Blogger and the92.net co-founder Pete shares part 2 of his Easter 2in1 in the North East.
Ground: Stadium of Light (74/92)
Game: Sunderland 2-2 West Ham United
After the thrills and spills of an evening under the lights at St James’ Park I made my way back across town to the Travelodge. The game was enthralling, especially for a neutral, and I nipped in for a pint at a pub showing the post-match analysis en route. The Leeds equaliser was timed at 94:40 and left the Toon faithful shell-shocked. They thought the title had gone, what little did they know…hindsight is a wonderful thing.
When I got back to my stop for the night getting on for half 11 the bar was busy. Made up of Leeds fans, alongside stag and hen parties on their way out I wasn’t hopeful of a decent night’s kip. However, tucked away at the back of the hotel it was fine. With a Travelodge, you know what you’re getting, and at £60 for the night it was good value for a bank holiday (£54 for the room, £6 parking).
Day 2: Sunderland
On Saturday morning, I made my way over to my local guide Colin’s place. With parking near the ground limited, and with Colin’s work nearby with a parking space, he kindly offered to drive to the match. Set up for the day after a cracking fry-up by Colin’s Mrs we headed into town, briefly stopping on the way at the Penshaw Monument. In all honesty, I hadn’t heard of it before, nor did I realise it was part of the Sunderland crest. On the 446ft hill the 1:2 replica of a Greek temple can be seen from miles around and is worth a quick look if you have time on your way to the ground.
The Stadium of Light
With a capacity of just shy of 49000 I expected to find an imposing ground, however the Stadium of Light flatters to deceive. Walking over the striking structure of the Wearmouth Bridge you can see the roof of the stadium just above the local skyline. From the outside, it looks a similar size and style to St Marys’ Stadium, however this is because the stadium is built into the ground. After coming through the turnstile and out of the concourse at ground level you enter the stadium bowl half way up the lower tier.
The way it’s built does mean the wind swirls around the pitch, which caused a couple of issues for the players in this game. But taking nothing away the Stadium of Light is an impressive arena and pre-match looked immaculate in the sunshine.
Resigned to the drop?
Flying the Premier League flag at half-mast outside the main entrance it looked as if the Black Cats had already accepted relegation, despite it not yet being confirmed. With some tricky fixtures on the horizon today’s game against West Ham was a must win. However, to win games you need to score and Sunderland had not managed to hit the back of the net since their impressive 0-4 win at Selhurst Park; a run stretching 7 games.
And their task was made a whole lot more difficult after 5 minutes. After a rip roaring end-to-end start to the game, the visitors took the lead with Andre Ayew finishing from close range. The Hammers’ could have extended their lead on the break, however the home side managed to equalise before the half hour. Wahbi Khazri was the man to end a run of almost 12 hours without a goal, scoring direct from a corner kick! Although replays show there could have been some encroachment on Randolph by Anichebe.
All to play for
All level at the break Sunderland were in a promising position to get the second 45 under way, but made a catastrophic start. Just 2 minutes in, James Collins, or the Ginger Pele as the West Ham faithful chanted, headed home from a Snodgrass corner.
Clear cut chances for the away side were few and far between, but when one arrived it fell to the wrong person. Khazri did brilliantly down the right and squared the ball for the onrushing Ndong. The goal at his mercy, leaning back he criminally fired over. After the ball flew over a fan shouted something along the lines of “bloody hell he’s rubbish Ding Dong or whatever he’s called” to which another fan replied “hello?”. It was good to hear that despite their impending relegation there was still a good sense of humour in the stands.
A ray of hope
The game was meandering along towards a conclusion when, after what looked like an innocuous coming together between Masuaku and Billy Jones, the latter went down. With the clock ticking even some home fans were gesturing for him to get up (it did look like he had gone down easily), however it turned out he was genuinely hurt. After a long stoppage Jones was stretched off, replays show his head hit the turf and post-match it was confirmed he had concussion.
With a couple of minutes’ normal play left, some Sunderland fans had seen enough and started make their way out. A strange decision in my eyes, especially as after the lengthy stoppage when the fourth official’s board went up it showed 10 minutes to be added on. Cue a grandstand finish…
As the clock hit 90 substitute Borini equalised, 90+5 West Ham full back Bryan was sent off. But try as they might but Sunderland just couldn’t fashion another chance.
The writing was on the wall for Moyes
All had clearly not been well at the Stadium of Light for a while, but when a club needs to pull together to scrap, the signs of divide were clear for all to see. Increasingly negative from the very start of the season David Moyes did little to endear himself to the Sunderland faithful. Indeed, the first time he made his made to the edge of the technical area he was roundly booed.
His team selection caused irritation too. In this game as the Black Cats went in search of an equaliser, Moyes stuck Anichebe, a target man, out on the left; a baffling decision. Winger Kharzi, a staple of Sunderland’s escape last season has found playing time limited this season. A fact the Sunderland fans more than reminded him of, after his goal singing “are you watching David Moyes!”.
Even after Borini bagged, with just under 10 minutes of added time left instead of running for the ball to take it back to the centre circle, he sprinted across to celebrate right in front of his now former manager. It sounded like the majority of fans had made their mind up on Moyes.
Despite being the chairman’s man the former Manchester United man has now left the Stadium of Light. The Scot has gone through 3 jobs and still with 2 years of his 6-year Old Trafford contract left!
Value for money 5/5: Thanks to Colin for the free ticket, can’t get much better than ticking a Premier League ground (at the time) off for nothing!
Pie rating n/a
Pint rating 3/5
Stewarding 2/5: Wouldn’t allow us a photo in the dugout, despite the ground being empty well before kick-off.