and that may have got him moving. When he came on against Arsenal he was putting on the pressure, albeit at a very late time in the game, but as a sub he seems to get in their faces a bit more.

Stones continues to impress and when Jagielka returns I would have to say that I would be dropping Distin (as good as he has been). He prevented the goal which would have made it into a very different game. Stones would have to be Moyes’ going away present!

Seven games in a row. Nothing more to say......other than bring on bring on Palace at Goodison and COYB!

Derek Thomas
679 Posted 13/04/2014 at 02:35:17
Pretty much as I saw it from 12,000miles away Ken.

As always seems to be the case, when you're at the bottom nothing seems to go your way and when you're up near the top you get the breaks.

I might still be getting post Moyes flashbacks or maybe I just can't believe our luck, whatever, but I suspect a few of the last 7 games would not 've been won under the old regime, maybe not lost, but not won.

It could be that the old Arnold Palmer adage applies... people call me lucky, but it seems the harder I practice, the luckier I get.

Brian Sephton
687 Posted 13/04/2014 at 05:00:56
Great report but I think a bit kind to Gerard. I will stick my neck out and say he is not ready for the Premier League and is a bit of a prima donna.

Great result for the boys; for me, Barry was MotM just from the wonderful to watch John Stones. Yes, he makes the odd mistake, but I get such a happy warm feeling inside when he is on the ball, the feeling has only happened a few times in 63 years. So he is in great company already for me.

Long way to go yet but we couldn’t do any more than win.

COYB

Matt Traynor
689 Posted 13/04/2014 at 06:00:19
Good report Ken, although I wouldn't describe that 2nd Naismith miss as a "sitter" - albeit like you with the form he's in and his general ability, I expected better.

It was a tough game - there were some meaty tackles going in from Sunderland, and Probert - who I can't decide if I don't mind or detest - was letting a lot go.

The definition of scraping a win, but that's the mark of a good side.

Brian Hill
691 Posted 13/04/2014 at 06:53:57
Coleman struggled today, offering little going forward and looking flustered defensively at times, eventually receiving a justified yellow card. As others have observed, he seemed to become somewhat frustrated with Deulofeu and his refusal to pass.

I feel that we shall need Coleman at his marauding best against Palace as they will be very difficult to break down, as all Pulis sides are.

BTW, Derek@679, I don't follow golf much, but do live in South Africa. I'm sure it was Gary Player who made the practice/lucky comment.

Brian Hill
693 Posted 13/04/2014 at 07:10:08
Just watched the highlights on some early TV show here in SA. Despite Coleman's frustration, he was the first to celebrate with Gerard after the winner. A further demonstration of our wonderful team spirit. Ain't no stopping us now!!
Michael Penley
694 Posted 13/04/2014 at 07:15:05
Brian, I remember an interview with Gerard where he said he and Coleman connected immediately and they get along great. Stuff like that might be the difference when it comes to loan players wanting to stay (or I like to think so!).
Jim Potter
697 Posted 13/04/2014 at 07:51:26
A scrappy win after last week's classy victory. This is exactly what top teams do.

Derek - wasn't that a Gary Player quote?

Derek Thomas
698 Posted 13/04/2014 at 08:19:38
Brian and Jim; not that I need to use google, he replied modestly, but if I ever did and put in Arnold Palmer quote luck, strangely enough up it pops, though I think they both maybe mis-quoting Blackadder's Elizabethan Puritan Auntie....Luck, sounds a lot like F...I'll settle for jammy, but deserved
Brian Hill
700 Posted 13/04/2014 at 08:27:29
Derek,

What is "Blackadder's Elizabethan Puritan Auntie"?

Seems there is some dispute re Player/Palmer.

Where will it end?

Peter Bell
704 Posted 13/04/2014 at 08:48:21
I think the criticism of Delafeou is a bit OTT. Lost count the number of times he has knocked the ball across the 6 yard box for someone to just roll in, but no one is making the run. Could easily have a further 5 or 6 assists this season.
Craig Fletcher
707 Posted 13/04/2014 at 08:52:09
Agreed Peter. As frustrating as Deulofeu is sometimes, he's also often our likeliest source of a goal in a tight game such as yesterday's. And so it proved. Frustrating and exciting to watch in equal portions.
Shaun Lyon
709 Posted 13/04/2014 at 08:41:59
Marvellous report as ever Ken. Deulofeu is a wonderful talent but frustrating at times. In youth football I'm sure we're all familiar with the kid who, rather than playing a simple ball to an unmarked teammate standing in front of a gaping goal prefers to take on six of the opposition, beating about four of them before being dispossessed or running the ball out of play. You never want to stifle individualism of course and it was Gerry who got us the goal yesterday. But taking easier options might have led to a couple more. Still, what a raw talent.
Sam Fitzsimmons
735 Posted 13/04/2014 at 10:49:32
I think Coleman struggled a bit because he didn't get the support or cover he needed from Delafeou. I'd be pretty certain he'll be with us next season because there is no way the lad is anywhere near getting into Barcelona's first team squad.
Vinny Garstrokes
760 Posted 13/04/2014 at 12:49:05
Gerard frustrates and mesmerises me many times in the same match. As his footballing skills develop, I also think he has the ability to develop an ego of Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic proportions, so getting told to 'wind his neck in' by Messrs Barry, Jagielka et al from time to time will do him the world of good.
Harold Matthews
764 Posted 13/04/2014 at 12:54:30
As we have asked many times on TW. How long will it take Lukaku, Naismith and Martinez to realise that Delboy whips the ball low across the goalmouth. As the commentator noted. Someone should take a gamble on the lad belting the ball across, even if it doesn't look likely.
Dick Fearon
909 Posted 13/04/2014 at 16:05:17
Harold M @764, precisely what I say, a player running at the near post needs only the slightest touch.
Paul Ferry
054 Posted 14/04/2014 at 04:51:08
Spot-on, Harold, mate (#764) – and I'm sorry, Brian (#687) – you couldn't be more wrong about GD, there is even an argument to be made – pace HM #764 – that he might be a little more inventive and 'ahead' of some of the rest of the lads when he does put that ball across.

It would be an utter joy to have GD at The Old Lady next season.

Trevor Lynes
063 Posted 14/04/2014 at 08:40:48
I like Deulofeu but Sterling at the same age is improving much better and has an end product. Deulofeu needs to get his head up and see where his team mates are. When he had one of his shots, both Lukaku and Naismith were unmarked and calling for the ball. Roberto needs to teach him the basics a bit more and not just rely on his ability to beat defenders.

Mirallas suffers from the same malady but he does make assists on occasion and has scored a few. I would love to see a player with the ability to pick a pass in that frontline.

Strangely enough, even though Baines did not shine, he made the best pass of the game through to Naismith when he missed his best chance. Naismith's turn to beat Brown deserved a goal!

Phil Walling
086 Posted 14/04/2014 at 12:37:02
So 4th place is ours to lose now. Always said we could do it!

PS to all those shouting liar, I never let the truth get in the way of a good story!!!!

Paul Ferry
141 Posted 14/04/2014 at 19:18:29
Credit where credit is due to Phil (Walling)! Shame, though, I will now have to retire PW from my seat/lounge after just two episodes.

Erm Trevor - 63 - no mate! If you were perhaps to put it like this; what do you prefer, owning Sterling or loaning Del, then I might also plump for Sterling. But on a wish-list and purely comparative basis, it would be Del all day long.

They both share the same sort of 'youthful' indiscretions, - running at defenders perhaps once too often, not releasing the ball, not tracking back enough - and they also share the flair abilities to do the spectacular every now and then, and here Del might be the better of the two.

I would also throw the little I know about respective character into the mix. Yep, Brenda has done some couch sitting with him but Sterling always strikes me like an accident waiting to happen or a bomb that might go off - temperament (not good/volatile), attitude (can stink), two brushes with the law.

Nope GD for me mate.

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