Sunderland

From The East Stand, With Bill Harris

Once again lack of tactical expertise demonstrated by Steve Bruce almost cost us dearly against Birmingham. Early in the second half John Mensah was clearly injured, and a substitute was being made ready when Mensah himself indicated robustly that he did not want to come off. Bruce should have insisted. An immobile Mensah led to a panicky defense dropping deep, and the inevitable happened, with Jerome sprinting away and scoring what could have been the goal that let Birmingham back into the match.
To be fair, Bruce’s subsequent substitutions were spot on and, in the end, lead to the game being made safe. The introduction of Henderson and Cattermole sparked Sunderland back to something like their first half performance as they once again began to play in the Birmingham half of the pitch, resulting in the third goal.
Unusually for a team winning 3 – 1, goalkeeper Craig Gordon was the Sunderland man of the match, even more unusually keeper Joe Hart was probably the Birmingham man of the match. As the cliche goes, it was a match of two halves, Sunderland could have been five or six goals up by half time if not for Hart as they dominated the first 45 minutes. Equally, if not for Craig Gordon, Birmingham could have scored five or six in the second half as Sunderland stopped playing football and resorted to pumping the high ball forward. Benjani is no Kenwynne Jones and this tactic was doomed to failure.
Two more goals from Bent can’t have done any harm to his England chances, and one again Campbell showed why he is an U21 striker when played in his preferred position.
Speaking of the unusual, I don’t remember ever having been to a match in which the ball hit 3 different corner flags during the course of play. This happened within 39 minutes, leaving many of the more observant fans wondering what odds they could get on a bet for all four flags to be hit.
Bill Harris


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