As Steven Fletcher got onto the end of Younes Kaboul’s David Beckham like cross to confirm a sixth successive victory over our local rivals, I felt like I couldn’t really celebrate. Not because I was concerned about little Jacky Colback having to limp off the pitch. Not because stag do’s prefer to go for a night out in Tyneside over Wearside. It wasn’t even due to the lack of an international airport.
The reason I couldn’t laugh and cheer as our Scottish centre forward ran towards the North East Corner in celebration was because they had more corners and possession than us. We all know that these are the true key stats in football (goals are so overrated) especially when your team are “the entertainers.” I mean, it was only a week ago that I’m sure all Newcastle supporters were pointing out that Norwich City were much better than they were because The Canaries had indeed enjoyed more possession and won more corners, rendering Newcastle’s 4 goal advantage absolutely meaningless.
As football fans, we’re naturally defensive when it comes to our our team. This mentality is cranked up massively when it comes to discussing derby games as well. There’s only so many times you can say through gritted teeth “aye, fair play Mackems, it was your day today.”
To have to do that once is mildly annoying. Twice is aggravating. Three times is when you start to throw season ticket at your manager. Four is just shock so silencing that you probably don’t speak again until boxing day. Five, well, you had John Carver so fair enough. Six though, when your players did actually look a little bit like they cared, that’s when you get so angry that you have to listen to local journalists spout conspiracy theories in the hope of some comfort. You have to take solace in the fact that you had a lot of corners, even though they resulted in nothing. The fact that we only had one corner, which resulted in a goal, doesn’t matter because you had most of the possession.
Possession doesn’t matter a jot if you do nothing with it though. Allardyce set us up to allow shots from outside the box and trusted in Kaboul and John O’Shea to deal with any crosses that came in. Before he panicked about running alongside the Gibraltar slaying Scotsman, Fabricio Coloccini did well to force Pantilimon into a save very early on in the game. Daryl Janmaat also put a decent ball through to Jack Colback but his effort was weak and comfortably saved by Pants. In terms of them having real clear cut chances in the first half, that was about it though.
People have said Sunderland have been lucky with a few things in this game, but the biggest slice of luck was being forced into bringing on Jermain Defoe in the first half. Ola Toivonen was having a very poor game and the introduction of Defoe added good energy to Sunderland’s forward line.
Defoe kept making himself awkward all afternoon by getting into the pockets between Newcastle’s defence and midfield and deserves huge credit for the ball he put through to Steven Fletcher to win the penalty. I’m always pessimistic when it comes to us and penalties and I really didn’t fancy Johnson to score and thought Defoe should be taking it. Johnson buried it with Craig Gardner like accuracy though, right into the corner. Cue me skipping down the access block, hugging strangers, as I make my way down for a half time slash.
From the penalty onwards it was pure Allardyce from Sunderland by being a goal up and keeping it tight. In fairness, Aleksandar Mitrovic should have pulled Newcastle level but the big Romanian number one was clever by getting off his line quickly and extending his wingspan like an albatross to deny him. It felt like Newcastle heads dropped after that and soon after Sunderland showed how to make your corners count when Yann M’Vila volleyed Adam Johnsons corner at goal and Billy Jones got the decisive touch to make it 2-0.
I think it’s only right that we point out how some of our players put some really big performances for us. Younes Kaboul and Billy Jones probably had their best games in a red and white shirt. The man of the match award was rightly given to Yann M’Vila who continued to show his class, always looking productive with the ball, making good tackles and looking generally unfazed by the occasion.
Steven Fletcher continued the good form he’s shown over the last few weeks and he totally deserved his goal. The way Kaboul won the ball, made the run and then pinged the ball onto Fletchers boot was absolutely beautiful and the Frenchman was a close second to M’Vila for man of the match.
We all know that this wont go on forever. Newcastle had a period of always turning us over and they laughed at us. When they got relegated, we laughed at them. Then they came back up and murdered us 5-1 and they laughed at us again, which is totally fair enough.
But now, we’re enjoying a purple patch against them and we’ve broken a derby record that will probably stand for a long, long time. It felt like it would take a generation to get over that Halloween in 2010 but now it feels like a lifetime ago. Every time they do a “5-1” gesture now, they’re merely pointing out how many times in a row we’ve beaten them.
You’ll be told that you can’t enjoy it, that it’s a “fake result.” Personally, I’ll take a fake result over crushing defeat any day of the week.